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Loop Hero Review: Just One More Loop…

by on June 23, 2021
Details
 
Release Date

March 4, 2021

Developer

Four Quarters
Published by Devolver Digital

 

Loop Hero is yet another fascinating game published by Devolver Digital. Created by the studio, Four Quarters, Loop Hero is an automatic RPG of sorts. It mashes up multiple genres including rogue-likes, deck builders, and idle games into an interesting gameplay loop that can be played while you are doing something else. That’s right, once you get things going, you can let the game run on its own while you are working or watching something and periodically check in on how your valiant hero is doing.

Every run of Loop Hero starts with a campfire on a road in an empty black void. This road circles on itself creating a loop. The Hero character automatically travels this loop, fighting any monsters they run into. Before long, the Hero encounters a slime. The player serves as more of an overseer strategist and does not play an active role in battles. Instead, it is up to the Hero to automatically attack and survive based on the equipment you give them.

They slay the slime and find precious loot: new equipment and cards. The equipment has better stats and new properties, like 1.6 regeneration. The cards are actually tiles you can place on the map. New locations can spawn stronger monsters or grant the hero passive bonuses. Tougher foes means better loot and some locations grant material drops (we will get to those later). Every time the Hero passes GO, they collect some much needed HP and all of the monsters level up. This is the gameplay loop and, depending on your build, can continue indefinitely.

Need time to plan things out? Not to worry. Players can pause and enter planning mode where time freezes. Battles can be paused by hovering over enemies or items, but unless you plan on equipping some gear to alter your build, there is very little player agency in battles.

The main goal for progression is to defeat the boss of the chapter. This is done by filling out the map with enough objects to spawn the boss at the start (or is it end?) of the loop. Bosses are incredibly strong and require a good build to finally surpass. Beginner players will likely not defeat the boss on their first handful of attempts. Instead, the game encourages players to leave runs before the boss spawns.

At the campfire tile, the player can leave and return to the camp hub without losing most of their gathered materials. This is where other survivors have gathered, waiting for the hero to bring back resources for building. Structures unlock new features, such as better starting equipment, new classes, potions, or the ability to level up in runs. New cards can be unlocked for your deck, some of which have combinations to discover.

Rogue-likes all share a similar hurdle when it comes to writing a narrative. Due to the nature of the setting, there has to be an in-universe reason as to why you can continue playing after a death and why the world layout changes. How does one explain what tiles placed on an empty board with a looping road from a narrative perspective? Loop Hero addresses this problem by having the world destroyed and its inhabitants thrown into an endless, chaotic time loop courtesy of a Lich.

The Hero and survives this tragedy and slowly remembers what the world was once like, causing the landscape and monsters to reappear before them. The other denizens of the world struggle to keep their memories and each other intact and must rely on the Hero to hold the world together. It is clear that the story was written around existing gameplay mechanics, but it works well and adds distinct character.

While your standard fantasy monsters exist in this world, it is apparent that some monsters co-existed with humans peacefully before the end of the world. Vampires were once noble lords who protected their townspeople. Now they are blood-starved beasts that serve as powerful adversaries. Harpies are similar, only fighting the Hero so that their children do not starve in this ever-shifting world with scarce prey.

This is combined with a fantastic retro aesthetic. All artwork is done in a pixel art style with an optional CRT TV screen filter for additional nostalgic effect. Character portraits are beautifully detailed while the environments and other sprites keep things on the simpler side. The UI is clean and everything serves a functional purpose. It is cohesive and feels like an old computer game and a modern title at the same time. The music is catchy and utilizes sound effects with some chiptune flair.

While the game was originally a bit of a slog at times, an update introduced some quality of life features such as faster speed options and the ability to lock equipment in your bag if you are waiting on a good synergy to show up and don’t want to fight the system to keep goods from being discarded. More visual options were added to help players figure out where the hero and the road are after the map gets cluttered with tiles.

Loop Hero can be a bit lite on the gameplay side. Equipment and locations can have build synergies which can alter your playstyle. However, most of this relies on random luck. All equipment drops have random stats that scale with rarity and the loop level. All location cards are random drops based on your deck. Eventually, you will get the stat boosts and cards you want, but it will require a lot of waiting.

After a while, my runs felt identical in strategy due to a lack of new cards to play with. I was initially trying to get powerful enough beat the Lich on my first few runs, an idea which turned out to be a huge time waste as I would die and lose 30% of my building material. Instead, I should have been grinding for materials getting more permanent upgrades in my camp. This creates a weird feeling since most of your runs will not finish with a satisfying, epic battle. Rather, in order to stand a decent chance at the boss you need to abandon runs to carry the all of your resources back. This caused a big, draining grind for me as I was playing Loop Hero during my normal game sessions rather than on the side of another task where the grind would have been less noticeable.

Loop Hero is both addicting and a bit simple at times. It is a game of discovery due to the synergies and tile combinations waiting to be discovered. It is also a game all about perfecting your build strategy which may not be for everyone. Loop Hero solves the dilemma of wanting to be productive and play something at the same time since it can be a mostly hands off experience. Fire it up, get a build going, and periodically glace over and equip some better items. Very few high quality idle games exist so grab this one before it too fades from your memory.


Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.

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Positives

- Charming 80s retro aesthetic in both visual and audio design
- Addictive gameplay with more depth than expected for an idle game
- An intriguing narrative with a flair of mystery that also fits within the restrictions of the gameplay genre

Negatives

- Requires grinding for permanent upgrades for steady progression
- Game speed could be a bit faster since it feels a bit slow even on the highest settings

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
B

 
Graphics
A+

 
Story
B+

 
Replay Value
A+

Total Score
A

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Bottom Line
 

Loop Hero is an unexpected, but welcome addition to the rogue-like genre. While I wouldn't recommend it as a game to pour your leisure time into, it works wonderfully as a game to throw on a second monitor to occasionally divert your attention with its strategic elements and catchy tunes.

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