Rogue Legacy 2: Introduction

The original Rogue Legacy was an unexpected hit game when it was released in 2013. Created by a tiny independent developer named Cellar Door Studios, Rogue Legacy was a breath of fresh air in a gaming market that often felt overbloated with needless complexity. I favorably compared Rogue Legacy to the pay-to-win auction house mess that was Diablo 3 on release and it was impressive just how much content was packed into this little game developed on a shoestring budget by less than a dozen people. I ended up playing a complete game with all nine classes and wound up with far more Rogue Legacy content on my website than I had been expecting - the gameplay was just that much fun! After a much longer period of development and over two years spent in Steam early access, the full version of Rogue Legacy 2 finally released to the public in April 2022. Rogue Legacy 2 is more of a remake of the original game than a sequel, with the same awesome 2D platforming gameplay returning but massively expanded in every way. There are more classes available, more dungeon biomes to explore, more monsters and more bosses, more equipment and runes, much more background story, and more New Game Plus postgame content. I'm one of the loudest voices arguing that cramming more stuff into a game doesn't make it better, however Rogue Legacy 2 has managed to incorporate its new features in such a way that pretty much everything is an improvement over the original game. If I can make use of an old comparison, this is Mega Man 2 as compared with the original Mega Man, a game that took the basic concept and fleshed it out into a greater whole.

Rogue Legacy 2 was created by a much larger development team and that difference is immediately obvious from a presentation standpoint. This game looks vastly better both in terms of its environments and its character models while still keeping the same cartoony graphics style overall. The original Rogue Legacy used 2D sprites for the hero and its monsters which strictly limited what could be done in terms of animations. I'm still impressed at what they were able to do given their limited resources but it was hard to avoid noticing stuff like the main bosses being larger versions of the normal enemies. (Khidr, the first boss, was a stationary eyeball that didn't even move!) Rogue Legacy 2 has switched over to 3D models for everything which allows for significantly more animations and things like dynamic lighting effects. The hero character will be illuminated by a glowing effect when walking past fireplaces, there are different shades of darkness, there are different graphical effects for burning and freezing and poison, etc. The environments in Rogue Legacy 2 are significantly more varied as well, from the dark fortress of the initial Citadel to the eerie library of the Stygian Study to the frozen wasteland of the Kerguelen Plateau. As much as I liked the original game, the four regions of Castle Hamson were basically the same with four different graphical skins applied on top of each area. That's no longer the case in the sequel.

The core gameplay in Rogue Legacy is based around the hero character and the various different classes that each heir can choose between. Rogue Legacy 2 features 15 different classes with most of the original classes from the first game returning again. Unlike in the the initial game, where most of the classes played similarly and they were distinguished primarily by stat bonuses, the classes in Rogue Legacy 2 each have an entirely different weapon which changes up their play styles drastically. The Knight retains the reliable old sword while the Barbarian swings a heavy axe and the Ranger fires a bow. There are all sorts of oddball weapons as befitting the comic nature of the game, like the Chef who wields a frying pan and the Bard who uses a lute to spin-kick off of music notes. Each class also has its own unique talent which ranges from old standbys like the Assassin being able to escape into mist form to new things like the Duelist having an (overpowered) dash roll to avoid attacks and the Valkyrie being able to block ranged projectiles with a twirl of its spear. The classes still have innate stat differences as well but the presence of so many different weapons and unique talents makes each class much more distinctive in its own right. There are even more bonus hidden weapons to find, like the spoon and the electric guitar and the pizza, which provide an alternate take on half of the main classes. While there's definitely some overlap between the classes (the Knight and Valkyrie are very similar for example), there's much more variation between the classes in this game as compared with the first Rogue Legacy. And of course all the random inherited traits are back from the first game as well, with various crazy effects like colorblind, vampirism, clownanthropy, diva, pacifist, and so on. The negative traits even provide increased gold generation in Rogue Legacy 2 to offset having to play through their penalties.

The upgrade "castle" is back from the original game with even more places to spend the gold brought back from each character's foray into the dungeon. The biggest change here is that the core stats in the game have multiple different upgrade points which cost different amounts of gold. For example, the Vitality stat that adds HP can be upgraded 10 times in the Mess Hall category, but then another 20 times at the Fruit Juice Bar, and then another 30 times at the Meteora Gym. All of these upgrades do exactly the same thing, adding one point of Vitality apiece, but the upgrades for the Fruit Juice Bar and Meteora Gym cost more gold than the initial 10 upgrades at the Mess Hall. As the player makes their way deeper into the game (and especially into the New Game Plus content), they gain the ability to upgrade each of these categories further, eventually reaching 30 upgrades at the Mess Hall and 50 upgrades at the Fruit Juice Bar and 80 upgrades at the Meteora Gym. Thus all of the core stats can go a lot higher in Rogue Legacy 2 though it will take many trips deep into New Game Plus territory to get there.

Another big improvement to the upgrade system is the creation of a parallel structure between physical damage and magic damage. In the original Rogue Legacy, the gameplay was heavily biased towards physical damage because magic damage from spells couldn't critically strike, making the Archmage and Lich classes essentially useless in endgame content. That oversight has been fixed in Rogue Legacy 2 and now players can emphasize either Strength + Dexterity for physical damage or Intelligence + Focus for magic damage, with Dexterity and Focus being the stats that increase physical/magic critical strike damage respectively. There are exactly the same number of upgrades available on both sides of the upgrade tree which will come as a relief to anyone who wants to play a Mage or Astromancer in this game. Critical strikes themselves have been overhauled so that every class has a way to "skill crit" by performing a certain kind of action, such as the Knight dashing to attack or the Ronin striking with the very tip of their katana weapon. There are ways to increase the odds of a random crit as well but most crit damage will come from being able to perform the various skill crits associated with each class, changing this mechanic from RNG dice rolls into something that players can control. Some classes will want to invest heavily into Dexterity/Focus because it's easy for them to pull off skill crits while others might be better off concentrating on base Strength/Intelligence.

The other core stat in Rogue Legacy 2 is Armor which has returned from the first game in a modified form. Armor in the original Rogue Legacy was a simple damage reduction calculation: 100 points of Armor would reduce 50% of incoming damage, 200 points of Armor would reduce 67% of incoming damage, and so on. Rogue Legacy 2 changes this such that Armor blocks a flat amount of damage but only up to a percentage-based cap which starts at 35%. If you have 20 Armor and take a hit for 100 damage, the Armor will reduce it by 20 points for 80 damage taken. However, this is limited to that maximum of 35% so taking a hit for 100 damage with 50 Armor in place will only block 35 damage, not 50 damage. (There are eventually runes that can be found to increase this percentage.) Even with this limitation, Armor is incredibly important to find since it blocks a flat amount of damage from every monster attack. Of course there are a bunch of other oddball upgrades that can be found on the upgrade tree, including the returning of the Gold Gain Up levels in a nerfed form, but the core stats are Vitality, Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Focus, and Armor. If I have one complaint here it's that a bunch of the early upgrades are blocked off by level requirements. The player gains levels quickly enough that this isn't a big deal but there's still no reason for these barriers to be in place. Why not let players just pick whatever they want from the start?

Equipment and runes are both back from the original Rogue Legacy as well, and like pretty much everything else in the sequel, they've been fleshed out into more interesting gameplay mechanics. Equipment in Rogue Legacy 2 still provides the same stat bonuses as before, with swords mostly providing Strength, helmets providing Vitality, and so on. There are two major additions to the equipment system in the sequel, starting with the creation of set bonuses. Wearing multiple different equipment from the same set provides a unity bonus, such as wearing four different Scholar items provides additional Focus. Each set has its own unity bonuses and some of them are highly desirable (like the Ammonite set providing Armor which is good for everyone). The other new addition is higher tiers of the same form of equipment; eventually the player will unlock the chance to find a normal Leather Sword or a Leather Sword +1 which has higher stats than the base item. Each item has five different tiers (from 0 to +4) although the highest versions of them won't drop until well into New Game Plus territory. Higher tiers of items provide better stats and also more set unity bonuses which creates an interesting mix and match puzzle. Sometimes it will be better to use older equipment at the +1 or +2 levels to unlock their set unity bonuses while at other times it will be better to use newer stuff, and of course the player has to work around what they've actually managed to find in the dungeon. It's a fun and interesting system held back only by an interface oversight: the player currently can't see how many tiers they have of each item without buying them ahead of time. For example, if you haven't bought the base Warden Chest, there's no way to tell if you have the Warden Chest +1 or +2, nor can you see the stats it would provide. This gets really confusing over time and I hope they'll address this since I'm tracking what stuff my characters have actually found in an out-of-game spreadsheet right now. Equipment is purchased with a new currency named ore which can be found in the dungeon from defeating minibosses along with the main estuaries.

Runes generally function in the same fashion as equipment, with 24 different runes in total to find. Unlike in the original game, where there were exactly 5 rune slots which could never be changed, Rogue Legacy 2 now treates runes the same way as equipment with a rune weight count that can be increased over time with upgrades. There's theoretically no limit to the number of runes that can be used if the player keeps adding more rune weight. Initially the player can only find one rune in each category but that's another thing that can be changed over time in New Game Plus mode, eventually gaining the option to stack 5 runes of each type. Runes are found via the same fairy chest challenges from the original game, usually needing to clear out a room full of monsters or perform some kind of platforming challenge without getting hit. My biggest annoyance here is that successfully opening a fairy chest doesn't always provide a rune and it's unclear what criteria needs to be met to get them to drop. Given the enormous number of runes to find in this game (24 * 5 = 120), it's extremely obnoxious that fairy chests will frequently fail to yield up a rune. I'd be happy to see the challenges appear less often if only they would ALWAYS give a rune on successful completion! At least they do always drop red aether, the currency used to purchase runes. Still, it can get pretty obnoxious if you aren't finding the best runes (Lifesteal/Soulsteal and the ones associated with Armor) despite finishing one fairy chest challenge after another.

There's another new gameplay system added in Rogue Legacy 2 in the form of relics and the resolve mechanic. These were technically around in the first game in the form of the secret shrines, the things that gave out Helios' Blessing if the player was lucky and Hedgehog's Curse if they weren't. Relics are much more prevalent in the sequel where characters will sometimes start with them and they will always appear in certain preset locations in the dungeon. Relics have all sorts of unique properties, everything from weapons applying a burn effect to higher crit chance/damage to longer invulnerability after a hit to higher odds for monsters to drop meat to a relic that instantly kills the player in exchange for 35% more total gold haul brought back. Each relic costs a certain amount of resolve to pick up, with the player starting at 200% resolve and suffering no penalties until falling under 100% resolve. At that point, any additional relics will start to decrease the player's maximum HP (not current HP) as resolve drops below 100%. It can be a tough call deciding whether to take the health penalty in order to wield another relic. Obviously certain relics are vastly better for certain classes and certain builds than others which is part of the fun of experimenting with the different classes. Note that wearing heavy armor also decreases the starting resolve down to 150% although this can be mitigated with various upgrades and certain runes that add to resolve. I tend to prefer higher max HP totals but for those who want to live on the edge there's a lot of power to found in the relics.

If that wasn't enough, Rogue Legacy 2 has also added an experience mechanic in the form of mastery bonuses. Killing monsters in the dungeon grants XP for each class that stacks up towards some kind of mastery bonus, such as the Barbarian providing 1% additional Vitality per mastery level and the Mage providing 1% Intelligence. The cap on the mastery bonuses is 15 (though this can also be increased in the New Game Plus endgame) and these bonus stats apply to all classes for future heirs. Most stats have two classes that share the same mastery bonus, such as the Ranger and Ronin both providing 1% additional Strength per mastery level. It's obviously a big deal if both of these classes are maxed out and providing 30% additional Strength to all future heirs! Furthermore, every mastery level across all classes adds +1 rune weight which adds up to a lot when combining together every class. This is another way that Rogue Legact 2 encourages players to experiment with different classes since they'll all be providing some kind of unique benefit to the rest of the group.

I have more mixed feelings about the heirlooms, another new addition to Rogue Legacy 2's gameplay intended to make the system feel more like a Metroid or Castlevania game. These are unlockable abilities that were previously tied to runes from the first game, such as the air dash and the double jump. The heirlooms have to be found scattered throughout the dungeon and it's not possible to enter some of the later biomes until finding and acquiring the heirlooms along the way. The double jump in particular is fundamental to the gameplay and it can take a long time for new players to reach the heirloom that unlocks it at the extreme eastern end of the Kerguelen Plateau. This new mechanic can be a good thing in the sense that it provides another sense of progression for newer players and keeps them from being overwhelmed by too many things taking place at the outset of the game. On the other hand, it also makes the gameplay more linear and drags things out needlessly, at least for your average player who will take some time to collect all of the heirlooms. I've gotten to the point where I can collect the five basic heirlooms on my first or second heir so ultimately this isn't too big of a deal. It can be frustrating though for anyone who doesn't know how to unlock the double jump.

As for the dungeon itself, the environment in Rogue Legacy 2 is much bigger than the first game with six separate biomes to explore. There's more variation to them as well, with Axis Mundi consisting of a humongous horizontal bridge while the Sun Tower is a vertical spire that requires a lot of practice to be able to platform up to the top. The level design is really creative in some of these areas and the climb up to the top of the Sun Tower takes real skill to spin kick off hazards without falling into the bottomless clouds. Almost all of the monsters from the first game are back, once again in three separate tiers of difficulty, along with dozens of new monsters to combat. There are about 50 different monster types in all with the higher tiers of those enemies gaining secondary abilities in addition to extra health and damage. Monsters can also roll as "commanders" which causes them to appear as the tier 3 version of their type along with a bonus commander ability. These include innate blocking against the first 4 ticks of damage, armor shredding capacity on hit, little cursed ghosts flying out every few seconds, and an explosion whenever the commander takes damage. The commanders are a lot like hitting boss packs in the Diablo games and help to add more variability from run to run on top of the randomness of the dungeon layout.

But the single biggest improvement in Rogue Legacy 2 over the original game is almost certainly the bosses. The four bosses in Rogue Legacy were pretty clearly added as afterthoughts, with opponents like Khidr simply being a larger version of the normal eyeball monster with a few changed attack patterns. The six bosses in Rogue Legacy 2, known as estuaries in this game, benefited from vastly more development time which comes across immediately starting with Lamech, the first estuary in the Citadel. Each of the six estuaries has their own unique character model and each one has somewhere between half a dozen and a full dozen different abilities with big splashy animations. Lamech is a Spellsword who charges the player, swipes with a huge sword, throws daggers and axes, launches a wave of fireballs, and can shoot a huge Kamehameha style beam. This is much more complex and interesting than anything that the player saw in the first game and it will take some time for players to learn all of the various boss patterns. Aside from the six estuaries, there are then two final bosses to bring the overall total up to eight opponents, and that's not even counting the mandatory minibosses that must be defeated in the Stygian Study and the Pishon Dry Lake. This is the gameplay element that's been overhauled the most and helps make Rogue Legacy feel more like a proper 2D platformer as opposed to its somewhat barebones predecessor.

The improved boss encounters are also tied to a much more robust background story that adds quite a bit of lore for players who are interested in exploring it. There are various notes left behind throughout the dungeon, same as in the original game, but these are expanded upon via a series of memories left behind by the estuaries. These memories fill in the backstory of why this conflict is taking place at all, how the world fell apart into a dystopian hellscape, and eventually even provide an explanation for how your characters keep reviving with each new heir and why the New Game Plus difficulties exist. There's also a gameplay motivation to track down the hidden memories because they provide a modest (15%) damage bonus against the estuaries for discovering them. In the New Game Plus difficulties, the player gets the opportunity to face souped-up versions of the estuaries who leave behind golden versions of their memories upon defeat with substantially more hidden lore. The final secrets aren't revealed until completing the game on New Game +7 difficulty which will take quite a while even for experienced players. If you're interested at all in who these characters like Namaah and Enoch and "Z" happen to be, there's a surprising amount of story hidden away behind the scenes in this game.

Finally, Rogue Legacy 2 bring an enormous amount of New Game Plus content to explore after completing the initial difficulty level. Players get the chance to start all over again on the next New Game Plus difficulty setting, where the monsters will be tougher and there are greater opportunities to bring back more gold and find higher quality equipment/runes and discover additional lore. Each new difficulty level requires adding more "burdens", which can be selected from a menu in a fashion very similar to the heat system in the game Hades. Players can choose to increase monster health and damage, make the dungeon larger, add additional environmental hazards, or increase the tier of the monsters and/or add more commander abilities. The most interesting burden that can be picked comes in the form of the boss refights, as players can choose to face the much more difficult Lamech Prime on NG+1 difficulty, and then the second boss on NG+2 difficulty, and so on up to the final bosses all the way on NG+7 difficulty. Each of these "prime" boss refights are significantly harder than the base version and require relearning how to face the same opponents all over again. If I have one criticism here, it's that needing to go all the way to NG+7 difficulty to face the final prime bosses became very tedious, even for someone like me who enjoys the gameplay. If I do my class challenge series again, I'm definitely not playing through the game eight times with every class!

Every time that the player defeats an estuary, they receive 100 of the game's final currency: souls. These souls can be used to increase the maximum level of the normal upgrades bought with gold as mentioned above (the base Vitality category going from 10 upgrades to 30 upgrades over time), or they can use used to unlock additional side content. This is how to unlock the alternate weapons for half of the game's classes or gain the ability to lock a certain class or certain spell in the right-most heir slot - very handy for a single class challenge! Players can also gain souls by completing various "scars", challenges that take place back in the town area and ask the player to kill difficult bosses or break a certain number of targets in a designated amount of time. Character stats are normalized in the scar challenges so leveling up will never make them easier, though something called "empathies" can be found to decrease their difficulty level. The player gets scored based on their performance in the scars so be warned that stacking a bunch of empathy assists will result in a low amount of points. The scars have to be found in the dungeon to unlock them and then afterwards scores are tallied across all classes for an overall total. Some of the scar challenges are EXTREMELY difficult and will test even the best players at their boss-fighting skills. These are essentially another version of the "obol" bosses from the original Rogue Legacy in a much easier to access form. There's even more content here for expert players to explore should they grow tired of re-running the dungeon over and over again in New Game Plus mode.

Overall, it's an impressive amount of content that the development team has packed into this title. As I'm sure readers can tell, my impressions of Rogue Legacy 2 are overwhelmingly positive and I would highly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys 2D platforming games. If you liked the original Rogue Legacy, it's not even a question of whether to purchase the sequel - this is a far superior version of the same thing, go ahead and pick it up right now. Heck, I was having a blast back when the Citadel was the only part of the game available in Early Access mode! I expect that I'll be spending a good amount of time playing this game over the next couple of years and I hope that this title is a big success for the developers at Cellar Door Games. Thanks for reading along!