Have you ever wished that those automatic clicker games had way more substance? How about for a deck-building Rogue-like that lets you push your own luck and then immediately regret it?
Yeah, I haven’t either… until I played Loop Hero, that is.
HEROES AND TOMBS
An unnamed lone warrior wakes up to find themselves in a desolate world ravaged by forces they don’t understand. They are also unable to die permanently, being perpetually resurrected at a local campfire.
I can’t be the only one who immediately pictured Dark Souls when reading Loop Hero’s premise. However, the game takes that franchise’s narrative conceit and builds something unique out of it. The simplest way to put it is that it’s like a virtual tabletop RPG where you build the board yourself.
Upon starting a run, the hero wanders the barren landscape in a loop, fighting the few puny slimes that appear on the map. Exploration and combat are done completely automatically. However, you soon start accumulating cards that show new map features, which you then place somewhere on the grid.
Some, like villages or swamps, go directly on the path and add new features (and monsters) to your run. Others, like mountains and meadows, are placed around the outside of the loop and give your hero passive bonuses, like more health.
As you place more and more tiles, new structures and monsters appear, and the difficulty gradually increases with every loop the hero completes. The end goal of each run is to place enough tiles to spawn the chapter’s daunting end boss. A good way to prepare is by upgrading your base camp with new permanent buildings. These are bought via resources you collect during your runs and unlock things like new cards and character classes.
HERO IN A DREAM
The name of the game with Loop Hero is synergy; every element of the game relates back to others in important ways. It’s this central concept that makes the game genuinely addictive. You’ll come back just to better tailor your run and see if you can get further than you did last time. At the same time, the urge to push your luck is always there, as taking higher risks means potentially better rewards. It’s all about optimization (and a little bit of luck).
Loop Hero also has a great sense of discovery. Certain tiles can be placed next to each other to spawn unique variations, and it’s genuinely thrilling to stumble on something new. Coupled with the game’s dark yet colorful retro aesthetic that hearkens back to the days of the Amiga, and it really isn’t like anything else you’ve ever played.
In terms of flaws, Loop Hero has only a few, but they’re not insignificant. As you head to later chapters, the game deteriorates into more of a grind for resources. Mid-to-late-game structures need a ton of rare materials to build, and you start having to do runs purely to grind, not to advance.
This wouldn’t be so frustrating if the game was clearer about how you get these resources or even how some cards work. There is an in-game encyclopedia to consult, but it’s more vague than it should be. Worse still, even once you know what to do, the random chance at play can mean you go entire loops without what you need dropping.
With all that said, Loop Hero is still great. I guarantee you’ve played very little else like it, and what’s here is genuinely engrossing, even if the sense of awe does give way to some tedium towards the end.