Rogue Legacy 2 harnesses chaos to become an endlessly replayable roguelite

Rogue Legacy 2 harnesses chaos to become an endlessly replayable roguelite

About 10 hours into my roguelite adventure in Rogue Legacy 2, the game’s random heir generator served me a Ranger character with a massive spoon instead of the usual bow and arrow. Not one to turn down an interesting twist, I grabbed the spoon lad and embarked on another run through Rogue Legacy 2’s twisting, ever-resetting castle.

Despite his powerful utensil — which bounced around the room, dealing critical damage on ricochets — my hero eventually fell, either to a skeleton, a burst of fire, or some spikes, just as all his ancestors had before him. But his death only fueled my hunger for discovery — with spoons, spinning hammers, mysterious scythes, and pizza occasionally gracing my runs, I knew I’d never tire of Rogue Legacy 2’s endless nonsense.

Roguelites have grown plentiful in the nine years between the first Rogue Legacy and its recently released sequel. Some — Hades, Slay the Spire, Monster Train, Vampire Survivors — have ascended to the pantheon of exceptional run-based games, overlooking an endless sea of dime-a-dozen imitators that couldn’t hold my attention past a few runs. Thankfully, Rogue Legacy 2 has lived up to the high standard set by the original, and cut through the roguelite noise by offering pure chaos.

A Ronin hero dodges giant fireballs and fights the Void Beast Murmur in Rogue Legacy 2 Image: Cellar Door Games

In Rogue Legacy 2, as in all roguelites, the meta goal is to repeat runs over and over, gaining incremental progress and permanent upgrades after each death. But unlike in other roguelites — even some of my favorites — I never want to put Rogue Legacy 2 down after yet another failed boss attempt. I gladly hoist my sword, axe, bow, staff, spear, or spoon high and immediately run it back.

As in the first game, Rogue Legacy 2 derives its longevity from the “heir” system, which lets me choose a new descendant at the beginning of each run. They’re really just a collection of randomized spells, weapons, and talents pulled from a dozen character classes — but it’s easy to get attached to the ones that carry me particularly far into the game. I can also use gold from previous runs to upgrade my family’s estate (which unlocks further classes and stat upgrades), purchase new armor, or apply special runes to enhance my abilities.

Each of these many features ensure that I’ve always got new tools and effects to play with. Even if I do get an heir with the same combinations as their ancestor, the castle layout, the myriad upgrades I’ve picked up in recent generations, and the omnipresent chance for bizarre items (like the spoon) ensures that my adventure won’t play out the same way.

However, Rogue Legacy 2’s biggest strength is occasionally a weakness. The game obfuscates the specific effects of traits and relics before you acquire them for the first time, which forces experimentation early but can be quite frustrating when it becomes the leading cause of my next failure. I’ve lost numerous promising runs because I’ve picked up a new, mysterious relic only to discover it had a potent negative side effect. In one instance, I gave up and retired my hero when I discovered their secret trait meant I could only deal damage with critical attacks. And even now, with over 30 hours of playtime, there are traits and relics that I will never pick up again because they’re just too obnoxious to deal with.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of Rogue Legacy 2’s chaos is to accept how rare those “perfect” runs truly are. I’ve died after acquiring an excellent class, relic, and weapon combination, knowing I’ll likely never get that exact build back again. But it’s to the game’s great credit that — despite its relatively high difficulty level — I’ve usually felt as if each of the heroes I select have a fighting chance. So when I lose those once-in-a-lifetime heirs, like spoon lad, I simply shrug it off and make a point to remember them, knowing I’ll never see their ilk again.

A Barbarian hero stands in front of a dragon in Rogue Legacy 2 Image: Cellar Door Games

The beauty of Rogue Legacy 2 is how it harnesses randomness and unleashes it in brilliantly balanced bursts. Even if every hero isn’t as memorable to me as spoon lad, I can look back on the portraits of my past ancestors and they’ll tell me a story. I remember the farting Valkyrie that got burnt to a crisp by a fireball, or the gigantic Knight who could hit enemies through the ceiling without ever leaving the ground.

It’s so easy to get bored and frustrated in roguelites after banging your head against the same set of rooms or bosses for hours. Games like Hades or Dead Cells get around this by giving players dozens of builds to put together each run. However, those games are comparatively streamlined — despite a lot of randomness, they still give me enough tools to tailor the game to my play style. In those cases, I’m bending the game to my will. Rogue Legacy 2, on the other hand, makes that much more difficult. If I don’t bend and meet the game halfway, I’ll likely break.

Rogue Legacy 2’s extremely random nature would crush a lesser game, but Cellar Door Games uses that pressure to create diamonds. Even if it’s occasionally frustrating, Rogue Legacy 2 refuses to ever let me be bored, and that’s more than enough to set it apart from the heap of roguelites that have followed in the original game’s wake. I’m 30 hours into Rogue Legacy 2, and I’m still discovering new toys to play with. But I still haven’t found another spoon.

Rogue Legacy 2 was released out of early access on April 28 on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Windows PC. The game was reviewed through Steam using a code provided by Cellar Door Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.