Rogue Legacy 2 review – A near-perfect sequel in every sense
Rather than seeking to reinvent the wheel as sequels often do, Rogue Legacy 2 hones in on its original blueprint, upgrading and expanding on the vision in almost every way imaginable to deliver one of the most satisfying roguelikes yet.
Dying, learning, and dying some more is the name of the game when it comes to traditional roguelikes. If the idea of fighting through similar areas dozens — potentially hundreds — of times, slowly improving in terms of both raw attributes and general game sense, doesn’t sound appealing, the genre will likely never be for you.
If you’ve been a fan of that style, however, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the Rogue Legacy name. Nine years on from its original release and the game is often regarded as one of the high points of the previous generation. With its retro art style, challenging combat, and rich upgrade systems, the hit indie title was an endlessly replayable treat.
After a 20-month early access period, a full-fledged sequel is finally upon us and while Rogue Legacy 2 doesn’t offer anything drastically different from its predecessor, the formula has evolved in almost sense to improve on its foundation. From more intricate classes and diverse enemy designs to a genuinely intriguing narrative fit with an expansive quest log, Cellar Door Games has crafted a near-perfect sequel.
Rogue Legacy 2 – Key details
- Price: $24.99 | £21.99 | €21.99
- Developer: Cellar Door Games
- Release date: April 28, 2022
- Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S
Rogue Legacy 2 trailer
Gameplay is king
No different from the first go-around, in Rogue Legacy 2, you start your journey as a simple knight. With every death comes a new descendant to continue the family quest through a constantly evolving castle.
Much like how the game’s layout changes with each run, so too does your approach. Each member of the family tree rushes into the castle with a wildly unique set of abilities, perks, and often negative traits as well.
Dozens of vastly different abilities fit across a wealth of distinct class archetypes to make every single run unique from the last. It may sound cliche given the roguelike genre always leans into similar phrasing, but in Rogue Legacy 2, it truly is the case. No two attempts to clear the map will ever feel entirely the same due to the sheer number of variables in play.
On the surface, replayability is already off the charts, but it only skyrockets further when factoring in the sequel’s more nuanced progression systems.
Throughout your runs, you’ll be collecting various currencies, some of which are considerably harder to obtain than others. Said currencies can then be invested in a few different ways. The most basic being armor and weapon upgrades, boosting simple stats like damage and health. Where things get interesting though, is through Rogue Legacy’s trademark ‘castle building’ progression.
As you advance through the ominous castle infested with dangerous foes, you’re simultaneously building up a safe haven of your own on the outskirts. Spending hard-earned gold to unlock new classes, abilities, stat boosts, and even NPCs greatly expands not just your power, but the range of gameplay experiences on offer. The best part about these sprawling roguelike features is that none of it feels wasteful.
All of this depth is completely earned in the sequel. Allocating your resources between runs is never a simple matter of just dumping all your gold into a single category. Instead, Rogue Legacy 2 offers an incredibly well-balanced mix wherein, every attribute feels equally significant considering the variety within each run.
You can’t rest on your laurels and expect to replicate the success of a previous There’s no use just maxing out your strength stat right away, for instance, since there’s no guarantee your next few runs will rely on that particular stat in the slightest.
A few dozen hours into the grind, with multiple full biomes yet to be explored, I’m still barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. With more areas, additional classes, new bosses, side challenges, and even a number of quests to complete, there’s far more to see and do in the sequel.
Simply put, the depth of Rogue Legacy 2 is outrageously impressive. There’s just an extraordinary number of systems to improve, classes to master, and upgrades to unlock that even 100 hours in, you’ll likely still have room to grow in multiple directions. That’s without even considering New Game+ and all of its added replayability.
Enriching roguelike systems is just the beginning of how Cellar Door Games has sought to improve the experience. From an entirely revamped art style to snappier combat and even an intriguing storyline to boot, Rogue Legacy 2 does everything a sequel should, evolving on the original formula in almost every way imaginable.
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Rather than trying to go in a different direction, Rogue Legacy 2 should be commended for doubling down on what made the first outing so successful. Offering more substance than ever, refining graphics and performance, while improving upon almost every feature that drove the initial title to success.
Rough early game experience for newcomers
While mostly everything in the full build of Rogue Legacy 2 is worthy of praise, the onboarding experience is not. If you’re new to the castle grind, there’s a very good chance the sequel’s brief introduction leaves you with more questions than answers.
After a quick few-minute tutorial that shows you the absolute basics, Rogue Legacy 2 leaves you to your own devices. Beyond jumping, attacking, and dashing, little else is actually taught through this opening sequence.
On one hand, this can be seen as a positive for some, as it forces you to figure everything out for yourself, learning the hard way through experience with many unsuccessful runs. On the other, this could be extremely offputting for those not only inexperienced with Rogue Legacy, but the roguelike genre as a whole.
Classes, currencies, abilities, traits, weapons, stats, biomes, enemy types, status effects, questlines, the game throws a great deal at you all at once in the opening hours. It’s an extraordinary amount to try and digest in one go, even as someone with hundreds of hours dumped into the original. It wasn’t until roughly the 10-hour mark in the sequel before I even realized what various currencies were for, as an example.
A more detailed tutorial certainly wouldn’t go amiss in future updates. But for the day one launch, it wouldn’t be a surprise if many newcomers feel overwhelmed by the early game experience of Rogue Legacy 2.
One last gripe regarding the opening hours has to do with the game’s overall structure. In the original, advancing to new areas beyond the castle walls often presented a greater level of challenge. That’s still the case in the sequel, though accessing said areas for the first time is far more tedious than before.
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Rather than stumbling into a biome and exploring at your own pace, Rogue Legacy 2 often requires you to have certain items or upgrades in order to progress. At times, this can leave you feeling as though various runs are already redundant before you even get going, as very specific abilities may be required to unlock the next region.
The sequel does a great job keeping even heavily debuffed classes engaging and worthwhile, so these setbacks can be quite disappointing, especially on better runs where everything is going your way until you hit the wall.
Despite its rough early game and minor structural setbacks, Rogue Legacy 2 is, for the most part, an incredible sequel to one of the all-time great roguelikes.
Fans of the original will be absolutely captivated by the astounding amount of fresh content on offer while new players, should they stick with it, will have dozens of hours of deeply engaging gameplay to master.
Rogue Legacy 2 isn’t just another can’t-miss indie hit, it’s the best work yet from Cellar Door Games. With its affordable price point in mind, there’s no better time to start your family tree and get lost in the ever-changing castle.
Reviewed on PC