by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
Call to adventure
Loop Hero is a game which can be summarised readily in a single sentence. You are an adventurer, traversing a perpetually looping path to defeat monsters, acquire resources and rebuild the world around you. But what is left outside of this sentence are the nuances, both overt and subtle, which make Loop Hero an intoxicating trip of resource management, world-building (in quite the literal sense) accompanied by a kickass accompanying score and gameplay loop.
What propels Loop Hero from a quirky rogue-lite into a deceptively engaging dungeon-crawler is it’s auto-battle mechanics. It’s not quite an idle game, but does tend towards that kind of experience, something akin to Runescape. Once you decide to embark on an ‘expedition’, most of the control is taken away from you as the player. Battles are fought automatically and movement around the loop is predictably kept on this rail and never diverges. Where player interaction does emerge is in gearing up your adventurer with better arms and armour, increasingly their characters’ likelihood of survival in each encounter.
More thematically significant however are the ‘land cards’ which will occasionally drop from defeated enemies. These can range from Mountains and Meadows, placed outside of the loop boundary, versus the Crypts, Vampire Mansions, Swamp, Forests and much more which are placed directly on the player’s path. Each providing unique outcomes, often positive and negative in kind as more tiles means greater resources but also more dangerous enemies to encounter on your journey.
Crossing the threshold
This cyclical journey reminds me of Subset Games’ Into The Breach, not only for its art style, but for the way you loot up and set out on individual expeditions, risking life and more crucially, your time, versus the potential payout of a successful mission. But whereas in Into The Breach, time can be rewound to save you from impossible encounters, the hero in this adventure potentially risks 70% of his loot in each combat scenario. It is up to the player’s best judgement before each encounter to decide whether to cut and run with the gear they’ve amassed, or to push their luck in hopes of accruing more and better loot as the titular loop wends further on. Should they return to the safety of the home tile, they can safely retreat to base-camp, building resource structures and slowly battling against the void that has consumed the universe.
The biggest risk and reward however comes from enduring the loop to its completion, whereby the chapter’s boss will spawn. These fights are extremely gruelling should you come ill-equipped or too low health. Again, it’s a gamble on the player's best judgement as to how well prepared they’ve come to the loop’s terminus.
Like Into The Breach - success is highly reliant on getting higher level equipment in a timely manner. This task becomes easier the further you progress in your town development, as later stage buildings will provide you with extra buffs and boons to beef you character up in the early game, giving them higher chances to reach more and more loops on their continuous quest.
There is much more to praise this game for: the complexity of it’s deckbuilding and tile placements and how these can be a test of knowledge to maximise their potential; the superb blend of gameplay mechanics intertwined with the theme of entropy and destruction as well as the open-design methodology towards accessibility with a series of optional aids. But to talk about these more would be a disservice to the rewarding experience of discovering these mechanics for yourself, so here’s where I’ll leave it...
I can think of no higher praise than to admit that even as I write this review, I have Loop Hero playing in the background. My adventurer, step by step, ticking away at his sisyphean struggle to restore the world.
A well-connected design and gameplay structure, enticiping playability, accessibility oriented
Not available on other platforms (yet, *fingers crossed*)