It’s you and your small team fighting for survival against wave after wave of ravenous dinosaurs! Arm yourself with machine guns, grenades, and a slew of vehicles as the opposing force arms itself with BEING FREAKIN’ DINOSAURS!!!
So, I have a bit of an addictive personality. That doesn’t mean that people become addicted to my whimsical banter and winning smile and have withdrawals when they don’t spend time around me (although that is true, as well… as far as you know… shut up, you don’t know). What it means is that I actually become somewhat addicted and obsessed with something that I find enjoyable, especially if it is a new experience to me. Therefore, when I find a TV show or book series or video game that I deem “incredible”, you can rest assured that I will plow through it with reckless abandon and an unnatural hyper-focus.
All that being said, it should not surprise you to find that I sank about 17 hours into Rogue Legacy within a week of filming the Crash Course episode. Some of you may scoff at that number, saying something like, “Pashaw! A measly 17 hours of gaming in a single week? You are absolutely adorable!” And while it is true I am adorable, that doesn’t change the fact that this ludicrous amount of game time was spent on top of having a job and planning a wedding. So where did I find all this free time to play this game on top of work, addressing copious amounts of invitations, Valentine’s Day shenanigans, and other social interactions? Simple – I didn’t f**king sleep.
Rogue Legacy has this quality about it that sucks you into the gameplay and keeps you there for far longer than you expected or wanted to stay. I call it the “One More” effect. Many people have seen the “One More” effect in games such as Tetris or Civilization V – the effect occurs when a game is played and advanced in a quick succession of rounds, turns, or lives where the individual subunits of game time do not frustrate the player into quitting in a huff. In other words, there’s always something else you could do, and it will only take a few minutes, and once you accomplish that task it opens up more tasks to accomplish, and I mean you’re on a roll right now, so why not try and get one more little thing done since it will also only take a few minutes, etc. etc. And in these games, even if you botch a single run-through or turn or whatever, it’s never a huge setback. Sometimes it’s not a setback at all, but merely a smaller step forward than anticipated. And progress is progress, so let’s keep this show going, am I right?
So there I’d be – playing Rogue Legacy late at night, thinking to myself, “If I can just get 5000 gold on this run, then I can upgrade this ability in my tech tree, and then I’ll be able to use this new item that I found, and then when I do I wanna try it out immediately because it looks pretty cool!” So I’d make my run, I’d get the gold I needed, I’d unlock the new weapon or ability or whatever, BUT during that run I’d find another piece of armor or rune or trinket and think, “Man, that looks cool as s**t! I can’t wait to use that. I should do one more run after this one and unlock it.” This cycle would loop over and over again, and when I would finally look at my clock it’d be three or four in the morning.
“…F**k. Not again.”
I was very sleepy that week. I actually took a nap on Sunday afternoon. A nap! I haven’t needed a nap since finals week in college, and what I was doing to myself this time around was not nearly as sympathetic. I’d see some people I know when I was out and about, and I’d be disheveled and yawning and have huge dark bags under my eyes, and they’d say, “You look like a pile of ass! What have you been doing?” And I’d wearily respond, “Oh… *yawn* just preparing for finals.” And they’d say, “Oh you poor dear! Here – let me buy you some coffee.”
However, if I had responded, “Oh… *yawn* I’ve been staying up all night playing the same video game over and over again,” then they’d probably say, “Well, serves you right! You should be doing something more productive with your time, you lazy sack of s**t!”
(… Apparently, these “people I know” are real a**holes. I don’t need to see “those people” again.)
But I digress – allow me to actually get into the review section of this review instead of wasting your time with tales of how much time I wasted.
This game is really f**kin’ fun! It’s fast-paced, and each playthrough is a new experience, but you don’t feel a completely overwhelming sense of dread when you die because what you’ve acquired and bought carries over to the next champion you select. Each run usually only took about ten minutes as I scampered through the different areas of the castle grounds collecting gold and unique items. The playthroughs later in the game lasted longer since my characters were hearty enough to clear a few areas completely before biting the dust, but it usually ended with me passing on tens of thousands of gold to my descendant. There are a few milestones in the game that you hit and feel really good about yourself – that first run where you end with over 1000 gold feels pretty good, but that first run where you end with 10,000 gold is just magical. You feel as though you could buy the world with that much gold! Give me all of the upgrades now, please, for I have 10,000 gold coins to spend all willy-nilly!
And then you get to the point where upgrades and weapons are costing a few thousand gold coins a pop, and suddenly that 10,000 isn’t some exorbitant horde, but instead is just enough to pay the bills and get two – maybe three – new toys.
But as I said before, even after a late-game run that leaves you with only a paltry 1500 gold, you want to get back in the castle right away and make up for it. You want to get back in there and have an even more lucrative run. You want to end with a collection of gold that would make Midas blush in shame and embarrassment.
But the game’s not just about collecting gold and buffing stats. It’s not just about watching the numbers get larger and larger (although that is a whole mess of fun). There are bosses to beat!
Khidr, the Gatekeeper (Castle Hamson)
Khidr is a giant eyeball that fires massive patterned waves of fireballs. Once I got the pattern down, it was easy enough to dodge his (her? …its?) attacks and beat him down. The only problem I had was facing him at such a low level. I don’t remember what stats and equipment I had, but it was not enough to bring him down quickly or survive more than a couple of shots from his fireballs. Eventually I lucked out and got an assassin with gigantism, which meant that – while I was a bigger target – I could reach the underside of Khidr by simply standing on the floor and swinging away. I just mashed the hell outta the attack button and prayed for a few crits before I had to give up my lovely initial position and start dodging is attacks. There really wasn’t much of a strategy to this first boss – figure out the attack patterns, dodge the waves of fire, and then when his attack was on cooldown just wallop the ever-loving s**t outta that eyeball. No biggie.
Alexander, the Forgotten (Forest Abkhazia)
Alexander is a buffed-up version of the floating, fireball-spitting skulls known as “Furies” that you first encounter in the Forest. His attack pattern is also similar to his smaller brethren – chase the hero around, then pause and launch a cross-shaped pattern of fireballs. But like I said before, he’s the granddaddy of angry flaming flying skulls. His fireballs are proportional to his massive size, and he also shoots out about seven or eight of these in a row, effectively trapping you in a corner of the arena (unless you’re cool with jumping through a wall of magic pink flames). On top of that, he summons gangs of the smaller Furies that also chase you and fire at you. For a purely melee class or a descendant that has a single-target spell, this fight is awful. You can really only poke Alexander once or twice before having to flee from him and his children, and when he’s attacking and you are stuck in a corner of the room, there’s not much space for maneuverability when fighting off a Fury or twelve.
However, should you make it to Alexander with a Spellthief or Mage that has an area-of-effect spell and some mana-siphoning, the difficult struggle becomes a beach breeze. Those little Furies that Alexander summons can be obliterated with a Flame Barrier or Blade Wall and will give you mana and health back (if you also have some vampirism) to aid you in taking Alexander down.
One thing I noticed about these boss fights – with Khidr, and then Alexander, and the later bosses as well – is that it comes down to having the right class, spell, and loadout of equipment and runes for the type of boss you will be facing. For examplie, Khidr is a single stationary target that attacks with patterned waves of fireballs, so facing him with a hero that has vampirism is useless since there are no smaller enemies to kill to regain health mid-battle. Alexander does provide you with cannon fodder to feast off of, but bringing a single-target spell may not be as beneficial since those smaller targets can get in the way. It kinda’ came down to trial and error (and perhaps a little of over-buffing myself, but hey – that’s a legitimate strategy, too), but eventually I found something that worked really well against the big bads.
Ponce de Leon, the Sentinel (The Maya)
Oh man… this f**kin’ boss. I threw myself at this giant flaming ball of… flames… sooo many times. I tried several different builds and classes – I had mages, I had dragons, I had hokages; I had thrown daggers, tossed axes, flame barriers; I had double jumps, flight, dashes – I tried ALL these different techniques, and this is the fight that came down to me getting lucky and killing him before he killed me.
Now, the biggest problem I had with this fight was my own damned clumsiness. I would constantly dive off of high platforms and land on a flame trail left behind by Ponce de Leon or on the many bouncing spikeballs that were sailing around the room. (Quick side note – I think that the spikeballs littered throughout the castle grounds were the cause of, like, half of my deaths in this game, because I’m a moron.)
It was certainly a hectic series of battles, but I eventually emerged victorious by bringing back a Scrooge-McDuck-and-a-half pile of gold after a non-boss run and dumping it all into buffing my critical strike chance. Then I was able to bring an assassin to Ponce’s house and land several devastating crits right out the gate. It wasn’t long before my butterfingers whittled my character down – what with all the fire and the spikes and the being chased by a giant angry flame-sphere and whathaveyou – but I had given myself such a huge head start that not even my f**kupability could f**k that fight up.
And then came the most magical thing out of probably my entire experience in this game.
You know how I mentioned earlier that your first 1000-gold run is a wonderful milestone, and that your first 10,000-gold run is invokes an even more spectacular sense of accomplishment? Well, after defeating Ponce de Leon and collecting my gold, I continued my conquest through the castle grounds with my elite assassin. I returned to Castle Hamson proper and cleared it, taking down a mini-boss and unlocking several chests. Then I ventured into Abkhazia Forest and killed every last monster and opened every accessible treasure chest. I then climbed up into The Maya – the former home of the previously-unstoppable Ponce de Leon – and obliterated any trace of evil spiritsm scooping up all of the hidden riches scattered throughout the misty passageways. My final stop in the whirlwind of heroism was the lower level of the castle – The Darkness. I plunged through most of the rooms that these dark, gloomy walls contained and took quite a beating as I had not spent much time in this hellish place below the castle floors. But I pressed on, slashing and swiping my way through each foe that lunged at me, and I earned myself even more loot from my one-man death march.
But it all had to come to an end. As I emerged from a corner room of the dungeon to backtrack towards the opposite side of The Darkness, I was hurting. I was weak. I was a single blow away from death, and that blow could easily come from any terrible monster in these depths. And as I exited the doorway and dropped down to the floor below, but what should end my great and glorious reign than a MOTHERF**KING WORTHLESS PIECE OF S**T SPIKE BALL, G*****NIT!!!! AAARRGGHHHMKFLBDLPSSHHHH!!!!
… *sigh* …
I was disheartened by my stupid careless death, but I brightened right the hell back up after I saw the amount of riches I emerged with. I didn’t bring back 1000 gold. I didn’t bring back 10,000 gold. I didn’t bring back 20,000 gold.
I brought back 38,500 gold.
With this, I could buy the world! (… or, like, at least four upgrades.)
Herodotus, the Infinite (The Darkness)
This guy was a pushover, but I just so happened to have been properly classed and equipped for this battle. I was originally making a gold run with a lich king that had the conflux spell. A lich has the special ability to gain permanent maximum health by killing enemies (up to a point – it doesn’t grow indefinitely), and the upgraded class of lich king/queen allows you to cut your current maximum health in half and add that to your maximum mana (once again, up to a point). Conflux is a spell that fires four spiked balls off in diagonal directions that bounce around room for a short period of time.
Now I had taken this character through a gold run, so I had wiped out all three previous areas of the castle (Hamson, Abkhazia, and Maya). This meant that my health and mana were both stacked to the rafters as far as their maximum potentials were concerned. I decided to head into The Darkness in search of the boss’ lair since I was maxed out and ready for combat. Even if I had died, I would have had a nice chunk of gold coins to spend on upgrades, so there really was no fear of me losing anything if I failed.
I combed the depths of The Darkness in search for the great evil’s chambers, and stumbled upon the great doors within a few rooms of my exploration. After entering, a large family of baby slimes fell one by one into each other to form one singular massive slime. As I went rushing away from this slime and up onto the platforms above me, I started throwing out confluxes like the world was coming to an end. As the balls clanged around the chamber, they ripped apart the slime into smaller and smaller halves. Eventually, a small squadron of flying earth sorcerers arrived to aid Herodotus, but they simply disintegrated in the current cloud of projectiles that I had created, giving me back health and mana in their deaths. Eventually, the mighty slime lord was chewed down to its last few remaining subsections, and I decided to descend from my perch and destroy the monster in a more personal manner – with my blade. The final bits of the many, many conflux spells faded out of existence as a shower of gold and jewels poured out of the final slime’s punctured membrane. I had won. (And on my first try, too! Yahoo!)
But really, to be a bit less dramatic about the whole fight, I really did just mash my spell button while safely out of Herodotus’ reach. I might’ve had to dodge a few stalagmites that the sorcerers brought up from underneath me, but it was a relatively unepic battle.
Johannes / The Fountain (The Traitor)
Ah, yes – the classic “two-forms” final boss battle.
We find out that Johannes was the original rogue that was controlled in the opening gameplay, and that the King was not – in fact – sick, but had discovered the fountain of youth. Also, all of the journals I found scattered throughout the castle were written and left by Johannes. Before you fight Johannes, he rambles on about the King not actually being sick, or that he was sick, but the sickness was time, and that the King betrayed his loyal guard by not actually being sick and sending them into the castle to retrieve this thing that would heal him, and that thing was the fountain of youth (or at least clearing a path to the fountain), and then I got a little confused. So… are all of the rogues that I’ve played up til now (with the exception of Johannes) descendants of the King, or of Johannes? Or are we a separate family altogether that are just sending generation after generation of warriors into the castle in search of riches?
I had no time to ponder the meaning and answers to these questions because I had a final boss battle to fight, dammit! I can’t let my hackin-‘n’-slashin quest be slowed down by plot! Sheesh.
Johannes’ first form is just the knight himself. He fights like one of the player-controlled knights rather than one of the countless mooks that I had blendered during my countless runs through the castle. Instead of standing still on the floor and swinging when you get nearby, he nimbly jumps and dashes around, swinging his regicidal blade and pumping out juiced-up versions of the dagger, throwing axe, and blade wall spells. This part of the fight was more annoying than dangerous – Johannes just moves so quickly that you hardly have time to dodge his attacks and then mosey over to him and slice into him before he bounds away and starts another wave of attacks. His spells are relatively easy to dodge (so long as you have the available room to do so), so I really didn’t take that much damage in the first part of the fight.
After wailing into Johannes enough times, he poofs away in a cloud of black smoke and a shower of chicken legs and mana potions (as is customary when you are defeated by a rival). You think the battle is over (because in this story – which has suddenly gone to second-person – you are unawares of final boss fight cliché tropes), but you are mistaken! Johannes’ spirit drifts to the far side of the room and is absorbed into the fountain of youth, where the rocks and water swirl around and become a walking fountain golem! Heavens to Betsy!
Aaaaactually, this second form Johannes takes is easier to handle than his first form. The Fountain is large and lumbering, which means you can land solid blows on him all day and not have too much to fear. And he doesn’t just telegraph his attacks – he sends them by smoke signal. When he raises his giant sword above him, you know that he will either swing it at you after his nap, or that he will summon a wave of blades to move from the floor up to the ceiling or from one wall across the room to the other wall. These summoned blades are far enough apart and are fired and large enough intervals that they are very easy to dodge. The Fountain can also teleport from one side of the room to the other, and can slam his sword down into the center of the room to create a rising and falling wave of blades that are easy to dodge if you have a double-jump rune equipped. All I really had to do was shuffle up to The Fountain and smash my sword against his face until he signaled to me that he was not having fun. Then I would just back up, dodge whatever attacks he would throw at me, and the go right back to being all up in his grill. I can see how being large during this fight would make dodging the attacks a nightmare and that being afflicted with dwarfism would put you into danger of being hit when slashing the s**t outta his kneecaps, but I didn’t have such problems. My one and only run-in with Johannes was with a normal-sized barbarian king, so I was tanky as f**k (… not that I really needed to be). I even still had my Balance runes equipped which were useless in this fight since there were no smaller enemies to kill in order to regain health and mana. Even so, I dropped the great antagonist like a sack of wet hammers (which, arguably, aren’t significantly heavier than dry hammers), collected my loot, and headed out the front door to triumphant music, rolling credits, and my armored family awaiting my return at my manor.
So what do I really think about all of this? I think it’s definitely not for everybody – the monotonous grinding through room after room; the killing enemies, breaking tables, and unlocking treasure chests for gold coins; and the numerous attempts at bringing down a boss might seem tedious to some. But to me, it was a new adventure every time. It was slow progress that was quantifiable in upgrades, weapons, armor, and runes. It was testing myself to see how quickly I could respond to waves of attacks, how far I could travel into the castle, and how much gold I could acquire before dying. It was unlocking new classes and trying new combinations of those classes with different traits and abilities to find the one magical selection that either fit my play style or was exactly what I needed at that time to accomplish whatever task or milestone I had set for myself. In short: I enjoyed the hell outta the game!
But – like I said – it may not be your thing. I’d suggest you try out the free demo if you’re interested and decide for yourself whether or not you need more of this game in your life. If you are interested in purchasing the full game, there are numerous links on Cellar Door Games’ website that allow you to play it on Windows, Macintosh, or Linux.