Rogue Legacy 2 Review – Return of the King

Cellar Door Games' eagerly awaited rogue-lite follow-up is even more addictive than the original, and easily it's best yet.

Posted By | On 09th, May. 2022

Rogue Legacy 2 Review – Return of the King

There have been dozens of rogue-lites over the years, and even some that tried to combine both genres for a smorgasbord of exploratory mirth and punishing death. Randomly generated rooms, special abilities that could open up new areas (along with making previous areas easier to explore) and immense resource gathering, all for tiny bits of progression. Of course, of the many titles that attempted this formula, few have been as successful as Cellar Door Games’ Rogue Legacy.

Released in 2013 and focused on fighting through a cursed castle with an increasing number of heirs, it was a near-perfect combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, combat and rogue-lite progression. In that sense, Rogue Legacy 2 is Rogue Legacy at its core. If you enjoyed the first game and craved more, then you’ll more than likely love the sequel. But it does a lot more than just add some new areas, bosses and stories, slap a “2” on the end and call it a day (that too after almost two years in early access).

"For as intriguing as the overall story can be, Rogue Legacy 2 is about the rogue and legacy aspects first and foremost."

Rogue Legacy 2 expands on the original, taking the same approach in spirit and filling it with all kinds of new ideas. More intensive platforming; responsive combat that’s easy to get into but nuanced as more classes and skills are thrown into the mix; and above all else, a degree of freshness to every run, whether it’s in new challenges to overcome or new Heirs to play as. And just when you think everything has been figured out, there’s a new twist or system that can turn things upside down.

As you infiltrate a kingdom that’s mysteriously fallen to ruin, bits and pieces of events past are made clear through various journal entries. You learn of a rebellion incited by two individuals identified as Z and J, along with the Estuaries who served leadership roles in the kingdom and fell in their own ways. The bread-crumb trail of revelations, from the Shift which causes rooms to change with each new run to the Black Roots that emerge throughout and regrow when no one is looking, are many. What your role is as the heir carrying the souls of their ancestors is also a mystery.

None of this is forced down your throat though – it’s possible to explore and pick up these entries or simply ignore them. For as intriguing as the overall story can be, Rogue Legacy 2 is about the rogue and legacy aspects first and foremost. You’ll venture through different biomes in the kingdom, gather Gold, Red Essence and Ores, and more than likely meet your end, swiftly or otherwise. Then it’s up to your descendant to carry on. Venture through the hub, give all of your Gold to Charon (minus however much can be stored with the Living Safe) and off you go.

Rogue Legacy 2

"Though you start off as a Knight with a basic swing and shield for blocking damage, classes like the Ranger, Mage, Gunslinger, and Barbarian quickly become available."

By upgrading the manor, your descendants gain permanent bonuses like increased health, weapon damage, spell damage and new classes. Get further into the skill tree and vendors like the Blacksmith, who creates weapons and armor from blueprints, to the Enchantress who crafts Runes that can be equipped for a myriad of benefits (like health gain on kill). Sooner than later, you’re pouring Gold into increasing Intelligence to improve health drops, more starting armor, increased Rune weight capacity, and increased weapon and spell crit damage.

Of course, you also gain benefits like the Sage Totem which unlocks Mastery Rank, allowing each class to receive benefits on leveling up; Stat Bonuses based on how much Gold is given to Charon; Lady Quinn, the training dummy; and the Architect who will lock down a world layout for a cost, thus eliminating any randomness.

Entering the kingdom and its various biomes is where the real fun begins. Though you start off as a Knight with a basic swing and shield for blocking damage, classes like the Ranger, Mage, Gunslinger, and Barbarian quickly become available. The Ranger can attack from range, unleashing guaranteed weapon crits with the right timing; the Mage’s attack siphons Mana away from enemies to fuel their spells; the Gunslinger has a pistol for attacking from mid-range and can throw out explosives that block projectiles; and so on.

Each class brings their own unique play-style and nuance, whether it’s the Gunslinger’s last eight bullets being able to skill crit or the Mage gaining the Charged status after spending 50 Mana which makes the next attack a skill crit. To further mix things up, each gets their own random spell, traits and starting Relics. Traits can include things like items and currency being knocked away, enemies being “censored” with mosaics or even having one HP.

Rogue Legacy 2

"Things get even crazier when you replace your starting weapon and skill, whether at the beginning or in the middle of a run. "

Certain Traits can make the game much harder, whether it’s removing the invulnerability window when taking damage or rendering your character unable to deal damage at all. The benefit to choosing them is a bonus to any Gold obtained, potentially increasing it by over 200 percent. Relics can also be used to balance the more troublesome Traits, providing benefits like healing from enemies slain by critical hits, burn damage from weapon hits and so on.

But this comes at the cost of Resolve – when Resolve dips below 100 percent, your max HP decreases. Even if you choose an Heir without Relics, deciding which ones to take during a run becomes that much more important (though there are ways to increase your max Resolve and max health). Things get even crazier when you replace your starting weapon and skill, whether at the beginning or in the middle of a run.

I started as a Ranger that would eventually wield a Ronin’s Katana (with the very edge of an attack being a guaranteed crit), a Valkyrie’s Halberd for deflecting projectiles (which restores Mana and reset the skill), the Boxer’s Combo passive (providing a two percent damage increase for each stack up to 30 stacks) and 700 HP. That’s on top of Traits like slain enemies dropping explosives and no invulnerability window when taking damage. This is only one of the many possible builds available – you could even find a Fabled weapon like Charon’s Scythe which dramatically alters your attacks (for better and worse).

All of this would be meaningless if the controls weren’t up to snuff especially with some of the more platforming heavy sections. Thankfully, they’re fairly tight and responsive, whether you’re dashing through hazards or using the Spin Kick to bounce off of objects and enemies. The level design is similarly great with each biome having its own hook.

Rogue Legacy 2_02

"However, all of this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s available in Rogue Legacy 2."

Citadel Agartha is a castle filled with traps, skeletons, and powerful knights; Axis Mundi is a village to the East that requires skillful use of the Spin Kick to progress; and so on and so forth. Each location has a different Relic to collect which augments your exploration abilities further. They’re mandatory for the latter biomes but there’s nothing stopping you from exploring the earlier ones, even if you’re ill-equipped.

The random arrangement of rooms further enlivens the joy of exploring each location. You’ll encounter Fairy Chest rooms that require hitting a number of enemies and/or targets without losing health to platforming challenges and puzzles; challenge rooms that require defeating waves of enemies; and much more. Along with some common rooms that appear in all runs, there are rooms tuned to different classes. It keeps things fresh and challenging, though there may sometimes be a room that’s little more than a sudden hazard. Without going into spoilers, the boss fights are also challenging but incredibly fun with some nice surprises throughout.

However, all of this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s available in Rogue Legacy 2. There are Scars which serve as optional challenges – complete them quickly and you’ll earn currency that can increase the cap on some skills and Mastery Rank levels. There are alternate variants for classes like the Ballistics Archer who can’t fire in the air but makes up for it with a different, more powerful bow.

Different equipment can be mixed and matched to provide Unity bonuses which can increase your max Resolve, Dexterity for more weapon crit damage, Focus for Spell Crit damage, and so on (with different upgrades also available for each gear piece). I haven’t even gotten to New Game Plus aka Threads with their Burdens that dramatically alter the game while providing tougher enemies, more resources, and even tougher bosses.

Rogue Legacy 2_01

"As accessible as it is immensely complex, Rogue Legacy 2 is a stellar title that will keep you coming back for just one more quirky run."

If there’s one major complaint that could be levied against Rogue Legacy 2, it’s that upgrading skills and equipment can feel grindy at times. The more invested into the estate, the more costly subsequent upgrades can be. A recent patch smoothed out some of the economy issues, especially in the early-going, but you may still have to revisit some areas just to scrounge up enough Gold for a few measly upgrades. At least the Gold bonuses from certain Traits go a ways towards alleviating this.

Rogue Legacy 2 may not be at the very apex of design like Hollow Knight or match its story and rogue-lite appeal. The difficulty, especially when exploring a new biome for the first time, may also prove irksome for some (though there are the House Rules for customizing enemy health, damage taken and much more if you want a more chilled out experience).

Overall though, it’s a great combination of both genres, offering near-endless replay value, a compelling narrative to unearth, a gorgeous and clean aesthetic, and fun gameplay. As accessible as it is immensely complex, Rogue Legacy 2 is a stellar title that will keep you coming back for just one more quirky run.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Compelling combat and platforming aided by responsive controls. Numerous ways to play with nuanced classes, Traits, Relics, gear, Runes, and more. Tons of content, whether it's optional Scars or Threads. Fun boss fights and excellent room generation coupled with a stellar presentation.

THE BAD

Acquiring skill upgrades via the Estate can get grindy, especially as costs increase at higher levels. Rooms that serve no purpose can occasionally pop up during runs.

Final Verdict:
AMAZING
Rogue Legacy 2 is an excellent step up from its predecessor, adding tons of new, fun content along with heaps of systems for even more varied runs. Though it can be grindy and somewhat difficult, the enjoyable gameplay will keep you coming back.
A copy of this game was purchased by author for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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