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Loop Hero Review: mysterious and genre-defying

Loop Hero Review

Loop Hero is an adventure strategy card game from Russian indie studio Four Quarters, published by Devolver Digital. The game officially releases on March 4, 2021, and is available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and SteamOS + Linux. You may know this game developer from their previous title, Please Don’t Touch Anything. In this review, I’ll give my unbiased opinion on whether or not Loop Hero is any good while trying not to spoil anything for you.

It’s tough to classify Loop Hero into a single category, as it combines a lot of elements from various genres. You’ll find aspects from adventure games, RPGs, roguelites, puzzle-solving games, and deck-building card games. The game’s premise is that an evil Lich has thrown the world into chaos, and the survivors find themselves stuck in a timeless loop. You must try and figure out what’s going on and reunite the world by gathering resources, building up your camp, and defeating the boss. There’s more to it than that, and it’s actually very well-written, but no spoilers, remember?

Visuals and Sound

Loop Hero is done in a 2D-style art that has undoubtedly been a bit overdone as of late. However, it works perfectly in a game like this, and the look and feel give me flashbacks to my Diablo II days. The pixel art is just detailed enough to provide all the characters with a unique look while still making it easy to identify cards and tiles, items, and mob-types. 

As for the music, I’m not usually a fan of music in my games, but Loop Hero’s soundtrack is excellent. The sounds may get a bit repetitive since you’re doing the same thing over and over again. However, you can always turn the sound off or lower the volume in-game if it annoys you.

Gameplay

Each stage in Loop Hero is a procedurally generated loop, hence where the game got its name. As the hero of the story, your job is to loop around the track continuously while destroying monsters and collecting resources. Your main goal is to take down The Lich for more powerful items, so you can build new structures in your camp and upgrade existing ones. The camp structures provide passive and active buffs that will help you progress further through the game. You can end a run by retreating to base, but you’ll lose a good chunk of resources unless you exit from your camp tile (the starting area). 

As you kill monsters, you’ll gain random cards from your deck, along with items for your hero. Cards modify the tiles on the map, whether it be terrain cards that provide buffs or monster spawners that give you things to fight. Combat is automated, so the only thing you control is the loop difficulty and item loadout. That’s not to say this is an idle RPG, though, so don’t get it twisted. It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. The more challenging you make your loop with monster spawners and tile modifiers, the higher your rewards, but the greater your chance of death. Turning up the heat too much might mean you lose 70% of your resources by not being able to retreat safely.

What does this card do…

Cards interact with each other, which gets increasingly complicated and a bit mysterious as there are no explanations of what does what. For example, placing a three-by-three with mountains or rocks creates a mountain peak, which offers far better health buffs than the tiles would individually. There are seemingly endless tile combinations in Loop Hero, like two Blood Groves making a Hungry Grove, for instance. I could sit here listing them, but I’ll spare you the information overload.

The game is relaxing in the sense that you can freely pause whenever you want simply by right-clicking your mouse and entering planning mode. As your battles get tougher, you’ll need that time to figure out the best placement for cards and sort through your loot. You also control your own pace in the game, including when the boss spawns. Pay attention to the skull meter on the top left, which goes up every time you place a card.

Pros

Loop Hero is a perfect game to play if you don’t want to stress about time constraints. You can pause it or end your run at any point and return later to resume where you left off. The game also has incredible replay value, as seen by some players already putting in 200 hours or more into the demo. 

There are so many potential hero builds to experiment with, as well as tile combinations and strategies for taking down The Lich as quickly as you can. The loot system is perfect for this game and not unnecessarily over complicated. For a game that appears so simple, there’s a ton of strategy and puzzle-solving that goes into doing things efficiently.

The mysterious nature of the game makes it very appealing to me. Discovering tile combinations and tidbits of the story make for a pleasant experience. There are minimal tutorials and explanations, which I think adds to the immersion and overall depth of the game.

Cons

One downfall of Loop Hero is the lack of explanations in pretty much every aspect of the game. It may be a bit of a turn-off for some people, but for players who like to experiment and figure things out independently, this may also be a good thing. The fact remains, it can be frustrating trying to identify what combinations of cards are causing difficult mobs to spawn, but again, it’s part of the learning curve and the overall mystery.

Another downfall is that the game speed can be slow, but this is something the game developers consider with their double game speed option. Perhaps we’ll see more gameplay speed options, as this would be ideal for replay value. 

The aesthetic might also be a turn-off for some people. Not everyone likes the classic retro-style art, and that’s okay. There’s also understandably a lack of unique animations, which makes grinding through mobs repetitive.

Finally, the game is a PC-only title for now. As a PC gamer, I have no problem with this, but I could see it working on every platform out there, even mobile devices.

Score

9 / 10

"Amazing"

Conclusion

Innovative and mysterious are two words I’d use to sum this one up. Loop Hero is one of those games I could spend countless hours playing before realizing it’s already 2 AM. It’s simple on the surface, but it unravels into something much more reasonably quickly. I’m still not sure what genre I’d call it, but it’s a fun way to kill time, and that’s all I’m looking for in my games. The overall aesthetic, from the music to the visuals, is well done. Its experimental and mysterious nature makes for a unique experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some clones pop up soon.

You can tell a lot of work went into this one, so I’d recommend giving it a shot. At its current price, it’s a steal. Make sure you finish all your important stuff before you open it, though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Loop Hero is available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and SteamOS + Linux. You can follow Four Quarters and Devolver Digital on Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.

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