Rogue Legacy 2 is the perfect 'one more' game

Rogue Legacy 2 is the perfect ‘one more’ game

I both love and fear a good “one more” game. That’s a term for the kind of video game that has me saying “I’ll just just play one more round” for hours. It’s a flexible distinction. For me, it can be a game like Halo Infinite that keeps me jumping into matches until I can go out on a good one. For my mother, it’s Candy Crush with its addictive puzzle hooks. The perfect “one more” game can be broken down into digestible sessions, runs, or rounds that make players feel like they can always improve if they just have one more go at it.

Rogue Legacy 2 is the most effective “one more” game I’ve played so far this year. The roguelite, which exited early access at the end of April, is a polished sequel that improves on its predecessor in just about every respect. Over the weekend, I found myself playing it for four hours at a time as I kept instinctively loading up another run every time I died.

The secret to its success lies in its approach to progression. Every individual attempt is a building block that sets players up for long-term success. It’s not just that players will feel like they can do better next time — it’s that they actually will.

Just one more

At first glance, Rogue Legacy 2 is nearly identical to its 2013 predecessor, save for its cartoon art style. It’s still a roguelite where players travel through a castle slaying monsters and killing a handful of bosses to unlock a final encounter. All of its main hooks return, including its defining feature: Heirs. Every time a player dies, they choose an heir from a randomized selection. Some of them have positive traits, while others have hereditary quirks that can be a hindrance (being born with vertigo means the entire screen will be upside down).

But the sequel’s most important returning feature is its manor-building system. During each run, players collect gold, which can be spent back at their base to upgrade a castle. That’s accomplished by buying upgrades on a sprawling skill tree, which gives players anything from more health to new character classes. The clever hook means that players actually grow stronger each time they complete a run, whether they die or not.

Nothing I do in Rogue Legacy 2 ever feels like a waste of time.

It was an addictive system in 2013 and it still works today. Every time I finish a run, I find myself boosting a stat like attack and instantly wondering if that means I’ll stand a better chance next time. The allure of tangible growth, something that’s not always part of the die-and-try-again genre, is enough to catch me in a “one more run” loop that can unexpectedly push dinner back an hour or two if I’m not careful.

Rogue Legacy 2 goes even farther than its predecessor, though, by adding several more progression hooks. For example, each class can gain experience and level up, granting them permanent stat boosts. Even runs that don’t result in much gold become important as they build toward those passive bonuses. Nothing I do in Rogue Legacy 2 ever feels like a waste of time.

A hero fights an eyeball boss in Rogue Legacy 2.

Those hooks led me to a sort of lost weekend with the game. On Saturday afternoon, I decided to lay down on the couch at noon and play a few rounds on Steam Deck. With each run growing my heirs more and more, I found myself muttering “OK, last run” for hours. Before I knew it, I checked my phone and it was already 4 p.m. That’s the power (and perhaps danger) of a good “one more” game.

Paving the way

There’s a sense that the sequel is in conversation with other successful roguelikes that have launched in the time since the first Rogue Legacy was released. Most notably, it takes some design cues from Dead Cells by including permanent unlockable abilities that open up new areas. That idea ends up being a perfect fit for the Rogue Legacy formula, adding more checkpoints that aren’t solely based around defeating powerful enemies. Players can just spend a run trying to unlock the dash, which will in turn drastically affect how they interact with the game after that.

A selection of heirs in Rogue Legacy 2.

Rogue Legacy 2 is a perfect example of what makes gaming a special medium: Iteration. Our favorite games aren’t developed in a vacuum. Developers are always learning from one another, sharing ideas that make each other’s games better. The strong sense of progress in Rogue Legacy 2 mirrors its development cycle at large. Each new roguelike that was released in the past decade was another run that only increased its successors’ chance of victory.

As it stands, Rogue Legacy 2 is one of the finest games in its genre, right up there with Hades and Dead Cells. It’s a finely crafted roguelite that takes all the right lessons from its peers, twisting the original game’s formula just enough without totally reinventing it. As long as developer Cellar Door Games keeps learning and growing, I’ll always be down for one more run with the series.

Rogue Legacy 2 is out now on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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