Title: Loop Hero
Developer: Four Quarters
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Rougelike, Strategy, Deck Builder
Available On: PC
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: March 4, 2021
As the industry of games continues to experiment, the indie market will find alternative ways of innovative roguelike play. Roguelikes are just one genre most would recognize as having transformative gameplay. While they have boiled the formula down to tight controls and sprawling difficulty, Loop Hero’s changing elements are a breath of fresh air in a genre defined by repetition. Published by Devolver, doing rounds around an endless road countless times has never been as enjoyable as before with auto-combat and a developing world by the player’s design. It’s a clever mixture that allows Four Quarters to make clever roguelike gameplay around the tiny split-second decisions a player could change that makes all the difference. Facing ethereal and cosmic forces against the destruction of the world, a hero’s mastery is only as good as the cards he wields.
Looping Through Loop Hero’s Progression
With the Hero having just awoken from his encounter with the Lich who destroyed the world, he journeys to put everything back in its rightful place. Setting up a basic camp before his first expedition out, Loop Hero nosedives the player into the experience. While it can seem complicated and intimidating at first, the main core of the game is quite easy to understand. In its simplest form, Loop Hero is an auto battling deck-building strategy game. In an empty world, the player uses cards to set the scenery, which adds enemies to the loop, increases health, or even gives quests. The hero moves across the random 34 tiles of road that generate every time it starts an expedition; you equip items and manages the tile cards. What makes it more interesting is how it introduces you to extra elements and how the board changes as you decide to.
Placing a tile has an effect like raising attack speed or experience gained, but it also has an ulterior effect making more enemies spawn for every 10th rock tile placed. It’s a constant tide battle that keeps the game engaging from the beginning of the run to the boss encounters. Messing up a few tile placements or forgetting to remove a bandit camp next to a town could mean the difference between a successful run or premature death. Loop Hero’s main roguelike element of expeditions aren’t always meant to be completed, however. Recognizing your faults and leaving with all resources gained rather than falling in battle and having to give up over 75% of that loop’s earnings is a must. Being vigilant about board placement is a key component to success, but not the only measure of it.
As trial and error continue to be basic tools of learning a new roguelike, it’s almost encouraged in the eyes of Loop Hero’s developers. It’s here where the camp management and min-maxing of your character benefit the most. Building new structures for more classes to play like the Rogue or Necromancer is a great way to shake up and vary gameplay. Yet all the other buildings offer new ways to craft keepsake items to buff your character. This can be as simple as on loop completion health gain to complete reflection of damage from lightning-based attacks. While something like the latter is only possible by stacking the same keepsakes randomly found or crafted, it never stifles creativity. Allowing for new overpowered and impressive combinations, the possibilities are limitless in a stackable way.
The Best is Yet to be Looped in Loop Hero
It’s clear how much of Loop Hero’s progression can come in the ways of smaller and smaller increments that overtime will overwhelm its various 4 bosses. However, the game only features four acts. While each of these encounters should be looped to keep strengthening your camp and Heros, their difficulty is tiered well. The challenge is nicely set with a decent bump in Act 2 and 3 to keep the player on his toes. Though, even when completing the campaign there is a spoiler-filled secret encounter if you overlap 5 tile effects on a road. It’s that extra level of secret challenging detail that I’d love to see more of and it certainly is on the way.
While the game has just debuted on PC, there is a ton of support for the game as the potential is very high for future updates. Even fan-created content is almost certainly a possibility with fans eager to see just what’s possible with the game’s existing mechanics. Fans have been able to push the game to its theoretical limits with more support, yet to be showcased like the triple game speed. Though with any title, balancing various heroes is always a difficult area where roguelikes need some significant improvements. Even the selectable trait deck for maximizing the chances for better traits is being worked on. The development team is certainly listening to the feedback above everything else, which is going to be beneficial in the long term. For the time being, however, the team has also responded to bugs and fixes pushing out patches to help with the game’s relatively new meta and playstyle. That being said, the customizability that is present is well designed and works for the current state of the game.
As of their blog post on Steam recounting 500,000 players, they explained that new cards, combinations, classes, and music will eventually be added to the title. Depending on how frequent or big these content updates will be is what will determine the longevity ultimately. While there probably won’t be anything groundbreaking for a while, there is a lot of room to work with when discussing a title deep into fantasy RPG elements as Loop Hero. Hopefully, there will be a content roadmap in the future to further explore the idea of how expository these updates will be. The main game is so fun and addicting that a second campaign wouldn’t be too much of a good thing. While I’m sure that’s exactly the direction updates will take, I hope that there will be incentives for diehard dedicated fans and even newcomers.
Heroically Defined Auditory-Visual Experience
One aspect that separates Loop Hero from the sea of indie repetition is the visuals. Stunningly pixelated and perfectly animated to show the epic action. The art style is reminiscent of games that inspired titles like Loop Hero. The graphical icons on the map are straight out of an early text-based game that uses symbols for enemies. Even the battle sequences are placed in the black void against a row of scenery in the background. It couldn’t look anymore akin to the first Final Fantasy with battle animations giving just the right movement.
Whilst there’s only so much sprite art in the game now, it looks very well done and has tons of detail, especially in the background tiles. While the added CRT filter and pixel text give the game a more retro feeling, there’s certainly an appeal to seeing the game in high resolution. They do give the option for quick switching the graphics and I enjoyed both ways of playing. As the game defaults to having the option on, I highly recommend sticking with it even if you don’t like screen filters. It gives a cool effect on the gameplay that stresses battles that much more. Seeing the art fully for what it is by turning the option off, well indicates how stylish the sprite art is. Especially when coupled with the emphatic chiptune music making it sound exactly how it looks.
From the moment you start the game, Loop Hero dives right in with its greatest hits and never lets up on the musical tension. The composer, Blinch, previously known for his work on the studio’s previous game, Please, Don’t Touch Anything, lends his musical prowess in full. Throughout the game, the player is subject to new and exciting tracks that bring in that pixel-perfect retro style all the more. It’s easily one of the best aspects of the game, as each new boss’ track is that much more exciting and terrifying depending on your loop. It’s that much more effective during a loop and is a perfect pairing for ramping up the anxiety of a good board.
Loop Hero has become one of the most interesting roguelike games in recent memory for offering new types of gameplay. It certainly delivers on that experience whilst keeping a unique identity in the genre that remains the same dungeon-crawling type it has been for years. That may be why titles like Loop Hero stand out so much because they offer new identities for favored genres. For the price set, it’s such an intriguing adventure through a new roguelike game with all new things to master. For fans of the genre, it’s an easy pickup, yet even for those more hesitant to try it is a very digestible experience. As the developers want to continue giving more updates to the title and improve the quality of life, you can expect there to be even more loops to complete.