Rogue Legacy Review

If you tolerate this, your children will be next
DYSLEXIC MINER, FLATULENT mage or overweight ninja? Difficult decisions like this come at the start of every venture into Rogue Legacy’s ever-changing castle, the choice of who will succeed your last fallen hero easily the most important you’ll make in your entire run.

But no matter which gimped or gifted successor you pick or what horrible variant of the castle you end up in, one thing remains constant each new generation is in for as rough a time as the last. And what a wonderful living nightmare that is.

If you’ve ever played a classic Castlevania game, you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect here. And if not, go play Symphony Of The Night right this second. You’re welcome. Unlike those games, though, Rogue Legacy’s castle and grounds are randomly generated every time you enter we’ve not seen anything quite as unfair as some of the procedural stages Spelunky coughs up from time to time but still, don’t expect to be able to reach every single room or chest on any given run. Certain paths can only be reached by small characters, for instance, while some loot can only be reached if you happen to enter with the right set of runes equipped. The early stages of the game can be tough as a result, particularly if the random room placement ends up funnelling you into tough areas before you’ve had a chance to improve your stats or grab much new gear. But a few generations in, you should start to spot the warning signs that can help avoid a grisly fate.

Sure, with no limit on play cycles, you can just send generation after doomed generation to their deaths, banging your head against the game until you eventually make some progress. But to do so is to miss the point of a game like this really it’s more effective and way more satisfying to take your time and master the mechanics until you can speedrun anything the castle throws your way in your sleep. The game’s toughest Trophy, ‘Thanatophobia’, will only be unlocked by those who can
claim the latter, demanding that you start from scratch and bring down the last boss within 15 generations.

Unlocking this is a metagame all of its own, since it requires perfect planning and execution as well as a fair bit of luck it perfectly encapsulates the cruel hardcore heart of the game and how brutal it can be when you strip back all the accessibility aids and the ability to grind your way to victory.

With Rogue Legacy placing so much pressure on the player to perform, it’s just as well that the mechanics are suitably tight. The possibility for air dashes and multi-jumps makes finding your optimum mobility level key, while these and other techniques (including the handy plunging attack) can be chained so that pros can dart through even the toughest of rooms which, on NG+ and beyond, can descend into bullet hell horror without a scratch.

It’s tough, especially as you begin to venture outside the relative safety of the castle walls. But it’s also incredibly satisfying to smash your way through a crowded room and emerge in one piece, or to accidentally enter a boss chamber while horribly injured yet still manage to dodge, leap and counter your way to victory. The more likely outcome is that you’ll get smashed to bits and have to find the boss again in an all-new castle, but that’s all part of the learning experience. Dust yourself off and send your next of kin back in to avenge you, and the cycle begins anew.

Sony seems to be getting a fair bit of flak for the ratio of ‘old-fashioned’ indie games to high profile new releases on PS4, but it’s really not fair. Triple-A games take longer to create than ever and as long as the indie output that tides us over between big releases can maintain the quality displayed by the likes of Fez, Resogun and Transistor, we can’t see the problem a good game is a good game, whether it’s made by two people or 2,000.

Rogue Legacy comfortably sits alongside those greats we just mentioned as one of the finest downloadable PS4 games to date, a true test of skill and one that can be enjoyed almost endlessly thanks to the way the castle twists and changes every time you return. It’s frankly amazing that a game where 99 per cent of runs end in failure can be this enjoyable, but that’s kind of the point you play, you die and then your messed-up kids follow in your footsteps. Until the end of time. And you’ll love every agonising minute.

- PSN PRICE £9.99


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