Since we received the review code for Rogue Legacy 2, I was expecting to be done with it shortly. In 30 hours in the first game, I had seen almost everything worth seeing, in 2 complete playthroughs, and I moved on. It had a relatively short duration for a roguelite. But little did I know that the folks at Cellar Door Games thought otherwise. Filling the sequel with more areas, items, and general content and putting a bit more emphasis on the platforming, they gave us a bigger game in every conceivable way, that it could very well be one of the best titles of this year.
Rogue Legacy 2 is once again predicated on trial and error, which encourages multiple attempts, until we succeed. We have 3 heroes of different classes at our disposal, and our goal is to infiltrate the castle, and from there even further, into regions forgotten by time, and defeat the Estuaries who are the lords of each region. The plot is quite vague at first and is given to us mostly through journals and notes we come across. It doesn't take long before we realize that we are in a world that is past its glory days. After the game's finale, there are still some lingering questions about the story and the reason is that, as in the case of Binding of Isaac, we get the full picture after finishing it multiple times. However, even from the first succesful run, there is a nice twist that connects Rogue Legacy 2 to its predecessor.
The big change we notice on the surface of Rogue Legacy 2 is in its graphics. The creators must have thought that the visuals of the game would look outdated by 2022 standards, so they decided to give it a complete overhaul. The pixel art has been replaced by hand-drawn environments, with some 3D objects thrown in, including our charactes and their opponents (I know it's hard to believe by just looking at the screenshots). Moving on to the inner workings of the game, we find that there have been some significant changes and additions that give more depth to the gameplay.
Classes have increased since last time and they all offer a completely different approach to the game. It is noteworthy that Rogue Legacy 2 provides significant incentive to play even our least favorite characters. This is because at the end of each run the rank of each hero goes up and we gain some permanent bonuses to stats (vitality, strength, dexterity, etc.) and these rewards are shared between characters. So, our progress may be lost, as it happens in every roguelite, but with each new attempt we become a little stronger. The updates we make to our base are numerous and those in turn, contribute to evening the odds. Additionally, during our excursions we are going to seek out some heirlooms, which bestow on us abilities necessary to progress, giving the game a more pronounced metroidvania flavour.
The most significant addition to Rogue Legacy 2 is that of Relics. These are some powerful items that reserve a percentage of our Resolve. If this drops below 100%, then we lose a percentage of our maximum Hit Points. Of course there are ways to increase Resolve, but it becomes apparent that it's there to restrict the abuse of these items. Apart from that, Blueprints and Runes from the first game return (along with their respective npcs), as does Charon who takes all our money before allowing us to embark on a new adventure. Finally, the trademark character traits we loved (or hated) in the first game return (from panic attacks and dwarfism to irritable bowel and colorblindness, some are positive and others are negative, but the majority comes with a bonus to earned gold).
It's somewhat difficult to find a negative thing to say about Rogue Legacy 2. Okay maybe I would like fewer enemies that use projectile attacks. That's not an issue in and of itself, but combined with the random layout of rooms and placement of enemies, some really frustrating situations can arise. It's something that inevitably results from the RNG nature of the game. It's certainly not amusing to walk into a room and feel like the game suddenly became a... bullet hell shmup. Or having only seconds to react from a trap that's just been triggered. This was something that was present in the first game, of course, but nevertheless I was expecting some improvement at this point. As a word of advice, always be prepared to retreat from the room you just entered if have found yourself in a tough spot, so you can calm down and think better about your approach.
Giorgos Dempegiotis had concluded his presentation in the first game by writing that it was not for everyone. The same could be said in the case of Rogue Legacy 2. Only this time the developers decided to extend a helping hand to people who would have been excluded due to the difficulty of the title. As such, they added several parameters, the so-called house rules. These include, among other things, enemy health bars, the damage they deal, removal of the character's contact damage with them and much more. By tweaking them, we can fine-tune the game, making the experience easier or harder.
That's pretty much what Rogue Legacy 2 is. A case of a perfect sequel to a very good game that was among those that shaped the indie scene back at the beginning of the last decade. It's a sequel that oozes quality content and well-crafted gameplay, with depth, several optional challenges, new enemies and bosses in New Game+, etc. To be honest, I wasn't among those who were waiting for it with bated breath, and that's because I thought it would more of the same, with a coat of paint over it. 70 hours later, on NG+1, I'm glad it's so much more.