Review based off of experience playing Loop Hero on a Nintendo Switch.
Loop Hero is weird. I am quite the opinionated fellow, and I tend to see the world with a black and white filter. This makes writing reviews pretty damn easy because I know what I like, and I know what I don’t. Loop Hero alluded me for many, many hours.
Not in the sense that I didn’t like it for the first 10+ hours, or that the game was bad. Just that I didn’t know how I felt about the game – at all – and honestly, I still don’t know how I feel as I write this off the cuff review. One thing I do know, however, is that I kept coming back to it, and I couldn’t put the damn thing down.
Going In Circles
Loop Hero is, at its heart, a Deck Builder. Similar in principle to a game like One Step From Eden or Slay The Spire. Heck, Dominion if you are properly old school. Before you head off on an expedition, you fiddle around with your cards and create the perfect 7-12 card deck and try and craft perfection. Oh, it’s also a Roguelite.
Unlike a regular Deck Builder, you aren’t crafting a complex series of combos and interactions purely to kill gribblies and grab gubbins. No, Loop Hero wants you to build a deck that kills you – but kills you slow enough that you can stifle the health loss over a long period, and then conquer it.
So what is Loop Hero? Well, it’s all about building what is essentially a dungeon for your dude to fight through. Every card in your deck is a piece of the dungeon you can place to make your journey harder, easier, or weirder. Every card is unique, which means every deck will give you a slightly different experience based on its make-up.
Placing a grove in your dungeon will result in fairly weak, but fast Rat Wolves spawning, whereas a graveyard will spawn tough, hard-hitting, but slow Skeletons. Not all cards are bad, such as mountains, which increase your character’s Max Health, or Villages that heal you. If it sounds simple, it’s because it is – at a glance.
The “Loop” In Loop Hero
Things get interesting when you factor in that Loop part of the title. Loop Hero has your avatar running in circles until you retreat, or you die. Every rotation makes the dungeon slightly harder, so you can’t just wander around forever. Powering up is a necessity, and thankfully, the game has you covered.
Killing mooks will reward you with gear, each providing a series of powerful bonuses, such as increased health, damage, or even Vampirism. The more loops you do, the better your loot, letting you loop for longer. A single piece of equipment can drastically alter your fate, so keeping on top of your armaments is not only addictive but necessary.
A lot of things come together seamlessly to give Loop Hero a staggering amount of depth, replayability, and experimentation. Firstly, cards interact with each other to make new effects. Placing a Vampire Mansion near a village will sack the village and turn it from a healing font to a deadly thrall-ridden hellhole. Plonking 9 mountains in a 3×3 formation will result in a Mountain Peak that provides a massive health boost but also spawns a Harpy.
The more you play, the more you unlock. The more you unlock, the more you can experiment with different builds to land that perfect run. Not that your perfect run necessarily means victory, of course. Loop Hero isn’t a game you are going to beat on your first run. Or your tenth. Bosses in this game are purposely titanic in challenge, which changes the goal post somewhat.
Enter, the camp. When you aren’t being the saviour of mankind, you are back at camp. Here is where you can gain permanent upgrades for your character – you can even unlock new characters later on. Every building requires resources, and those resources are gathered from, you guessed it – the dungeon. This ties back into your deck because different cards grant different resources.
But it goes even deeper than that. Because resources are so integral to your long term progression, you are incentivised to build new decks to maximise your resource gain per run. Some resources are damn obscure too. For example, sometimes you can only gain a resource if you fight a large number of enemies at once. I was always fiddling with my deck to try and find that balance. My only gripe here is that you can’t save decks for future runs.
It All Comes Back To Time
The final piece of the Loop Hero puzzle is the time mechanic. As you move around the dungeon and fight its inhabitants, time passes. Once enough time has passed, a new day begins, you heal a bit of health, and enemies respawn. This is pretty easy to manage early on when your dungeon is lacking in unique tiles.
The more you place, however, the more time you spend in combat. The more you are fighting, the longer it takes for you to complete a loop. This also means enemies will be spawning multiple times per loop, turning that Grove that used to spawn one Rat Wolf, into a den holding a full pack of them. It’s a genius way to ramp up the difficulty, and it’s entirely player-driven.
Player driven, as you may have guessed, is what Loop Hero is all about. You choose the dungeon, you choose what you fight, you choose how much you want to fight, and you choose what resources you gather. What if I told you, you even choose when, and if, you fight the boss of any given chapter? Loop Hero feels incredibly modular, and I love it.
I’ve only briefly touched on the combat system itself because there isn’t one. There is a lot of fighting in Loop Hero, but the combat resembles that of an idle game. It’s not really about the fighting, it’s all about the preparation. You set up the dominos, and the game handles the rest. As a result, it’s not the most interesting fighting system, but it’s certainly one of the more addictive.
Not A Looker
So how does it all look and sound? Well, graphically it’s pretty basic. You are a white sprite, you move around a grey path, and the backdrop is a wonderful shade of black. Combats are in a separate pop-up screen that shows some wonderfully detailed closeup sprites, but in general, this game looks pretty darn basic. It has hods of style, however.
In terms of sound, Loop Hero is just as basic as the visuals. Throwing down cards, hitting enemies, and collecting resources all come with little blips and bloops that have just enough retro grit to sell the package. The soundtrack is suitably old school too and can range from background jingle to head-bopping magic at the drop of a hat.
Is Loop Hero Worth A Gander?
So that’s Loop Hero in a nutshell. A deceptively complex, bone-crushingly difficult, dungeon-making, deck building, idle Roguelite. It’s also incredibly addictive and hard to put down. Is it good though? Yes – but I am still a bit foggy on just how good it actually is. There’s a lot of stuff going on here, but it’s all passive. It’s all prep. You spend a minute preparing your run, then spend the next 30-minutes mostly on autopilot. It’s weird, but I think I like it.
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