Cellar Door Games

The sins of the father: building a lineage of brave, flatulent, giant heroes in Rogue Legacy

The sins of the father: building a lineage of brave, flatulent, giant heroes in Rogue Legacy

I'm about to die. I know it, and I accept it. Dying isn't what worries me. What worries me is that I'll pass on before I've had a chance to achieve what I set out to accomplish: the acquisition of a rare rune, 1000 gold to buy a badass new helm, and the smiting of that punk giant eyeball who killed my father.

These achievements won't be for me, but for the parents who came before and the children who will follow. In Rogue Legacy your character's life is not about him or herself, but about the progeny who will benefit from their struggles. Each generation's hero enters this castle one at a time in an attempt to delve deeper into its depths, plunder more of its treasure, kill more of its bosses, and gain more experience. None will survive, but the gold they find will be used by their child, and their equipment and learned abilities will pass through the ages to every descendent in the bloodline.

I'm about to die. I've got 3 HP left of the 300 HP I started with, and there's no way to survive even one more enemy hit. I can't continue to play like I have been, or failure is certain. There's a reason I'm about to die, and it's because I've been playing safe and that's a sure way to get nothing done.

Emboldened by the inevitability of my fate, I turn on the gas. The latest in a long lineage of warriors born to assault this castle, Lady Antoinette III, goes on a rampage and clears room after room before meeting her fate, bringing home every dime she can before being killed.

I have become Walter White, filled with courage as my focus shifts from concern for myself to concern for the next generation.

Your descendants shall gather your fruits

Rogue Legacy is a roguelike platformer that takes design cues from the Castlevania series and Infinity Blade in equal measure. Players assault a 2D castle searching for gold, bosses, and other items to aid in the neverending quest to conquer the domain. There's a catch though. As this is a roguelike, all of the environments are randomized, and the moment you walk in the castle door a latch shuts behind you and you're never allowed to leave. You will always die here.

The theme of the game is sacrifice, and finding a way to reconcile sacrifice with personal gain.

“We grew up pretty poor,” said Teddy Lee, one of the designers of Rogue Legacy along with his brother Kenny. “Our dad had a lot of debt. Our dad's a really good dad, he raised us really well. But y'know, we had banks calling us all the time demanding loan repayments and everything. So the unfortunate circumstances that my dad lived through carries down onto all of us, my brothers and my sisters. We all had to go through a rough childhood because of that.”

“That theme actually plays into this concept that the sins of the father do pass on. Even though everybody doesn't want that to happen, it does happen in real life,” he continued.

What you do and what you accomplish are measured in what you're able to provide for the generations of heroes who will come after you. It shares a lot in common with Infinity Blade, but it takes things to another level. Rather than Infinity Blade's faceless heirs, every hero in Rogue Legacy has different traits, names, appearances, and weaknesses. Lady Antoinette III was color blind and saw the level in grayscale. Her predecessor had irritable bowel syndrome, and farted when he jumped.

Take life seriously, but be sure to have a laugh

Lady Antoinette III's predecessor, Sir Dude II, son of Sir Taco the Barbarian King, isn't the first hero in my line to have IBS. Nor was his affliction the most severe. Despite some seriously heavy themes in this game, the Lee brothers seem incapable of tackling a game without a smile. Every hero in the game is named more or less randomly, and their traits are randomly assigned. At the beginning of each generation you have a choice between three random characters, all with different classes, names and special abilities. You have some choice in how your lineage will progress, but you still have to work with the hand you're dealt.

You might end up with Lady Henrietta the Archmage who is afflicted with giganticism and is twice the size of an average hero. Or Sir Useless who suffers from hypergonadism, and as a result has weak arms that don't knock enemies back when they're hit. Or Lady Hornsby who is near-sighted and as a result sees most of the level out of focus. These traits are random, but always designed to give you a chuckle and an interesting challenge to work against. Characters can also be be attracted to members of the same sex, although we couldn't figure out how that impacted in the game play.

“Whenever we try to get serious we feel stupid. So then we just add in more jokes,” said Lee. “Our oldest brother is the one who play tests all of our games. He suffers from depression. So if our brother plays it and get sadder then that's not a game we want to make.”

These are, after all, the developers behind the web game tour de force Don't Shit Your Pants in which the objective is, ironically, to shit your pants in as many ways as you can imagine.

“We really just don't want to waste people's time,” he said. “That's a big thing I fear. With AAA games there's all this filler added to kill time. We just want the game to be fun. Fun and interesting.”

The preview build I played was only about one quarter of the final game, but I still found it to be a memorable experience. But more than memorable, the game is fun. I found myself keeping it open all day long on my PC so I could jump in to play 2-3 lives every couple of hours throughout the day. It's a fun platformer, an addictive RPG, and a philosophical roguelike that made me think a little bit about the generations of Groens that will come after me.

That's quite an accomplishment for a game with this many fart jokes.

Rogue Legacy is nearing release, and a demo build of the game is available to those who pre-order. It's also seeking approval on Steam Greenlight.