Review – Loop Hero
I have to be honest here and say that I totally underestimated Loop Hero. My initial reaction and impression was that it was going to be some mobile styled auto-runner game. While Loop Hero does feature an auto-runner core gameplay loop, it is more like a true to life video game version of a Dungeons & Dragons board game. One where you’re the main player and the dungeon master. It all works very well, even with the simple main “loop” mechanic. Join me on this review campaign named “The 1200 Word Sales Pitch”. The game is more exciting than my title, trust me.
In Loop Hero you awaken to the world around you in total chaos and disarray. You cannot remember who you are or what happened to the world. You soon find out that a group of unholy creatures have put the world in a perpetual time loop, throwing everything in an endless cycle of despair. As you proceed through this time loop, you’ll encounter friends and foe alike that will help you piece together the past. Creatures that were once friendly are now forced to become foe for their own survival. Understanding the past and building a new future may be the key to stopping the evil. That and some good ‘ol fashion good vs. evil butt whoopings.
If you’re at all familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll likely feel at home with Loop Hero’s gameplay. You’ll customize a deck of cards that will end up shaping your expedition. Each expedition will have its own unique traits, buffs, and features. Once you start your expedition, the only control you have of your character is to swap between a Planning and Adventure mode.
Adventure mode will move your character through a series of pathways that form a not so perfectly shaped loop. Your character will continue walking and if there is an enemy in a cell, you will go into a fight that is also automated. As you continue, the day meter will fill and reset to start a day. On each new day, more enemies will be placed on the board at random locations. Obviously there are a ton of other factors that can happen on a day loop, but those are the basics of it. There will also be resets and other actions once one complete loop around the board is completed. You’ll heal, refill certain items, refresh specific cards, enemies will increase difficulty level, and much more.
Planning mode allows you to stop all board actions. As you continue your loop and defeat enemies, you’ll gather cards and gear. Gear is pretty self explanatory: collect weapons, armors, and trinkets to equip to defeat harder enemies. Cards are where you’ll really start crafting your expedition, as well as where the strategy comes in. There is a mix of cards that will benefit the player and of course add enemies to the board. There is a lot of depth and strategy to this, and it took me quite a few expeditions to get a good idea of things.
A lot of the gear and cards are straightforward, however there are a lot of modifications and depth depending on how or where you use them. For example, placing a Meadow card near any object will turn it into a Blooming Meadow, which provides a better boost. Placing the Rock cards in a 3×4 pattern will morph it into a giant mountain providing a big bonus. The treasury will provide a random resource if you place a card on an adjacent space. However, if you fully surround it, that is when the treasury actually opens for the large payload. There is a ton more that you’ll find as you experiment with tile placements, and it adds a level of depth to the strategy that I love.
Loop Hero is also a roguelike with crafting elements to it as well. As you play expeditions you’ll collect a ton of resources that will be used back at your main camp. Various resources are collected through placed cards, enemies, or simply dismantling gear. As I mentioned before, figuring out the best placements for cards will increase your resource gathering as well. If you die, you’ll only be able to take 30% of your resources back to the camp. However, if you retreat on your own once you loop back to your camp on the board, you’ll keep all the resources.
Resources allow you to build your camp which will then unlock various items, gear, boosts, character classes, and so on. Building a Smithy allows you to start an expedition with basic gear. The gymnasium allows you to level up mid expedition and learn skills. Herbalist Hut allows you to bring health potions with you. The Refuge unlocks the Rogue Class for you to be able to play as. There is plenty to unlock and each one also can be upgraded for better bonuses.
Visually, Loop Hero hits in a lot of areas with its pixel art style, but there are areas where it gets too simple. The up close shots of characters during dialogue, combat, the general main menus, and card art are well done and detailed. However, on the main board the use of very simple sprites takes away from the adventure. Seeing very simple pixel outlines fill up the board didn’t add any sense of dread.
The sound design is a bit of a mixed bag, offering some generic 8-bit sound effects and music. The general gameplay soundbites are your typical swooshes and smacks that 8-bit offers. You’ll quickly get tired of the combat sound effects. The soundtrack has some decent tracks on it, but they all felt fairly similar. Once you get to a boss you’ll get an upbeat track that builds some tension, but all-and-all I wasn’t very impressed.
All of these aspects are why I love Loop Hero. There is so much to unlock and it’s all meaningful things that will change how each expedition plays out. That “carrot on a stick” roguelike gameplay is done perfectly here, paired with the D&D type tabletop gameplay. If I had one thing that would have made this better, it would be some player involved combat if chosen. You can’t even choose which enemy to attack first. This could have added to some fun factor and strategy in fights.
The pixel art style is well done in a lot of areas, especially on the close ups of characters. However, on the board the sprites are very basic. It would have been nice to have the more detailed art on the board itself.
The gameplay nails being an interactive digital version of a Dungeons & Dragons board game. There is a lot to unlock and each unlock adds to the level of strategy on each expedition.
Sound design is the weakest here with a very basic 8-bit sound design. Combat soundbites get repetitive and the soundtrack isn’t bad, but there isn’t much to it.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Loop Hero. It offered a deep experience that kept me hooked with constant unlocks. I always wondered what was next and how far could I go on the next expedition.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Loop Hero is available now on PC.
Reviewed on an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.
A copy of Loop Hero was provided by the publisher.