Title: Loop Hero
Developer: Four Quarters
Release Date: March 4, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Loop Hero is a roguelike game from Four Quarters with deck builder and management elements. Based on the concept of automatically moving through an empty world and rebuilding it with your cards make it a unique and fun take on the genre.
The Loop Hero adventure begins when the world is no more thanks to the Lich. A single hero still exists in an empty void, without memories of how the world used to be. However he has the power to recreate everything, now living in an ever-changing environment to explore and rebuild.
The game is divided into two sections: exploration and camp. During expeditions, the player will navigate automatically through a predefined road. The shape of that path is random, but it’s a track composed of wasteland tiles at first.
As the hero moves, he’ll face slimes and other enemies in automatic battles. By defeating them, he gets experience and spoils. Though leveling up takes a while, it brings special skills which can be vital during the expedition. The spoils will be needed to build up a strategy, allowing the player to get both equipment and cards.
The weapons, shields, and other items are standard fare. Their level is based on the current enemy force, which increases based on how many times the player has looped through the road. Besides their main attribute (attack, defense, or max HP, for instance), they may have extra abilities such as draining HP or speeding attacks up.
On the other hand, cards are another aspect that makes Loop Hero unique. With them, players alter the world around them, creating forests, mountains, villages, vampire mansions, and lighthouses. All of those impact the match in one way or another, giving birth to new monsters, making the player stronger, allowing more regeneration, etc.
Every new tile change is one step closer to the final boss of that area. Once the boss gauge is completed, you’ll have to fight a powerful enemy to advance to the next zone. Though there aren’t many of them, an understanding of the mechanics is needed for victory.
Like any roguelike, players will have to start over after death, but there is some measure of progress using the camp system. For each card used and for specific combinations, the player is rewarded with materials that are important to improve the settlement in which he starts living.
However, to maximize gains, players need to evaluate their survivability well. Bad luck acquiring spoils will lead to bad builds, which likely won’t be enough to stay alive long enough to reach the boss, as combat is automatically played. When it gets tough to go on, a press of a button will send you home.
If killed, only a small bit of the materials will be kept. A more significant portion will return with the player if they opt to press the return button when they’re already in the middle of the road.
However, it’s also possible to obtain everything accumulated during that run by playing it safe and returning to the starting point of the map. This risk and reward element is an essential aspect of the experience.
Those materials are necessary for the player to build new facilities for the camp, which will, in turn, add new functionalities and strengthen the hero. The rewards for those include new cards, crafting and destroying objects, and even classes that fundamentally change how the areas are played.
A necromancer, for instance, allows the player to summon skeletons that will fight for them and have a magical barrier to compensate for their lower HP. On the other hand, the thief is a fast player with two weapons and common evasion boosts instead of defense boosts, but he only gets new equipment at the end of a loop.
Using class strengths effectively and building more camp facilities go along way and allow for some diversity despite the game’s tendency for repetition. In fact, the game is totally about micromanagement, with survival being a result of all that effort done to improve the camp and the exploration of card effects during expeditions instead of turnabout moves.
Taking in these elements adds multiple layers of strategy that the player is pushed to understand and play with. Understanding the synergy between cards and what kind of deck can be dealt with easier is key to success.
As the player controls the changes in the world, they can also define the monsters that will appear and take measures to regulate difficulty. Certain enemies may be easier to deal with for a specific class, and putting two cards close to each other may lead to unique effects. As the player tests those, it’s possible to create decks that could turn into better runs.
Loop Hero’s biggest flaw is how some information isn’t adequately conveyed. For instance, it’d be nice to know which kinds of materials the cards provide when put on the field on the deckbuilding menu. Also, level-up enhancements aren’t displayed on the character stats area during expeditions. Some cards’ traits can be a little confusing, like having the same trait twice instead of unifying them.
Though it may seem small, information is a crucial aspect in a game focused on management. For that reason, it’d be nice to see the game updated to properly display such important assets to the player and make the experience smoother.
Visually, Loop Hero is presented in a 16 bits art style that strikes a balance between detailed and straightforward. The soundtrack fits the mood, going for an atmospheric effect of the occult reminiscent of classic works such as Castlevania.
The plot is lackluster but functional for its proposal, leaving the gameplay as the true centerpiece. It’s also important to note that the game features some quality-of-life things, such as fonts for people with dyslexia and a turbo option that doubles the speed of the expedition. However, it can still feel slow, making it a shame the game doesn’t feature a 4x or at least 3x option.
Loop Hero has all the right ingredients for an adventure management game with roguelike systems. There’s a learning curve to tackle, but after a few runs, you’ll be piecing together the world in no time. The entire experience is cathartic in a way as you watch the world evolve from your actions and overcome its obstacles with a little skill and luck.
Unlike what Devolver Digital advertised at the announcement, it may not be game of the year material, but it’s still worth giving it a try.
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