With Nintendo’s Year of Luigi in full swing, Microsoft still not sure how it wants to present the Xbox One, and Sony leaning back in its chair and making all of the right moves by not making them, one would think that the time leading up to the holiday season would be slow for video games.
But the expected summer doldrum isn’t completely dull. A game has stood out from the crowd, something other than another sequel or an incredibly easy time waster. It tried something new and pushed some boundaries. This game is Rogue Legacy for PC, Mac, and Linux.
In most games, one expects to die, at least a few times. Given that the current shift in gaming (well, of the blockbuster variety) is toward a hand-holding approach, this expectation may soon fade away forever. But some games still embrace death. They don’t care that you will struggle to progress and lose countless lives, restart from the same place over and over, and inevitably scream to the skies or smash your keyboard in frustration.
Rogue Legacy is one of those games. It is hard, sometimes brutally so, and unforgiving, but it is a new take on an old formula. The game wants you to die. In Legacy, you take on the role of a warrior storming a castle filled with the usual assortment of ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, and undead minions.
However, there are a couple of new additions to the tried-and-true setup. The first is not a unique idea (in fact, more and more games are using this gimmick), but it does keep the game fresh. With each entrance of the castle, the floor plan changes, meaning you never see the exact same layout twice.
The second is that after every death, the warrior dies permanently. Players are then taken to a screen where they are allowed to pick a descendant to pick up their fallen parent’s sword. These descendants all have a given genetic abnormality, termed a “trait” by the game: gigantism, which doubles the warrior’s strength and size; ADHD, which increases the warrior’s speed; or colorblindness, which causes the player to see the world in shades of gray.
These new features should lead to a fairly enjoyable gaming experience. However, the controls are imprecise and loose, which — coupled with the already unforgiving nature of the game — leads to a frustrating expirence, even allowing for enough time to get used to the controls. On top of this, the gold you collect in the castle — which you need to advance character stats and buy weapons, spells, and the like — is stolen from you as soon as you enter the castle. This is not a huge deal at the beginning, but as you level up and everything gets more expensive, this reveals itself as a crippling blow.
This is not to say these features totally ruin the game, but it does slow progress to a snail’s pace. More often than not, you will either lack good combinations of trait and class, or you won’t find your groove — or you just won’t get lucky, plain and simple. Rogue Legacy has the potential to be a great game, but at a certain point, playing the game feels like smashing your head against a brick wall. It’s worth playing, but be prepared to punch something. This game is old-school hard.