Just as with Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac before it, Rogue Legacy husbands its roguelike elements with a more accessible veneer. With Rogue Legacy, the inspiration comes from Castlevania, and it’s around this mechanically sound heart that the compelling nature of Rogue Legacy thrums. Each successive life is the offspring of the last, inheriting their equipment and upgrades.
Each has a cocktail of different traits. First is their class, the most influential in terms of abilities and base stats, but also the most subjective; we favoured the Hokage, a ninja-influenced class that trades health for damage, but the mechanics and strengths vary across sorcerers, liches and barbarians.
Then there are possible traits that each hero can bear, and a lot of the flavour of the game comes through here. Nostalgia paints the entire game in sepia, and Insanity can force you to play the entire game upside down. Less drastic traits, like Near-sightedness, have less of an impact on the mechanics, but they give some personality to what would otherwise be faceless classes. Characters become someone you remember, rather than just another run to be quickly rinsed out of your memory.
Breaking from roguelike tradition, instead of trying to make every run your possible last, Rogue Legacy is a war of thousand-year attrition. The knowledge that you’ll probably fail is turned into an asset rather than a threat, with the gold you accumulate during a run turned into the inheritance that your offspring can spend to upgrade themselves before heading into the castle. Over time your lineage turns into an increasingly powerful line of heroes that can best parts of the castle that your ancestors could never even enter.
Excellently, there’s still that element of danger and consequence in place in a tax you have to pay before re-entering the castle. If you don’t spend your gold before heading back in, you lose what have left, preventing the accumulation of vast wealth, and locking out the more expensive upgrades until you have a great run. It rewards good play, and puts an aim in your mind each time you go on a run.
Which all adds some persistent reward to what would otherwise be a ten-minute experience, repeated ad nauseam. You feel like you’re moving forward tangibly instead of just merely growing your knowledge of the game, and with each boss only needing to be bested once, there’s a strong sense of progressing through the game world past each playthrough, too. There’s a slight monotony to the enemy design after some time, but each complaint we try to construct feels all but meaningless in the face of how pure and satisfying an experience Rogue Legacy manages to be.