Title: Loot river
Release Date: May 4, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: SUPERHOT PRESENTS
Genre: Action Adventure
Loot River, from Slovakian game developer Straka Studios, is a roguelike that combines hack-n-slash, real-time combat, and Tetris-like shifting platforms in ancient ruins. You play as an undead hero created by the power of a Relic, giving the character the ability to shift the ground beneath them as they traverse procedurally generated dungeons while fighting bestial abominations.
Combat is routine for a roguelike. The character has access to multiple melee weapons such as swords, spears, and axes. All have their own cadence, attack power, and playstyle. There is also a parry that, if successful, allows you to interrupt the enemy’s attack and then riposte, an attack that applies extra damage. There are spells available, health potions when you are injured, as well as rings that award your character boons during runs, as well as armor that your character can equip for attribute boosts.
Enemies are creative and diverse, each with its own attack rhythm. There are small but fast shadow creatures and large, slow-moving enemies with giant swords capable of dealing massive damage. There are even pink mutations that shoot exploding AOE projectiles and strange wizard-like enemies that don’t attack you but lock your moving platforms into place, stranding you on an island that allows all other enemies easy access to attack you. As you take down enemies, you receive experience that goes towards new levels. At each new level, you receive points to invest in your character’s stats. Investing in your stats can increase your strength, vitality, dexterity, endurance, and intelligence, and each one of your stats is key to helping you improve your playstyle. In addition to stats, you also have access to coins and knowledge. Coins are used to buy rings and weapons during each run and can be found throughout by destroying pots and breakable objects. Knowledge is gained by defeating enemies and progressing through the dungeons. These collectibles are for permanent upgrades such as stronger weapons, armor, and spells but are also lost upon death.
What sets Loot River apart is the ability to move and control the floating platforms. Not only is this the primary form of transport throughout the dungeon, but it also creates intricate puzzles, moving and utilizing different sized platforms to fit through narrow hallways and paths. Your platforms are also necessary for combat, creating opportunities to separate enemies or to get in close for melee attacks before moving the platform back to safety. The story is straightforward, and though it’s short, it’s at least interesting. You are forced to navigate your way through this nightmare, and every time you die, you are forced to relive it repeatedly in a sort of parallel universe. Upon waking up in Sanctuary, you meet several NPCs who will help you on your quest, while several more will be found throughout the dungeons. This supporting cast of characters has engaging backstories and provides shops to permanently upgrade your character’s weapons, spells, armor, and buffs.
Loot River is a beautiful pixelated, action-packed rampage. Its procedurally generated levels made each run feel new and different. The refreshingly innovative sliding platform gameplay was incredibly addicting and refined. The experience is challenging and more than just a hack-n-slash. Still, its infrequent higher-tied weapon and knowledge drops coerced me into often fruitless grinding sessions for new weapons, effectively taking the air out of some of my best runs. I was left wondering if the roguelike element could have been more effective as a gameplay option rather than the prominent feature of the game.
At times, Loot River shines like the burning platform that you just trapped all your enemies on, but that flame gets extinguished pretty quick. Loot River‘s creative mechanic keeps it afloat, but its final presentation feels like it landed short of its full potential.
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