While not the first roguelike by any means. 2013’s Rogue Legacy — alongside classics like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac — had a hand in making the now-plentiful genre the huge deal it has become. Nearly a decade later (not counting two years of early access), Cellar Door Games has finally followed up on their breakout hit. Rogue Legacy 2 builds upon its predecessor and. even for those who haven't played the first, re-establishes what made it such an enduring hit.
Rogue Legacy 2 places you in the shoes of Lady Susie, a brave knight. As well as her descendent, Sir Judson, a boxer with gigantism and crippling IBS. Also his descendant, Sir Truman III, a chef who suffers from Panic Attacks and views the entire world as if it’s Christmas.
Like the first game, Rogue Legacy 2’s core mechanic is that titular 'legacy'; instead of a protagonist coming back after death in typical roguelike fashion, a death in Rogue Legacy has you take up arms as a descendent of your prior character. At the start of each run, you have the choice of three potential heirs, each with their own individual classes and attributes. Each class has a set weapon and talent as well as a randomly selected spell and set of traits; classes such as the Barbarian (who wields an axe and a powerful shout which freezes enemies in their tracks) or the Dragon Lancer (with their rocket-powered lance). You are able to unlock more unique classes as you pump coins into the game’s skill tree.
Traits cover a wide range; some of these — such as one allowing you to dash in any direction — can be a game changer in making your run successful. Others, like Pacifist — which means you literally can not damage enemies — may well totally ruin a run. And then sometimes you get traits like IBS which do nothing except make your character let out a fart every so often. The limited number of classes you can select per run and their subsequent randomly selected spells and traits make for a fantastic mechanic that keeps you on your toes and forces you to adapt to situations, rather than just sticking to the same skill set each time.
As you would expect from a procedurally generated roguelike, there are randomly generated pickups throughout the game. Relics, much like the traits, can make or break your run, once again adapting them to your playstyle is key. For example, Lachesis Measure, which gives you 5% of your health back for every critical hit, works fantastically with classes like the Barbarian who crit every time they attack while on the ground.
However, relics also bring up two of the game’s more grating elements. First off, the item description does not tell you what it does until you have picked up a specific relic for the first time. So you could be having a fantastic run and suddenly — none the wiser — pick up an item which completely ruins it. Granted, this is more of a nitpick, as the further into the game you get, it’s more likely that you will have all of these unlocked, but it can be a pain in the early goings, even though it encourages experimentation.
The other minor bugbear is the 'resolve' mechanic. Your character has a certain percentage of resolve, which is affected by the weight of your gear. Resolve is spent upon picking up relics, and if you go under 100%, your max health decreases along with it. It’s a smart mechanic, as it adds an element of risk-reward to the game as you decide between a higher health pool or more abilities, but it’s one that takes a while to get to grips with.
Your quest is to defeat the world’s six estuaries, who reside in each of the game’s six biomes, to unlock the fabled golden doors. While you could tackle the first game's four bosses in any order, Rogue Legacy 2 opts for a more linear approach; the six biomes are given a star rating that flags the recommended route. Each boss only needs to be defeated once, meaning you can skip the early biomes entirely on subsequent runs, or re-do them to gain extra power for later areas.
This linearity is furthered with a Metroidvania-style approach in which you find core abilities — such as an air dash — which are required to reach certain areas. For example, you can’t even enter the game's fourth biome without the double jump found in the third. While this linearity may be off-putting to some, it's entirely possible to 'sequence-break' the game, either by collecting these abilities before defeating the bosses or through the use of mobility-focused traits like the Ronin’s teleport ability.
Similar to its predecessor, then, Rogue Legacy 2 offers up a great deal of customisation, so you can attune the game to your own tastes. As before, one of the early skill-tree unlocks is the architect; an NPC who, for a percentage of your gold, can keep the procedurally generated layout of the world fixed as it was on previous runs, allowing you to master that specific layout.
There are also house rules this time, a set of options that enable you to fine-tune the difficulty. With house rules you can alter things like enemy health, enemy damage, and resolve costs for specific relics. Major alterations like disabling traits and granting the ability to fly are also on the table for those who want them. Each option comes with a recommendation from the devs on how to use these features effectively without completely destroying game balance (such as raising enemy health 5% for every 10% resolve cost is lowered). While we didn't personally feel the need to play with the house rules, it’s an incredible accessibility option to have.
The fun doesn't end after you complete the game, either. It took us around 10 hours to beat the game the first time, but upon defeating the final boss, a lengthy New Game Plus option is unlocked. Keeping your skill tree and level upgrades, you are tasked with beating the game again. However, this isn't a simple "enemies are stronger now" NGP. Instead, you are required to select a burden to attach to your playthrough (not unlike the pacts of punishment, for those of you who have played Hades). These can be as simple as "hazards do 30% extra damage" or even unlocking 'prime' versions of the bosses to battle. There's also a true ending for those brave enough to beat all prime bosses in a single run (a feat we have yet to accomplish).
We have no complaints about the game's conversion to Switch, either. During our time with it, we didn’t notice any slowdown or graphical issues. While there are no new Switch-exclusive features present, the recently launched ‘Fabled Heroes update’ is included. The portability of the Switch also does wonders for this game's pick-up-and-play style. Given the care that's gone into this Switch port, it's arguably the best place to play it.
Rogue Legacy 2 is — to put it simply — a banger. While it’s not a game-changing revelation, it manages to follow up on everything that made the original great and makes it bigger and better. Even once you've bested the bosses, you've barely scratched the surface of what this has to offer, considering the in-depth New Game Plus mode and the wealth of content contained across all available classes and options. Whether you loved the original Rogue Legacy or never played it but like a good roguelike, this is a game you simply can't afford to miss.