Rogue Legacy 2 is a Roguelite Return

THE ORIGINAL ROGUELITE

Rogue Legacy is the game that popularized what would become the sub-genre known as “roguelite” — the idea of having a focus on persistence as progression in a roguelike. Since its release, the roguelike and lite genres have blown up across the board. With all these new flavors, Rogue Legacy 2 has recently left early access and now asks the question: can the original roguelite show these newcomers some new tricks?

The Liter Side

The basic gameplay of the original returns with a new story. A Kingdom has fallen to a mysterious corruption, the guardians have been taken over by a strange force, and you once again sign away your life and your descendants to Charon to figure out what’s going on. The upgraded visuals are impressive, with improved lighting that makes everything pop.

If you missed the first one, the progression of the game comes in the form of your estate/castle. Gold, earned by killing enemies and finding treasure chests can be used after a run to add additions to your castle. These additions become progressively more expensive, but they will unlock new classes, raise stats, add new quality of life features, and more.

In runs, you can find blueprints that can be used to acquire new equipment pieces with a set bonus for wearing them all. Unlike the first game, your major improvements this time come in the form of heirlooms that are placed in each biome. Once unlocked, they stay active for the rest of the game. Runes, that offer passive bonuses, are still locked to completing a variety of puzzles and mini challenges throughout the world. A new unlock is in the form of “scars” which are bonus challenges whose resources can be used to unlock additional features and boost your stats even higher. The roguelite nature of Rogue Legacy 2 is on full display, and I can just see people attempting level 1 challenges or “low level” runs.

the persistence is back in full force

A new resource “resolve” acts as a reserve used to equip relics that provide a variety of passive bonuses that can be found in a run. Once your resolve gets less than 100, further drains will reduce your max health. These relics can be worth it and with the right ones can easily break a run.

Class diversity has been given a facelift with more classes, more special powers, and of course, more whacky traits. The traits were a big part of the original’s charm, with characters having traits that affect their run but can also earn you more gold for taking them.

Everything about Rogue Legacy 2 brings back the charm of the original, but it also brings back the issues I had as well.

Floaty Fighting

Of the variety of action roguelikes I’ve played, both Rogue Legacies feel the most inconsistent in terms of movement and combat for several reasons.

While it may not look like it, there are aspects of bullet hell in both games in how you must dodge attacks. Many enemies can launch all varieties of projectiles at you, some that track, some that can go through walls, etc. One of the biggest annoyances with the game is the lack of standardized alerts about oncoming attacks.

Some attacks the game will warn you that the enemy is about to do them, others they won’t. The same goes for incoming projectiles off-screen — some of them the game will let you know, other times you’ll get hit with no warning. It becomes very frustrating when you are trying to keep track of things and you can have three different projectiles and no way to tell how they behave. You have no invincibility frames while dashing (only one class gets an I-frame dodge), and it’s very common to have a situation where dodging one attack puts you right in front of another.

The enemy physics is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, to the point that I’m glad that there is an assist option to disable damage when coming in contact. Many classes have attacks that don’t push the enemy back when you hit them. This can lead to issues of enemies that you’re trying to attack, and they just fly or dash straight into you and do damage. For classes that can crit off dash attacks, it is far too risky to use this move on the later areas as you’re increasing the chance of you taking more damage.

Since enemies don’t respond to attacks, you can dodge all their projectiles, get into melee range and start hitting, and they’ll launch an attack with no tell and hit you without any means of dodging. Many of my deaths came from situations where it felt like the game was just not giving me a way to succeed — rooms where projectiles come from all angles, with enemies of varying tells, that all hit like a truck if I run into them or their attacks. I found that range attacks can break the difficulty in a lot of the later areas simply by not having to try and duck and weave around projectiles while trying to hit enemies.

The Daily Grind

Rogue Legacy 2 is certainly a roguelite and is by far one of the most grind-heavy out there. Every form of progression will take time to gather the necessary resources to upgrade. As with the first game, the general positioning and difficulty of the biomes don’t change, which means that your best way of grinding resources is to always go to the hardest area you can in order to maximize the gold you find. Just like with the first game, and with roguelites in general, you’re going to have a lot of throwaway runs that are just there to grind resources before having your “serious runs.”

skill is still the primary factor in winning fights

The biggest hurdle to progress much like the first game is just how tanky the bosses are. Expect to spend a lot of minutes dodging the same patterns as you whittle down their health bars. A new feature that allows you to gain bonus damage requires you to hunt down clues in each biome. Damage is the most important stat, as killing enemies fast prevents them from firing back at you obviously. Because the cost of all upgrades gets progressively more expensive as you spend, it’s very easy to make things harder for you by getting upgrades that aren’t directly helping you but increasing the cost of everything else (the game has been patched with a recommended upgrade path). For people who do finish the game, there is an extensive array of post-game content and progressive difficulty if you really want to keep the rogue-lite-ness going.

A Family Reunion

Rogue Legacy 2 is the bigger, better-looking version of the first game. If you enjoyed the first game through and through, this is certainly more to love. If you were hoping for some refinements to the design and pain points, then this action family tree simulator still has some thorns to deal with. This is still the quintessential roguelite on the market and a must-play for fans of the original.

This was played with a press key provided by the publisher

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Audacity Games Releases Circus Convoy

Audacity Games is Activision co-founder, not to mention the creator of Pitfall! and A Boy and His Blob, David Crane, along with former Activision designers Garry and Dan Kitchen. They’re getting back into the games business with a new Atari VCS/2600 title now available, after three years of development: Circus Convoy!

With hardware acceleration, lots of crazy tricks are possible, as demonstrated in the recent post here on homebrew VCS carts. David Crane himself helped pioneer this approach with his seminal Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, whose original VCS version used a special chip to help make possible its many tricks. Well, Circus Convoy is notable in that it doesn’t use such tricks! It doesn’t use “hardware acceleration,” although I presume it still uses tricks like bank switching and additional RAM.

Take a look at the features and play guide pages on their website, and if it looks interesting to you and you still have a working Atari, maybe buy a cart? The prices do seem a bit high for a new VCS game in 2022, with the cheapest offerings at $55-60. But I’m sure there are hardcore VCS enthusiasts out there who are interested.

Homebrew Atari VCS/2600 Arcade Ports

The long-running Atari fansite AtariAge sells a number of carts that run on classic Atari VCS systems that make it do things you might not expect that system could do. Some of the most impressive of these are remakes of classic arcade games that go far beyond what was possible at the time. A number of these were developed by Champ Games. Here are links to a number of videos showing them off, although sone of the may not currently be in their store:

Galagon” – Wizard of WorZoo KeeperAvalancheScrambleSuper CobraMappy (especially this one!)

A few others, not from Champ Games: Aardvark (Anteater) – Venture ReloadedSpace Rocks (Asteroids) – Star CastlePac-ManDraconian (Bosconian)

ABAgames’ “Good Old Game Sound Generator”

Kenta Cho is a brilliant game maker, and he’s come up with a couple of generators that can generatively make short stretches of music, suitable for classic-inspired arcade games.

Short VGM Generator is on itch.io, and works by taking a pre-existing piece of music and attempting to make another piece of a similar style.

The Good Old Game Sound Generator is on GitHub, but for playing around you might be more interested in its Demo page. It takes a bit more effort to make something with it, but it’s a much more flexible tool. I must leave you to your own devices to make something of value, or at least of interest, using it.

The process that let him to create these tools is up on a page he made on dev.to. If you’re interested in generative music you should take a look!

Franken

Franken has made the internet rounds the past few days, being praised by Derek Yu and Video Game Dunkey. I was pointed to it by our own Kent Drebnar, the one-celled gaming organism who does news posts for us. It’s a free and short and free JRPG styled thing up on itch.io. It’s inspired by Final Fantasy VI, For The Frog The Bell Tolls, Moon, and Grow RPG! It’s made with OHRRPGCE, itself a fun, quirky and free RPG creation program.

HIGHWAY TO THE LEOPARD ZONE

It’s not really so much as game as a humor delivery mechanism and strongly-guided system of battles. There’s only one choice for actions throughout all the fights, but it’s more of a silly and good-hearted story that you experience through a Dragon Quest play system. It reminds me a lot of another JRPG homage for 3DS and Switch, Fairune, although without its sometimes maddening secret-finding, and with lots of quirky characters, which feel like they were imported from Undertale.

It’s only about an hour long, and did I mention it’s free, so I figure it’s well worth your time and money!

Trek to Yomi Review

Trek to Yomi just came out a few weeks ago and I went through it on stream, and while it certainly had style, the substance was lacking.

Nintendo Indie World Announced Games

In the style of huge corporations in the year 2022, Nintendo has announced a slate of upcoming indie games in the form of a video instead of a sensible text page. It fell to The Escapist to give us a nice text-form rundown of their impending offerings.

In the spirit of reducing things even further, the games on tap, with each game’s segment cued up for easy perusal, are:

  • Ooblets, from Glumberland, aggressively cute farming/monster sim.
  • Batora: Lost Haven, from Team17 and Stormind Games, sci-fi narrative action-RPG.
  • ElecHead, from Nama Takahashi, pixel-art puzzle/platformer that he started working on as a student, and started life as a game jam project.
  • Soundfall, from Drastic Games and Noodlecake, co-op rhythm action combat game. (Released today!)
  • Wildfrost, from Chucklefish and Deadpan Games, a “tactical roguelike deckbuilder.” (We have our own opinions as to what roguelike means.)
  • Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, from Landfall Games, a humorous physics-based combat simulation sandbox that first made waves on Steam.
  • Gunbrella, from doinksoft and Devolver Digital, a Wild West-themed “noir-pink” pixel-art Metroidvania. Not available until next year, though.
  • We Are OFK, from Team OFK, a episodic “indiepop music biopic” game (a lot of scare quotes this post, I admit) based on a band.
  • Silt, from Fireshine and Spiral Circus Games, an aquatic puzzle/exploration game with a monochrome silhouette aesthetic.
  • Mini Motorways, from Dinosaur Polo Club! A sequel to Mini Metro, I did a Q&A with its developers over at Game Developer! (For some reason it’s attributed to “staff,” but I assure you I wrote the questions for it.) It’s a strategy simulation game about laying out roads. (Released today!)
  • Wayward Strand, from ghost pattern, a narrative adventure game set in 1970s Australia with a time management element.
  • Cult of the Lamb, from Devolver Digital and Massive Monster, a cute procedurally-generated town-building game with action elements and dungeon exploration.
  • Another Crab’s Treasure, from Aggro Crab, which actively calls itself a “Souls-like” in its trailer, an action combat game about a hermit crab out on a quest. Hermit crabs find shells and other objects to serve as their home in real life, and this game incorporates that fact into the gameplay. Not out until next year, though.

At the end, there were a few short clips of other upcoming games: One Shot: World Machine Edition, Gibbon: Beyond the Trees (releases today), Idol Manager, Card Shark, Cursed to Golf, A Guidebook of Babel, and OPUS: Echo of Starsong: Full Bloom Edition.

Last-minute addition, here are Kyle and Krista, formerly of the Nintendo Minute and now with their own thang going on, reacting to the games:

Boundary Break does The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe

Boundary Break, a YouTube channel that looks into unused and off-limits areas left in game code, did a video on the expanded version of The Stanley Parable, and they managed to get a wonderful bit of in-character dialogue from the game’s narrator.

That’s the hook! The real reason to load it though is Boundary Break does nice work, finding out-of-bounds content in games. Also check out their recent video on Wii Sports, although note there’s an ad as part of the content. Folks gotta eat.

The Steam Going Rogue Sale

Steam is having a sale for a few days on roguelike and roguelite games, as well as “Souls-like” and “metroidvanias.” They published a page defining each of the terms, which I don’t entirely agree with, and by featuring all of them in a sale called Going Rogue they seem to be purposely conflating these terms, which annoys me a little, although there are plenty more concerning things going on in the world right now. (Especially metroidvania, which really has almost nothing to do with roguelikes.)

I give some better definitions down below, but in the meantime let’s have a look at some interesting items in their sale:

Rogue Legacy 2 (20% off at $19.99): The first Rogue Legacy was a surprisingly long time ago! It was an important exploratory action-adventure game with randomly generated areas. Player death was an intended part of the game: after a character dies, for the next game the player picks one of that character’s offspring, which has different, randomly-generated characteristics. They could also use money found on the last run to upgrade a town, to provide new characters services before they entered the dungeon. Rogue Legacy 2 looks like it continues the tradition.

Slay the Spire (60% off at $9.99): If you’re tired of buzzwords then you might be wary of a game that says it’s both a roguelike and a deck builder, but I think they’re two concepts that fit together pretty solidly-which recent years have proved well enough. This may have been the first of the type. It came out in January 2019 but is still rated Overwhelmingly Positive on Steam, and that’s worth something.

Peglin (10% off at $17.99): It’s one of the newest games in the sale, a combination of roguelite play and Peggle-like pachinko. In the future, all games will be defined by their likes, so we might as well get started now I suppose. The essence of roguelike games, I believe is in adapting to uncertainty, and a mode of pachinko certainly fits that bill.

Currently there’s also Dead Cells (40% off at $14.99), Noita (50% off at $9.99), Enter the Gungeon (60% off at $5.99), and Streets of Rogue (60% off at $7.99). There’s some interesting games in the metroidvania and Souls-like corners too, especially Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (60% off at $15.99).

So, about those definitions

Roguelikes got their name during the formation of the Usenet group rec.games.roguelike, for being like the classic terminal-based RPG Rogue. At that time it was obvious what the term meant: turn-based tactical combat roleplaying games with random dungeons and randomized items, usually with ASCII graphics by necessity since they were played in a terminal. In the time since then the importance of ASCII graphics has diminished a lot, but the other aspects are pretty good identifying characteristics. Since roguelikes of this form are still popular in some circles, it feels right to let them have it. Although I should note that one of the people who made Rogue has said that they consider a “roguelike” to be a game that can surprise its creator. (I could well be misremembering this, granted.) Since the Steam page mentions it, I figure I should at least link to the Berlin Interpretation’s definition of what it means to be a roguelike.

Roguelites may have gotten their name from me, back in the days @Play was on GameSetWatch. It’s been like 15 years, I don’t remember that well. I used the term to describe games like Spelunky and Binding of Isaac, which wrapped action gameplay around a roguelike core. Another good term for these is action roguelike. The page on Steam states that the ability to bring elements across games is a factor that could make something roguelite, but there are roguelike games with that aspect: NetHack‘s bones levels, for instance, and Shiren the Wanderer‘s between-play progressions.

Souls-like games take after Dark Souls, which has some superficial gameplay similarities with roguelikes (especially the difficulty and emphasis on playing smart) but really shouldn’t be lumped in with them carelessly.

Metroidvanias are exploratory platformers set in a large world. There’s usually some kind of item-based movement advancement that gates access to later areas. The term was probably coined by Jeremy Parish. They get their names from the 2D Metroid games and the exploratory versions of the 2D Castlevania games-which don’t include the original Castlevania, despite what Valve’s page says.

Revita Takes a Gamble on Story and Difficulty

Revita is another action roguelike to come out of early access recently. And while it does feel like a greatest hits collection of action roguelike mechanics, the game’s principal twist does separate it from the pack but does so in a polarizing way.

Rebirth

The story of the game follows a young boy who keeps waking up in a mysterious tower that he is forced to climb. Standing in his way are various monsters and creatures that represent the stages of grief, hinting at some earth-shattering secrets going on. The basic gameplay involves running, jumping, shooting, and dodging enemy attacks on procedurally generated floors. While the game features set room layouts, what enemies can spawn is entirely random per area/biome.

As with any action roguelike, you’re going to find a number of items that can change how your character behaves and do damage. The first twist of the game is that your health is also your currency. Shops, shrines, treasure chests, and other things will require you to sacrifice your health. As you kill enemies, you’ll accumulate souls that can be transformed into more health or give you more of a health pool.

The sheer number of unlockables is extensive, and I haven’t seen a pool like this since The Binding of Isaac. The different varieties of items can lead to crazy runs, but your skill is still going to be the main factor. As you play through the game, progressive difficulty unlocks will increase the difficulty of runs and add in new modifiers to deal with. Where the game goes with this is somewhat original for the action roguelike genre.

A Difficult Story

For most games, the progressive difficulty is simply there for expert players who are done with the story and just want to keep pushing up the challenge. With Revita, the difficulty is part of the story. Once you get to difficulty level 5, the game will challenge you to perform a specific task to move the story along and unlock even more difficulties and levels to play. This is like The Binding of Isaac which had its share of secrets and additional content. However, you cannot even get anything that would be considered a real ending without raising up the difficulty.Revita the progressive difficulty provides a lot of replay value for people who want the challenge

For those that do manage this task, they will find even more difficulty levels, secrets, and harder challenges to go after. At the time of writing this review, the developer has changed the conditionals for the first set of challenges, which is good due to their difficulty and RNG messing with it. However, if you find that unlock to be difficult, the game has far more in store, and while this does leave the game with plenty under the surface to find, I don’t know how many people are going to be motivated this way.

Pushing Through the Pain

Revita reminds me a little bit of Spelunky 2 and how there is more going on for expert players than there is for casual/core ones. While it does feel nice to know that there is a lot more to this game for someone like me, I do question if there’s enough to motivate someone to make the trek up the difficulty ladder.

The problem is that unlocking the many secrets to Revita is not just about getting good at the game, but also figuring out the conditions for its secrets and being able to execute it with randomly chosen items showing up each run. The base game, or level 0 of difficulty, is on the easy side compared to other games in the genre. If someone plays, beats the game and thinks that is it, they’re going to leave disappointed.

Even with the number of difficulty settings that you can unlock, and there are plenty, the base path through doesn’t feel like there is enough variance in the same ways as Hades or The Binding of Isaac. As with Hades, your starting weapon dictates a lot about how you’re going to be playing over the run. However, where Hades has the different god buffs, or The Binding of Isaac has items that radically change your build, Revita doesn’t have that many that would be considered that run-affecting. In total, there are five main biomes, and two variants of two of them that you will do per run. I’ve found that I was relying on the same basic strategies each run and that they were working.

From an expert standpoint, trying to get through challenges hitless can be frustrating as screen shaking, the camera zooms, and the bullet physics themselves can make it hard to gauge dodging. The bullet physics in the game varies from linear directions to those that have their own simulated physics to them. There were times due to the rng of how bullets behaved that there didn’t seem to be a safe way to dodge them.

One of the more annoying aspects of Revita’s progressive difficulty is that several levels introduce elements that increase the duration of the runs. By the time I was hitting level 10+, a single run would take about an hour, with the combination of the lack of variance, started to wear thin for me. I think I would have preferred fewer difficulty settings but make their differences more pronounced. Some, like increased bullet spawn and enemy speed were a big deal, but it took until shard 14 before I started to see more interesting ones that affected things.

Continuing the Cycle

Revita has a lot of charm to it, and the game makes use of a variety of action roguelike mechanics and systems. If you’re hoping for an example that radically changes the formula in the same way as Hades did, then this game doesn’t go that far. If you’re a veteran of the genre looking for another challenge to dive, or climb, into, then this is a solid entry for the year.

This was played with a press key provided by the developer.

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Sundry Sunday: Strong Bad Plays Marzipan’s Beef Reverser

You made it through another week of life in 2022! Here is some video silliness to congratulate you, and encourage you to keep on keepin’ on!

I’m always down for an excuse to link new Homestar Runner content, but this here’s a gaming blog! It’s gotta be about games Mr. Strong Man.

What’s that you say? It is a game? Well fine then, I will gladly accept that flimsy excuse! It’s Marzipan’s Beef Reverser, and it’s on itch.io. You play Only Girl in the Homestarniverse Marzipan as she whips mobile steaks with her Shantae-like hair in a Game Boy setting, sending them careening into a cow skeleton, helping to reconstitute it back into a cow. I’m sure it works that way in real life too. And notice, it’s not a Flash game, it’s an actual Game Boy rom file, playable in your favorite homebrew-capable Game Boyish setting.

And as a special extra, they recorded Strong Bad, in VTuber style, playing through it and unlocking all the bonus extras. It’s a bit slight, but in the grim darkness of the far future, we accept all the H*R stuff we can staff.

Devlog of Cross Breeder X

A short devlog from RujiK the Comatose about a monster breeding sim they’ve been working on. Dismayed as a kid by the fact that breeding in video games tends to be done according to tables rather than truly from combining the attributes of the parents, they set out to create a procedural version that matched what they expected when they were young. The results seem to be satisfactorily freaky, although, possibly to the dismay of some, we get no renditions of monster mating.

A quick digression. They’re basically redoing what was done in Spore some 14 years ago now. Why is this interesting, while Spore is old hat? My guess it’s that the tech is being put in service of a Pokemon-like game instead of Will Wright’s extremely generic simulationist gameplay.