Man, the schedule decided to lighten up for July.
In all seriousness, the fact that the month looks pretty light from a release point of view has been a blessing in disguise. This gives me more time to get to stuff in the backlog like God of War Ragnarok (which is fucking phenomenal, by the way), letting me check out early Acceess games about to release like Turbo Overkill and Deadlink (Both still rad, by the way), and ultimately giving me time to mentally prepare for August. Because not only is August the beginning of a truly stacked release season, it kicks off with Baldur’s Gate 3. And trust me, I’ll be consumed by it every waking moment I play it when I’m not being a reasonable human being. I’m that excited. But I’m here to talk about a game that’s been out for over a year that I haven't gotten to until now and that’s Rogue Legacy 2. That’s right, we’re taking a detour to Roguelike Town! Don’t look at me like that, it’s been a while since we were last here.
Rogue Legacy 2 came up in interesting circumstances. When the original game came out nine years ago, it was groundbreaking. It introduced the concept of permanent progression and upgrades into the roguelike genre, making the game a little bit easier every time you played it. This spawned a new subgenre called roguelites and I remember some weirdos online being really upset about that, which I don’t understand. Because it gave us a host of wonderful new games like Dead Cells, Enter the Gungeon, and perhaps the most acclaimed of them all: Hades. And since then, they’ve all taken the foundation that the original Rogue Legacy established and done their own unique spin on it in some interesting and unique ways. And the developers at Cellar Door Games knew this. And the way that they came up with how they could stand out in a sub-genre that evolved since the initial release was to simply go in another direction.
I say this because, for the most part, Rogue Legacy 2 is a super tough platforming Metroidvania instead of being an arena-based Roguelike. And this works out beautifully for it. Rogue Legacy 2 plays far more like a refined version of the original game. The general movement and jumping feel great, to the point where I’d confidently compare it with some of Nintendo’s more recent outputs in terms of feel. It’s that good to me. And this is also shown in how the six levels all build off of each other. Each one of them is built around a specific mechanic or challenge. Area 1 is based on dashing, area 2 is horizontal and based on these things called resonant platforms, and so on and so forth. The second area in particular is notable because it ties into one of the new main mechanics: the spin kick. Spin Kicks work by pressing the button it’s mapped to and straight up kicking something to get a small burst of aerial mobility. These could be specific doors, platforms and even enemies. As I mentioned earlier the second area makes this the main focal point of the platforming because of how vital it is for the rest of the game. The second upgrade you get makes it so you can not only spin kick-off of resonant platforms but get INCREASED HEIGHT from it. It’s wild and I love it. And that is probably the only time I’ve seen level design in a roguelike using my beloved iterative design and you love to see it.
But all of those wouldn’t matter if you had a boring way of fighting stuff. Thankfully Rogue Legacy 2 is great in that respect. While I never got far enough in the first game to really see how classes worked, Cellar Door Games went out of its way to make this super interesting. There are thirteen classes overall and all of them have a unique way to deal consistent critical damage, which are appropriately named Skill Crits. These can be as simple as attacking while dashing or landing a three-hit combo, or attacking after casting a spell. This gives you an incredible amount of flexibility, from the Knight being an all-rounder to the Mage that leeches mana off of enemies for their spells and even the weirder classes like the Chef who can get a guaranteed crit from deflecting projectiles with their frying pans (not sure if that’s up to code) and the Bard’s musical notes just becoming crits as they stay on the field. It’s all wild. These don't even take the relics you find that can empower you even further beyond your capabilities, or how the new trait system makes it so the more disadvantageous a trait is, the higher your gold multiplier will be. They all come together to make one of the best-playing Roguelikes in ages.
And then there’s the management of the estate, aka the permanent upgrades. These are all the same as the first game in terms of recruiting vendors for runes and gear crafting, recruiting the architect to lock the world thread in place (useful in boss fights), unlocking classes and so on and so forth. One of the new additions I noticed compared to the first game (again, never got that far in it) was the Living Safe. This makes it so that Charon, the boatman that takes all of your money to transport you to the castle, does not take all of your money. It’s stored up and can even be used for the purchase of upgrades and can eventually unlock bonuses to stats based on how much money you paid Charon.
There’s more I can get into, like how the addition of New Game Plus is a great feature, how there are prestige classes for all of the character classes, or even how there’s a new set of optional bonus challenges called Scars. But all of those get away from the main point I wanted to hammer home with this: Rogue Legacy 2 is rad. I’ve gotten through two-thirds of the overall progression and this is with consistent play, but I can tell that I like this one enough to just straight up gush about it. It manages to not only reinvent Rogue Legacy in some interesting ways but also manages to be one of the best Roguelikes on the market. And y’all have read enough of me kissing Hades' ass to know that’s no small feat.