Welcome to Save State, where we ponder what’s more indie than roguelites and metroidvanias. Three of the most popular genres for indie games in the last couple years would have to be survival games, roguelites, and metroidvanias, but sometimes savvy developers mix a variety of genres to come up with something absolutely brilliant, and Rogue Legacy 2 is an example of this. The first Rogue Legacy was a title I 100%ed before its DLC even released, and when I discovered the sequel had released under my radar, I instantly added it to the top of my backlog.
In Rogue Legacy 2, you take control of a brave hero that ventures into a castle in pursuit of wealth and a higher calling. There’s not really a lot of information given as to why you’re doing what you are, but the overall story is told over multiple runs in some fairly interesting lore drops, almost all of which would be considered spoilers. So, instead of droning on about the fun mixture of religious mythos that exists in Rogue Legacy 2, I’ll instead jump right into what makes it interesting: Its heir system.
What really makes Rogue Legacy standout is the fact that when your player character dies, their adventure is over, but their successors take up the mantle. Your first character may have been a knight with a chunky sword and a shield for blocking damage, but his daughter might be a vegan Gunslinger that gets better deals at the stores thanks to their charisma and ability to haggle (and eating meat literally kills her). The vegan’s son could wind up being a Dragon Lancer who is colorblind but inherited a powerful relic. There are so many classes and traits that it can be really fun to try a run of the game with wacky combinations. Each character starts off with the set weapon and talent of their class plus a randomized spell, but upgrades will expand how many choices you have at the heir selection screen, allow you to lock a specific class to always show up, or will randomize every weapon and talent across all classes you’ve unlocked.
Not only do the heirs change each time, but the castle also changes every single run. This means that you’ll come across a pretty wide variety of rooms fraught with danger that will end your adventurer’s whole career. While exploring, you will find a variety of treasure chests, which can give you gold that can be used for permanent upgrades or blueprints that can be given to the blacksmith for better gear. Fairy chests also can be found throughout the castle which give you a one-time shot at completing a random challenge to unlock the box and get a powerful rune. Some of these challenges will be as simple as making it to the chest without jumping, while others may require you to destroy a number of targets in the room without taking damage after it spawns 20 indestructible, spinning spiked orbs there.
Failing a fairy chest challenge and losing out on a rune can be saddening, but thankfully you can find skeleton key relics which unlock any chest or can even try the fairy chest room out on another life by giving the architect a cut of your gold to lock the castle for you. Locking the castle means that enemies respawn, but failed fairy chest challenges are available again, which gives you a valuable second chance.
Locking the castle also provides a shortcut to get right to the bosses should you have failed defeating them in your last run, which means spending a little bit of your gold to let you get right back into the fight, which can be extremely useful.
The bosses of Rogue Legacy 2 are pretty phenomenal. At first, they may seem like they have entirely too much going on, but learning the approach is definitely part of the fun. There are 6 bosses you need to defeat, among a few minibosses, in order to unlock the door at the very start of the castle to fight 2 final bosses and clear the game. The 6 Estuaries, the main bosses of a run, will no doubt be challenging on the first playthrough as they tackle into you and fill the screen with projectiles, but you’ll always get a little closer to defeating them every time you fail by learning their patterns, and making the successors slightly stronger with every character’s death.
While death may be the end of your character’s run, all the gold they collected while in the castle is yours to spend with their new heir. You can spend gold upgrading your castle to get bonuses like more attack power, increase critical hit damage, unlocking of new classes to play as, and loads, loads more. There are so many upgrades that most players for the first several dozen runs will have their gold spread quite thin as they unlock new abilities for permanent growth, buy a weapon or armor from the blacksmith, or buy new runes from the enchantress. Of course, it’s always better to spend gold because the cost of Charon letting you cross the Stygian River back into the castle is all of your mortal possessions. That means you have to spend all your gold before entering the castle, or you lose it- don’t be overly frugal.
There’s a great amount of push and pull in Rogue Legacy 2- you might have the perfect character, have found the perfect relics throughout the dungeon that gives you the best possible bonuses, but still failed in spite of that. And, truth be told, you may never be able to bring together that exact build ever again. What makes Rogue Legacy 2 so fun, in spite of that, is that there are just so many combinations of things that work together well, but the most important factor is always going to be the skill you develop each time you play and fail.
My first clear of the game was with a basic Valkyrie with absolutely no relics under her belt, but my second clear was with a whirling dervish of a Gunslinger who had both the Barbarian’s axe as well as wings that allowed him to fly, turning him into a flying buzzsaw of death that defeated bosses in under 20-30 seconds due to a relic that magnified damage by consecutively hitting enemies (which, the Barbarian’s aerial attack did a lot of hits quickly because you’re normally not supposed to hang stationary in the air just above a boss’s head while doing this). While I was never able to piece together that exact character again, I’ve had multiple builds that were equally if not more powerful, and they’ve all been invaluable in battling not just the bosses, but the enemies that stood guard over all of the precious treasure chests in the castle.
Rogue Legacy 2 features six biomes to explore, and each has a star rating that gives a rough idea of how difficult said area will be. Your first runs will typically involve playing through the intended difficulty curve: you start in Citadel Agartha, and you’ll acquire an item that lets you air dash. Using an air dash will allow you to enter Axis Mundi, which houses an item that lets you spin kick off of specific objects, which lets you completely explore Kerguelen Plateau and get an item that gives you a double jump, and so on. Once you’ve acquired these items, however, you can start a new run of the game and jump right to the 6th boss in the hardest biome, if you so choose.
The visuals of Rogue Legacy 2 are an absolute treat. The original Rogue Legacy had a very expressive pixel art design, and the sequel manages to capture the first game’s style but using 3D models this time. The visual effects have been improved across the board, and unless there’s so many enemies on screen that projectiles are overlapping, you should be able to tell at a glance what’s happening at any time. The music always fits the location you’re in, and the boss music, especially for the final boss, is perfect for getting you hyped for the occasion.
When it comes down to it, Rogue Legacy 2 is the perfect game for someone wanting to play a roguelite with tight controls, engaging and engrossing progression mechanics, and metroidvania elements. It’s probably not for people who don’t enjoy elements of randomness in their titles, or who don’t like challenging platformers. However, if you’re even remotely interested in roguelites, Rogue Legacy 2 is absolutely one of the best ones available for the money.
That being said, I think it’s time we bring this edition of Save State to a close. Remember to always brush your teeth and drink your orange juice, though perhaps not in that order, and we’ll see you here again in a couple weeks.