Indiewatch: Rogue Legacy 2 is an evolution, but is still very unfinished in early access

Rogue Legacy was a huge indie hit when it released in 2013, combining rogue-lite and metroidvania gameplay. Now after seven years it’s getting a sequel that is looking to evolve and innovate on the original formula. It’s recently released into early access and, let me tell you right now, it’s VERY early access. It’s not nearly finished and it does feel more like you are playing a demo than a complete game. However, this small sliver of gameplay is more than enough to get us excited about what’s to come.

What's different in Rogue Legacy 2?

So what’s different this time around? Well, first of all the game is now in 3D. It’s still a 2D metroidvania and even the art looks 2D, but everything is rendered in polygons. This is both a blessing and a curse. The game certainly looks better all around, but it chugs. I’m running an RTX 2080 graphics card and I was getting framerate drops. Of course, we can chalk this up to early access, as graphical optimization is something they can do later in development. Still, for a small indie game like this you’d expect to get at least 60FPS all the way through.

There are now classes for each of your heirs, allowing them to wield different weapons with different abilities. Mages have low HP but a ranged attack and high mana. Rangers also have low HP but a ranged physical attack that they can shoot from a safe distance. Barbarians swing giant axes and have high health but low mana. There are more classes planned such as spear users and whip users, but these were the only ones you can play in early access so far.

As usual, these new classes are unlocked by spending your gold at your castle before each run. You can also spend gold on stat upgrades, unlocking shops like the Blacksmith and Runemsith, and even unlocking special perks like a safe that stores a portion of any gold you have to give up to enter the castle, or a cash bonus for choosing heirs with negative traits. However, once again most of these upgrades are locked and many more will release as development moves on.

There are many more traits this time around from the positive to the negative and everything in between. Maybe your character sees the world in black and white. Maybe they are vegan and can’t eat wall chicken to regain health. Maybe they have a sixth sense for treasure. Maybe they… fart a lot. The worse your traits are the more of a bonus you get to your cash, and you can increase the bonus by upgrading your castle. Particularly difficult traits, like dying in one hit, can more than double or even triple your cash earned. Picking one of these traits almost makes it better off to farm gold rather than try for real progress.

New systems and mechanics

Speaking of progress, Rogue Legacy 2 has a brand new system called the “heirloom” system. Heirlooms are essentially special items that your family passes down from generation to generation. In the original Rogue Legacy the whole castle was essentially open to you from the start, and only difficulty barred you from making progress. But this isn’t how metroidvanias usually work. Usually your progress is gated behind special abilities, and that’s exactly what heirlooms grant.

There are only two in the game so far. One gives you the ability to air-dash, and a good portion of the castle is locked behind pathways that you need to air-dash through in order to make progress. Another lets you decipher ancient whispers that give you hints and secrets on how to progress forward. You can probably expect a whole bunch of other heirlooms as development continues, from sliding to high jumping to all sorts of other traversal abilities.

Rogue Legacy 2 is fun, but it’s peculiar that many other outlets are treating it like it has fully released. There’s only a single boss to be fought right now, and while, sure, you can spend hours and hours building up enough strength to fight the boss, there’s just not a whole lot to do. There aren’t a lot of runes or blueprints to give the runesmith and blacksmith. Most of the upgrades are just simple stat buffs. There isn’t even a whole lot of enemy variety. Like I said before, it feels much more like a demo than a full game.

So I guess my biggest piece of advice here is to know what you are getting into. Rogue Legacy 2 is a very interesting evolution of the original formula and it has a ton of potential, but that’s what you are buying if you buy this early access title: potential. As it stands you’ll get bored of it in a couple of hours, but in two months when the next update is planned, who knows? Either way, keep your eyes peeled for more Rogue Legacy 2 information, because this one can change in major ways up until its official release. It’s good to see this indie juggernaut back again.