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| June 24, 2017

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Roguelike goes Rogue-lite with Rogue Legacy

Roguelike goes Rogue-lite with Rogue Legacy
Charles Chong

In the deep, dark corners of the gaming world is a type of game that not many people know about: Roguelikes.  The reason many people do not know about it is probably due to the extreme difficulty of this particular genre – once you die, you stay dead.


Roguelike gets its name from the first game of its kind, titled, unsurprisingly, RogueRogue is a dungeon crawling game developed in 1980 that influenced many games after it, whether or not the games are classified as a Roguelike.  For example, while not a Roguelike, Diablo was heavily influenced by this genre, which is especially evident in the game’s iconic Hardcore mode, where taking fatal damage will leave the character permanently dead and, therefore, unplayable.  However, not all players have the patience (or willpower) to continually start a game back from the beginning every time he or she dies.  In fact, it is this very reason why Roguelikes are not very popular – most people can’t stomach the death of a character that had been slowly nutured for tens, if not hundreds, of hours.

And thus, a new subgenre of Roguelikes was born: Rogue-lites.  Rogue-lites are different from Roguelikes in that one aspect that pushes the general population away from it: there is no “permanent death”, per se.  For example, a very popular Rogue-lite game is Dark Souls.  In this game, souls are collected for every enemy you kill, and those souls are used to upgrade your character.  However, upon death, you lose all the souls (and thus the upgrades), but you do have one chance to find your body to recollect the souls – a failure to do so, however, will result in permanently losing all of the souls you’ve collected, which would, in essence, be the same as dying due to the lack of upgrades (you do keep all of your items, however).  Even so, Dark Souls, while extremely difficult, is considered a huge success and received critical acclaim.

Roguelike goes Rogue-lite with Rogue Legacy - Dark Souls Death

Death is much more meaningful in Dark Souls. Hours upon hours of progress can be lost with a single mistake.


The newest edition to the Rogue-lite genre is Rogue Legacy.  This dungeon crawling game takes it a step further to make the Roguelike genre a little more palatable to the masses by introducing a pseudo-permanent death.  Allow me to explain.  While playing through the game, if your hero happens to die, he or she will not be brought back to life – instead, upon death, you may choose from 3 of the hero’s progeny to continue the noble fight.  This new hero will have all the upgrades of the previous hero, but the game will start over from the beginning again.  In addition, the new hero will be a randomized class and have randomized skills and traits that can either help you or make it impossible to play properly.


Roguelike goes Rogue-lite with Rogue Legacy - Progeny Selection

You choose your successor here. Not all the effects of traits are immediately apparent, so you will have to experiment with the characters to figure them all out.

For example, one of the random traits that a hero can manifest is “Vertigo”.  If a hero exhibits Vertigo, the screen will be flipped upside down, and the hero will be walking on the ceiling, and jumping will result in the hero moving down the screen as opposed to up.  Other traits are more minor, such as “Color Blind”, which makes the entire screen black and white.  Giantism results in a huge character that has a much bigger hit box, but also a much longer reach with the sword.  There are many, many traits – and while the ones I have mentioned have obvious effects, there are also more subtle ones where you will have to figure out the effect yourself.  In fact, this is the entire strategy of the game and exactly why you will die many, many times before getting good at it: getting good at the game requires that you have a knowledge of the enemies you will encounter and learn the precise limits of your hero.  While your hero will get stronger as you gather more gold to purchase upgrades, you won’t get that gold until your actual skills in the game improve.  And the learning curve is steep.  Very steep.  However, for those with good twitch reflexes on a platformer, it may not be very difficult.  On the other hand, if it is your first time playing a platformer, you can expect to die within a minute or two of your first try at the game, and you will only realistically be able to defeat the first boss with a minimum of a few hours of experience.  Again, the extreme difficult takes cues from true Roguelikes, so even a Rogue-lite game is not for the faint of heart.  Some commitment is required to truly excel at this game.

You will definitely run into situations like this.  This is called "Bullet Hell".

You will definitely run into situations like this. This is called “Bullet Hell”.

So this is Rogue Legacy, a Rogue-lite game based on Roguelikes.