Walking the same short loop again and again might not sound like much fun, but then again you’ve not played Loop Hero yet.
From Devolver Digital and developer Four Quarters, Loop Hero is a Roguelike game with a difference. You don’t take control of your hero, per se; he makes his way around a looping dungeon automatically, healing as he passes his camp but continuing forward. He’ll fight enemies without your input too. Your only concerns are ensuring he’s equipped with the best weapons and armour, and adding new tiles to modify the dungeon.
On paper, Loop Hero doesn’t sound like much. It doesn’t look like much either; its 8-bit style visuals look like they’ve been ripped straight out of a lost game of the 1980s and its dull colour palette doesn’t do much to lure in your eyes. At a glance, then, it’s easy to dismiss. But doing so would be a crime. Give it just five minutes, and you’ll be utterly hooked on Loop Hero.
Set in a world gone asunder, the people of Loop Hero can’t quite remember who they are, or where they came from. But you, a mysterious hero, may have the key to fix things. Finding yourself at a ramshackle survival camp, you’re the only one who’s ever ventured out and come back again. Better yet, the supplies you find while you’re out can help the camp grow, providing better resources for you and its people. But the world you’ll need to explore is far from safe.
In Loop Hero, if the name hasn’t given it away, you’ll explore a constant loop. Time passes as you move from square to square, eventually ending up back where you started. Monsters generate each time a day passes, and you’ll often have no choice but to fight them. Thankfully you’re a decent warrior, and killing monsters will grant you new equipment – swords, armour, shields – as well as a range of ‘cards’ – or tiles – that can help or hinder your journey.
You see, the looping path that you traverse might be fixed in size and shape, but you can have some impact on what appears there. As you play, you’ll amass various cards that can be placed on and around your map. Some will have positive effects; placing a ‘mountain’ card will grant you extra HP, for example. Others will add extra monsters to your path, like spider dens, or graveyards that spawn skeletons. Putting more enemies in your path may seem like a fool’s errand, but facing off against more powerful enemies increases your chances of getting better loot.
As such, Loop Hero is a game of constant risk vs reward. If you want to get far, you’ll need to take chances. Placing dangerous tiles in your path means you’re going to face greater threat – but you’ll also earn more resources and perhaps acquire better loot. You can return to the safety of your camp at any time, but doing so prematurely means you’ll lose some of your resources. Waiting until you’ve made it back to the camp on your path, however, might mean risking it all. Dying will wipe out most of your inventory.
Loop Hero is a very simple game to get to grips with, but it packs in a surprising amount of depth. Your character stats can be altered in a myriad of ways; from equipping new gear to placing cards in the world. The world itself constantly evolves, too. Perhaps you place a card that directly affects your environment, like adding new enemy lairs, or maybe there’s a knock-on effect. Creating a mountain range, for example – useful for your HP – means that dangerous harpies can nest there and attack you. And for each 10 mountain range or rock cards you place, a goblin den will appear, creating a new threat for you. But that constant sense of danger, and the lure of the risk versus reward, is what makes Loop Hero so deliciously addictive.
Whatever happens, you’ll find yourself back at camp eventually, and once you do, your current game of Loop Hero is over. You can use any resources you brought back to improve your camp – build new facilities or upgrade existing ones – before heading back out on a new journey. The camp building is surprisingly dense, and nothing is given to you easily. Every last upgrade has to be worked for – even the ability to earn XP as you make your way around a loop has to be unlocked first.
It will likely take you completing numerous loops just to earn some resources and make some leeway into improving your camp. Eventually, once you’ve placed enough tiles, you’ll face off against a boss – but several times, it’s worth leaving your loop early, escaping back to camp with all your supplies in tact. That first boss is a surprisingly tricky foe, and if you don’t have the right amount of health or upgrades, you’ll likely succumb to his power. And when you do beat him? Well, it’s not the end of the game, of course; the loop continues, now with a harder difficulty level unlocked. You’ll continue to progress like this, with every boss beaten bringing harder enemies but better loot and better rewards.
The more you delve into Loop Hero, the more you’ll want to get out of it. Bringing resources back to town unlocks various permanent upgrades as well as new character classes, which change up the gameplay somewhat. The first character class you unlock for example, the Rogue, doesn’t earn equipment by fighting enemies. Instead, he’ll earn tokens which are then exchanged once he loops back to camp. He also has two weapons equipped rather than a weapon and a shield, meaning he can deal more damage but he’s less hardy. It’s a game that constantly evolves, and every tiny iota of progression you make feels like a true reward. Even when you inevitably die, you’ll dust yourself off, eager to get going and do better next time.
Don’t let Loop Hero‘s simple appearance fool you; a dense and addictive game, unlike anything else you’ve played, lurks under its retro veneer, waiting to get its claws into you. And once you’ve fallen into the loop, it’ll be hard to get back out again. Building up your character and creating the world around him is gloriously rewarding, and not even death is going to stand in your way.
Loop Hero Review: GameSpew’s Score