By William Haderlie / September 29th, 2016
|Publisher||Another Indie, X.D. Network Inc.|
|Release Date||August 31, 2016|
|Genre||Rogue-like Action RPG|
|Age Rating||General Audiences|
Roguelikes are popular. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot in the past year. In fact, they are so popular that I’m strongly considering just calling it a full genre instead of a sub-genre of action RPG’s, especially when it comes to a game like this. Because this game isn’t just a roguelike, it is a Rogue Legacy like. So, would that make this a sub-sub-sub genre? About the time you hit the 2nd sub on that list it becomes a nonsensical description. That being said, I did love Rogue Legacy a lot. So if you are going to imitate a modern game, that would be a good selection.
There is very little story to speak of, just a bare minimum to get you into the idea of the game. Hellmouth is open, Buffy needs to destroy baddies. You get the idea. So the game lives or dies based upon its mechanics. As a roguelike, that is to be expected, although there are a few stellar examples that have fantastic story. Even if the story is very hidden, the From Software titles are a good example of a roguelike with a great story. This game forgoes that, but it makes up for some of the missing story by having very interesting character designs and fun little snippets of dialogue. Even if the 2D (with limited 3D movement) style can remind me at times of a Flash game, there is no question that the art style elevates it above those titles.
Each character you start with (after every death, other than the initial one) will be basically a random class. The features are entirely random, but do not have a major effect on the gameplay. More importantly you start with a random weapon. While this may seem like a serious handicap compared to the 3 (6 with upgrade) different character class choices of Rogue Legacy, in some ways it’s not nearly as restrictive in this game. The reason for this is that your abilities are entirely determined by your equipment, so you can change your class if you want when you equip a different weapon. Still, some characters are a lot easier to start with than others. When you unlock the 3 NPCs in your base, though, one of them will have an additional weapon that you can choose to switch to if you want, effectively allowing your choice of 2 starting classes instead of 1.
Along with adding those extra NPCs, you can unlock some passive buffs for your character, increase your chance for certain loot types, prevent the Reaper from stealing all your leftover souls, and so on. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same idea as the upgrade tree from Rogue Legacy. I do not begrudge the game too much for this similarity; it really was a fantastic idea for that previous game. And you cannot pretend that many AAA games don’t borrow ideas from other AAA games. There is a lot of innovation in the indie space, but you don’t have to always innovate or go away. The only unfortunate part of this similarity to me is that Rogue Legacy had a much larger and more interesting upgrade system than Lost Castle did.
Of course, one reason for the more simple upgrade system is that, along with the classes being more equipment based, this game is entirely focused on combat and not on exploration. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of a map or anything, you basically just choose a direction to go and defeat everything in that room to move on. There are very few times that you will need to backtrack at all, and when that happens it’s basically just one screen over because it was a vendor or treasure room. There is no platforming or any puzzles to speak of, for better or for worse. Personally, I loved the metroidvania aspects of Rogue Legacy but there are certain advantages as well to focus more on the combat in this title.
Because of the artistic choice of having the fights on a 2D plane, it was pretty easy to beat any boss in the initial run through the game. You just need to remember that they always have an easier time hitting you horizontally than they do vertically, and overlapping behind them almost always works to avoid any hits. After the initial difficulty this becomes a much more sketchy prospect, though. That’s not to say that the first playthrough is boring, because it’s not. The bosses actually have a lot of character and there are quite a few different ones that can show up on each stage. The Tyrannosaurus above is one of 4 that I can remember meeting up with in the first area. It doesn’t matter which one you beat, you will get a huge treasure chest full of random loot and then move on to the next area.
There are 5 different stages that you can defeat with each run through the game. They are significantly different, not only in art style but also in the enemies that dominate that area. For instance, you see a lot of Goblins in the first stage, but once you get to the 3rd stage you are not going to see many of the similar peons anymore. That makes each playthrough a bit more interesting from an artistic perspective. Unfortunately, each of those stages is smaller than the area encompassed in a stage of Rogue Legacy, and they are not connected in random or interesting ways. You simply need to find a boss and defeat them to move on.
That’s not to say that this game is inferior to the aforementioned Rogue Legacy in every way. Other than a slight improvement on the graphics (although your mileage may differ on pixel art), this game has some very interesting ideas with equipment and potions. In the random equipment drops and the mysterious colored potions, this game goes back a bit to it’s Rogue roots. Some of the potion effects can be bad, some hilarious, and others can be very powerful. In general I found it to be a good idea to use a potion immediately (especially until I upgraded my chance to have a good one). This allowed me to not rely on a good effect during a boss fight and end up getting screwed, and since you also have limited inventory slots it allowed me to carry more food. The weapons also were more drastically different than in Rogue Legacy, but that did make it so that some weapons were far easier for me to dominate with than others (I particularly destroyed with spell rods).
For as good as the art style obviously is, I have to lodge a minor complaint about the music and sound effects. They felt a bit like an afterthought to me. Granted, for a game like this, fighting mechanics are the most important thing to get right. But eventually the music just became so repetitious for me that I lowered the game volume and put on some music while I was starting another journey through the castle. It’s not a huge commitment with each run, though. Starting from the opening room until you beat the last boss without dying will only take around an hour. The real time investment is dying over and over while you build up your base stats through the upgrade tree and while you learn the enemy and boss patterns. By the time I finished the regular difficulty level, I had played about 5 hours. With subsequent difficulties that time investment will obviously grow. So you could play this for as short as 5 hours, or you could play this game for over 20, it just depends on your investment. And that’s a good amount of replay value for a $9.99 game on Steam. Even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the games that inspire it, it is still a worthwhile addition to this very popular genre.
Review Copy Provided By Developer
Action RPGAnother IndieHunter StudioLost CastleRoguelikeSteamX.D. Network Inc.