It’s been a whole seven years since the first Rogue Legacy released in 2013, and it’s safe to say that the gaming landscape has changed a lot since then. Procedurally-generated games have gone from underappreciated to over-represented in the indie scene, so how could a direct sequel like Rogue Legacy 2 compete? Simply put, the developers have doubled down on the theme of “legacy,” and made the core concept of dying and continuing even more fun to experience.
What drew me to the first game in the first place was the theme of death and carrying on, which reminded me of games like Oreshika. However, while the game was very fun in terms of game balance, I was disappointed by how little things like unlockable classes and Traits mattered to the experience. While stats like movement speed and Talents were dependent on class, in the end you were simply relying on the good old regular sword swing, which was constant across every class, including ninjas and lichs.
While the current Early Access version of Rogue Legacy 2 does not feature as many different class variations as the first one does, Cellar Door Games has already shown how they are improving upon the previous game by giving each class different weapons. For example, the Barbarian is able to perform a powerful downwards axe slam that, while costing mobility, will oneshot many enemies that take longer with the standard sword. Mages use their wands to attack from a short distance away, which also regenerates MP at a fast rate. Archers, the class I found the hardest to play as, can attack from a significant distance and even summon mid-air platforms to stand on to snipe at enemies. With these differences, each class became worth experiencing, and choosing my heir became even more impactful, as it could potentially affect the way I approached exploration or a boss fight.
This sort of refinement also extends to Traits as well. In the first game, Traits were more-or-less a nuisance that I would try to avoid by taking a harmless one. This was because Traits were usually negative, and in most cases, only really harmed my chances of survival. In Rogue Legacy 2, Traits have been enhanced so that there are more positive and neutral traits, meaning that there are reasons to go for heirs who are more unique. Even with negative Traits, a new feature of the game allows heirs with negative Traits to earn more money, meaning that it presents a better risk-reward mechanic instead of being an all-risk-no-reward feature.
Finally, Rogue Legacy 2 presents a new path of permanent progression with Heirlooms. Abilities like dashing and talking to spirits are no longer bound to Runes, and are permanent upgrades you can earn if you beat challenges presented by the spirit within the Heirloom. As both Heirlooms currently available were useful for travel, and were essential to unlocking the door to the boss room like in a Metroidvania game, this gave the sequel a better sense of progression compared to the first title. I was constantly looking for these upgrades, and finding and successfully unlocking one felt like reaching a checkpoint that allowed me to look back and see how far I had come.
Currently, only the castle biome is fully fleshed-out and playable, but the Early Access version already presents intriguing new biomes that stray away from the familiar castle, like a Bridge area and a snow-covered area. I’m looking forward to adventuring in these new biomes, most likely dying, and then continuing my legacy with new heroes of all sorts of classes and Traits once more.
Rogue Legacy 2 is currently in Steam Early Access on PC. Check out Siliconera’s interview with the developers on how they came up with these sorts of changes here.