Rogue Legacy has got me greedier than Scrooge McDuck. Within the context of the game’s premise, I think that’s okay. But as the player, that bothers me. Let me tell you why.
Just this morning, I got up at dawn, grabbed a shower, picked an heir, and stormed the dungeon. I ran off to scrounge-up as much dough as possible. So I leapt, bullet-dodged, and slashed monsters’ faces to get at chests full of cash.
I do this again and again, ravenously hungry for coin, just like all of my rogue’s ancestors. Why? Because kids get expensive!
Sweet armor doesn’t grow on trees and ninja skills can’t be learned from a $5 book. So I’ve got to earn a sizable take to make life meaningful . . . for the kids. You might think I’m Mr. Moneybags because I am hoarding up cash for myself. But I don’t get to spend a silver cent. No. This money won’t be spent until I die.
And when it comes time for my kids to toss around their inheritance, it’s all or nothing. They can’t take any money with them into the castle thanks to this annoying dude named, Charon who steals it all before they enter the castle. Jerk.
Oh well, at least my kids can pay for that extra cardio training for their overall health or that Lich King school that I keep hearing them talk about – as long as I die holding with enough money to foot the bill.
Every heir I toss into the castle has to be focused in order to get enough cash to improve our efforts. I suppose the goal is that one day we’ll conquer the castle and figure out why we’re doing this to begin with. I mean, it’s really fun to plunder dungeons. And don’t get me wrong, I love having a family full of archmages and spellswords. But with all of this dying, you’d think that maybe we’d remember why we’re doing it?
I’m in a level-up loop and I know it. There’s something really compelling about passing inheritance down to your children. So much so, that I’ve lost sight of the endgame. What is the goal? It is to win massive boss fights and get some serious coin and the occasional diamond? Khidr the Gatekeeper, Alexander the Forgotten, and Ponce de Leon the Sentinel have all fallen to my blade. Only Herodotus the Infinite blocks my path to the final doorway by the castle entrance. What’s inside? Honestly, I only have a mild curiosity. I’m more interested in gold.
My heirs now all wear sky armor. I’ve got every hue of magic rune. And I’ve even unlocked the mythical dragon class (please don’t ask how that got into our bloodline, it’s a source of shame). As such, the castle has become my mistress. I beckon her to yield her finest wares. And she submits. But where does it end?
As I back away from the game, I realize that I may not actually be justifying my in-game greed by pursuing wealth for “my kids.” I’m in a compulsive level-up loop. Rogue Legacy isn’t the first to come up with a novel and engrossing level-up mechanic. Though, it might be the first that directly factors death into the equation. And while it’s got me hooked, the way I have turned into a scrounger doesn’t make me proud, even if I’m having fun doing it.
If a videogame is going make me think about the kinds of things I’d want to pass on to my kids, I would want it to be more than a lust for gold and a tradition of diving into danger because “it’s what we do.” Acquiring wealth and opportunity is lost if it’s not for the benefit of others. Maybe that’s what Rogue Legacy’s quest is all about in the end? I don’t know yet. Honestly, as I try to progress, I find myself needing to level-up more, to loot more. I can’t defeat Herodotus unless I do that a crap-ton more. So I have to assume that maybe this is what it’s really about?
At this point, there’s a clear separation between me as a player and my in-game avatar. My rogue-avatar’s story is one of heritage and legacy. My player story is one of raiding for the sake of power and conquest. As I play the game, I’m not generating wealth for somebody else, I’m looting for my own benefit on my next play-through. My motivation is wealth, power, and the psychological satisfaction of the leveling up. From a narrative distance, Rogue Legacy uniquely handles the subject of gain for the sake of another. From hands-on practice, it’s all about hoarding wealth for my own level-up endorphin rush.
Twenty-five hours into the game, I’ve thrown well over two hundred heirs into the fire that I call castle roguelike. And I’ve enjoyed how the challenge of learning, leveling, and overcoming foes rewards my thrill-seeking self. But I don’t think it encourages me to think of what I might want to pass on to my kids. This wouldn’t be a problem if the premise was all about looting for my own satisfaction. But with a theme of pursuit of gain for the sake of others, it’s a shame that the feedback loop actually keeps me squarely centered on gaining things for myself.