I wouldn't call this a bad game, but in the end, it feels too grindy to me, and often feels more like an RPG hybrid than a roguelike hybrid. I'll try to break down this impression across a few different points, and use The Binding of Isaac (BoI) as a foil to help elaborate.
First off, something you should understand is that pretty much all character progression happens in between sessions, not during them. Every item you find has to be purchased after you die, so apart from health and mana, pretty much nothing you come across in a given session is going to be immediately useful. Contrast this with BoI, in which every item you pick up either activates instantly or goes into a slot for manual use. In its first few hours, Rogue Legacy (RL) has constantly given me the impression that I simply won't have any success until I build up enough gold to purchase useful gear- and that's assuming I even find the gear in the castle to begin with. (99% of gear can't be purchased until you find it in the castle first).
Moreover, re-entering the castle costs you all of your gold. You can reduce this to 50% by upgrading a particular stat, but doing so will cost lots of gold that you probably won't be able to accumulate for at least the first several hours. In addition, upgrading one stat increases the prices for every stat across the board. So, you'll be in situations where you have a bad run, but you still want to spend the small sum of gold you collected on something
before starting the next session. The problem is, doing that will make it harder to get the upgrades you really want in the long run, so overall, having a bad run really makes you feel like you wasted your time, even if it was only a few minutes' worth.
In BoI, you didn't have to worry about shops all that much; they could give you a helpful boost, but you could do fine without them for the most part. RL, on the other hand, wholly revolves around the concept of a shop; you can't really accomplish anything significant without going through it first. As I mentioned before, every upgrade has to be purchased- everything. Some of the stats can be upgraded 25 or 50 times, though you probably wouldn't want to target those first because of the constant price increases. I think I would have enjoyed RL a lot more if the creators removed some of the minutiae from the early game. As it stands, I don't think it respects my time.
Finally, something to keep in mind is that the enemies' levels are scaled up according to which of the four major areas you're in. Not only do they take more hits to kill with the same equipment, but their attack patterns (often projectile-based) become more complex as well. Until you accumulate better gear and really learn the enemies through death after death, you're probably going to be spending most of your early game in the same two first areas over and over again, unless you're okay with repeatedly ramming against a difficulty wall. In BoI you did have to learn enemy patterns, but if you were able to learn them quickly, then the game wouldn't hold you back from claiming victory. It nearly always provided you with something useful along the way, thanks to its diverse item pool- most of which you didn't have to buy in shops, mind.
If none of the above points concern you, feel free to ignore this review. I just want to caution people against impulsively buying roguelike hybrids just because one particular title was a lot of fun for them (which is what I have done, regrettably). In my experience, these kinds of games vary significantly, and often you really have to take a closer look before committing to them.
Posted: December 21st, 2013