Over the years, the platformer roguelite subgenre has seen improvements by leaps and bounds, and we’ve been wowed by every new mechanic we see. Some games still attempt to wow people with innovative takes while others take the winning formula and refine it.
Rogue Legacy 2 does a bit of both. You see traces of the tried and true platforming roguelite mechanics, as well as add in some fresh ideas to the mix, and add what made the original Rogue Legacy great and build upon that. These combinations make for a masterpiece of a game, possibly up there as one of the best roguelites of all time.
As expected, the visual of this game is an improvement from the original game. From the original pixel art, the game transitions to 2.5D stylings with 3D characters and hand-drawn backdrops. Everything in the game, especially the enemy attacks, is crystal clear, and that’s very helpful in such a chaotic game like this.
The tracks in this game are great as well. Sure, they’re not GOAT-level masterpieces like Ducktales’ Moon Theme or iconic like the Super Mario Theme but it gets the job done to get you in the platforming mood without distracting you from what really matters: the action.
Finally, the effects in the game, both visual and sound, are beautifully done. You’ll feel every attack, every book page falling, or the enemies getting annihilated. It certainly felt like no corners were cut to deliver a fantastic experience both through the eyes and ears.
Same runs are rare… Very, very rare
One of the main features of roguelite games is that each run feels different from the other, whether it’s due to a different dungeon layout, new spells, etc., but eventually, you’ll run into a familiar scenario especially early on when you have limited options. So far, I have yet to have the exact same run with the exact same layout in Rogue Legacy 2, and it’s easy to see why.
Like most roguelite games, RL2 features procedurally generated dungeons, so that’s to be expected. What isn’t expected is the sheer number of combinations the game gives you because, at the start of each run, you’ll be given a choice of 3 successors, each with a different set of loadouts, be it their class, spell, trait, or relic, each having multiple options as well. Add the fact that the deeper you get in the game, the more the layouts start to change, making the dungeons even more unpredictable, together with the challenge of traits you might possess. You could be in a new dungeon where everything is black and white, or you are very big (or small), or if you’re lucky, you could breeze through levels by flying. The result is a near impossibility of getting the exact same character twice.
Speaking of relics, most of the time, you’re able to get some as go through the dungeons, but there are also times when your heirs have built-in traits within them. The abilities you get from them have a wide range from being able to create shockwaves whenever you land from a jump to adding poison or burn in your attacks to even simply reviving you once you die.
To balance things out, the game added the “resolve” mechanic, where each relic has its own resolve cost. Think of it as weight from RPGs where you have a limit of how much you can wear. The difference is that if your resolve goes below 100%, there will be a Max HP penalty for each percent below 100. I think it’s a great mechanic that gives the players a choice to be a glass cannon with all the abilities in the world or be a bit on the tankier side with fewer abilities on their plate.
Platforming 101 is in session
The platforming is amazing in this game. There are innovations like the spin kick that gives you more air time, but most of the platforming in this game has been done in games that precede it. The difference is that RL2’s platforming mechanics are incredibly solid.
Everything is perfectly placed: from the enemies to the lanterns (where you can spin kick off), and even the obstacles in between. There are also puzzles in certain rooms where you either have to get through the obstacle unscathed, get to the end without jumping, or both while also having the two previous conditions mentioned. It sounds like it’s too hard on paper and at times maybe it is but, in RL2, the difficulty is justified as solving them makes it satisfying, not to mention you get a good reward afterward. And speaking on difficulty…
You die, you learn, you live. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve mentioned this multiple times on my first-hour playthrough of Rogue Legacy 2, and I’ll say it again: the game is hard but never unfair. Every time I die, it’s not because some BS missile came flying out of nowhere, or a pit suddenly deals a gazillion damage and one-shots me, but it’s due to the fact that either I made a misstep, I was reckless, or (most of the time) both. Sure, there are times when luck just isn’t on your side and you don’t get to have healing food on chests (it happened to me at times), but for the most part, I have no one to blame for dying but myself.
The more hours I’ve put in the game, the more I’ve learned about the lay of the land, as well as the enemies’ behavior. I start to learn what’s coming, and all of a sudden, I’m getting deeper and deeper into dungeons without getting hit as much, if at all. The game does an amazing job of rewarding you as you understand how each obstacle and enemy behaves.
Simply put, you know the game is hard but not fair when you kept on dying but not once would you like to smash your controller after.
Permanent progression of a different kind
One of the main aspects of roguelite games is that when you start each run, you start at the very beginning. In some instances, it becomes such a chore to go through levels you know you can easily clear that players start to burn out.
One of the best features of Rogue Legacy 2 is that it gives you the option to either go through the first levels all over again or completely skip it! At the cost of a little amount of gold, you can permanently activate certain teleporters, the ones that are located at the beginning of each dungeon, so you can start your next run on that level.
Speaking of permanent, each biome has a boss called an Estuary that you have to get through in order to get to the next level. I mean the game would be boring if there isn’t a challenge in the end, right? Another feature of the game is that once you beat the biome’s Estuary, you permanently beat that Estuary, meaning they will no longer appear on future runs!
I know that the gameplay loop is one of the main aspects of roguelite games, but you have to admit, there are times when certain levels become repetitive and start to be grindy since you get used to the level that you can breeze through it in your sleep. The two features mentioned earlier are HUGE as the game takes away the unnecessary grind and keeps the action fresh. These are such incredible changes and very welcome ones at that!
A Smorgasbord of Customization Options
The game has a staggering amount of Customization Options to help you during your runs or before it. You have the standard skill tree where you could upgrade your stats as well as other miscellaneous stuff like better gold retrieval and additional weight limits, then there’s the Blacksmith that forges new equipment for you, improving your equipment’s strength as well as giving additional stat bonuses, the Enchantress gives you several abilities like lifesteal and the ability to dash twice in the air, and the Soul Shop gives you miscellaneous bonuses like class preferences when picking your next heir, or extending max bonuses for your stats.
The incredibly wide variety of customizations to be had helps tremendously in terms of replayability and gives you multiple avenues to run the game your way.
Rogue Legacy 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best roguelite games to come out this year. Everything in it is well-prepared, from the visuals, sound, gameplay, and replay value. I’ve spent a ton of hours on this game, and I’m still hooked, eagerly anticipating what other content I could be unlocking next, whether it be a new class, new relics, or the next boss.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the game receives Game of the Year nominations if not even win the entire thing. I’ll also make a bold claim that it’s on the level of the greatest roguelite games of all time like Dead Cells, Slay the Spire, and Enter the Gungeon. Yes, it’s THAT good!
Rogue Legacy 2
An all-time classic
+ Great visuals
+ Amazing gameplay
+ Insane replay value
+ Incredible customization options
+ Innovative mechanics to reduce grind
+ An all-around masterpiece