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Rogue Legacy 2 heroes have it rough, but at least they get disability benefits

You can now be financially rewarded for just how hard your life is

A hero jumps in Rogue Legacy 2 Image: Cellar Door Games
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

While some roguelikes can be punishing, I always found Rogue Legacy to be of the tamer sort, thanks to its permanent upgrades that make each run a bit easier. Yet some runs in Rogue Legacy are much harder than others, thanks in part to the “trait” system. And it’s through this system that Rogue Legacy 2 gives folks a helping hand.

Every time you die in Rogue Legacy, you restart as an ancestor of the character who just croaked, and each ancestor has very identifiable attributes. Select a colorblind ancestor and the next run will be in grayscale. Select a character with dyslexia and you’ll have a toguh tmie redanig ignmae txet.

These traits are tame in comparison to some more brutal ones. One of the worst is vertigo, which forces you to play with the entire screen flipped upside down. It’s miserable.

A screenshot from Rogue Legacy 2
A hero suffering from synesthesia, which causes trails to appear behind everything that moves
Image: Cellar Door Games via Polygon

Thankfully, Rogue Legacy lets you select from a handful of different potential ancestors after each run. End result? You can just skip the truly awful traits when they pop up. Seems easy enough, but it also means that you’ll just never, ever have to play with those traits active, which just seems like a waste of development effort, right?

Rogue Legacy 2 is here to fix that problem.

The sequel, which drops into early access on Steam on Aug. 18, tweaks traits in a small but impactful way: There are now disability benefits.

In Rogue Legacy 2, every trait is assigned a gold value. The more punishing a trait, the more financially beneficial it will be if you can succeed, despite the trait’s effects. A tame but slightly annoying trait, like colorblindness, might give you a 10% boost to your gold income. Vertigo, that one that flips the screen upside down? Playing with it active now gives you 70% more income. There’s even one that gives you just a single point of health, but rewards you with 150% more gold (for as long as you manage to survive).

A screenshot from Rogue Legacy 2
A hero suffering from the dreaded vertigo
Image: Cellar Door Games via Polygon

Because there was no benefit to picking a bad trait in the first Rogue Legacy, players would often just leap to their deaths when they got stuck with a particularly brutal draw. So the traits had to be at least quasi-playable to discourage instant restarts.

The developers of Rogue Legacy actually started experimenting with the trait reward system to combat this. In a post-launch update for the first game, they added a small gold boost for characters playing with vertigo.

“That was our test run, that we hacked in,” said game designer Teddy Lee in an email to Polygon. “It was too expensive to put into every other trait, so we’ve just been sitting on this idea for about 7 years now. A cool side effect we didn’t expect was how many opportunities it opened up. As we came up with new traits, they kept getting wilder because we now had a new way to balance them.”

For example, Optical Migraine is a new trait that makes the entire center of the screen a blurry mess. I would have never played with this trait the first time around, but now that there’s some extra gold in it for me, I don’t mind quite so much. (Trust me, it’s still miserable … but gold!)

With all that in mind, Rogue Legacy 2 is in early access in the truest sense of the word. There’s just a single “complete” biome that’s playable in the launch build, with three to four hours worth of content, but the design team’s intention is to slowly update the game over the course of the next year until it’s feature complete. The developers hope to make additions and changes according to community feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

Let’s say players decide Optical Migraine is just too much of a pain for the 20% gold boost it offers. Making changes to the graphical design of a trait might be a pretty extensive undertaking, sapping the focus from a small team. But changing the gold boost to 40% instead? That’s a far easier change to make that instantly makes the trait a bit more palatable.

Other minor changes can be made to traits, as well. Pacifist prevents you from dealing any damage to enemies, but it grants you a big boost in gold. The idea is to hopscotch and weave your way through enemy rooms to get to chests where you’ll really rake it in. Originally, Pacifist didn’t even let you break furniture items in rooms for a chance at more gold, but a recent update granted that ability. Just because you’re a peaceful sort doesn’t mean you can’t be a little destructive toward objects.

There are a number of other dramatic enhancements in Rogue Legacy 2 over its predecessor — like its new, hand-drawn art style or the unique character classes that are more than just person-with-sword — but the new traits system might be my favorite upgrade. It’s the perfect example of a simple solution to a complicated problem.