Loop Hero challenges categorization in the best possible way

Loop hero Independent extract

Every now and then a game comes along that refuses to fit into a particular box. Loop hero, developped by Four quarters and published by Digital developer, is one of those games. Featured in Goomba Stomp’s Indie Spotlight earlier this year as part of the Steam Game Festival, Loop hero has established itself as a serious competitor. An addicting anti-RPG that melts the hours, Loop hero is intended for patient gamers eager for a captivating mystery.

Lich for a good time

Immediately captivating from its first moments, Loop hero feels like an expert Dungeon Master teaching a course on how to subvert expectations derived from reading the classic Monster Manual. The game opens with an incredibly evocative concept: the stars disappear from the night sky, one by one. A powerful Lich has erased, finally, everything, in the most literal sense of the word. No one can remember anything, including the hero of the story. The player is also in the game, and reconstructing what happened to the world is at the heart of the retro but avant-garde style. Loop hero.

An amnesiac in a fantastic setting may not seem like the most original idea, but Loop hero full of innovations. In the first thirty seconds of the start of the game, it is clear that it will be unlike anything the player has experienced. The ironic and straightforward tutorial gives players the basic setup of how gameplay works and basic progression. One would assume that the player controls the knight in the sleeve, killing monsters in their quest to take on the Lich and restore their memory, as well as the memory of the rest of the kingdom. One would only be partially right.

Because in Loop hero, the player does not directly control the Hero at all. The game is divided into two main segments: Expeditions and Construction. In Expeditions, the hero moves around the titular loop, automatically fighting any monsters he encounters. The loop is basically a large circle, divided into tiles and surrounded by void. Tiles can spawn monsters, and as the hero moves through the loop, time goes by. The player must use cards, chosen from a deck before any given expeditions and earned by defeating monsters, to fill the card with assets. Players can not only build directly on the loop, but also in the margins of the map. They can add groves that provide shards of precious wood to the player each time the hero passes through them, or villages that restore the hero’s health as he passes through them. Filling a corner of the map tiles with rock and mountain cards ensures that the hero will have a lot of health points. But too many mountains will mean vicious harpies will spawn, and too many thickets will result in a loop full of Ratwolves. A balance must be struck between creating a lucrative loop that is also survivable.

Loop hero

The intro says it best: “travel, combat and most other actions are done automatically.” There is cognitive dissonance involved, as the player tries to equip the hero with the best possible gear even though they know they cannot directly affect the results of a given battle. All they can do is build.

Going from head to toe with the Lich is a goal, but getting there can be a surprisingly complicated journey. Between Expeditions, players must use the resources gathered during their time spent circling the Loop to build a home base. Constructing buildings in the home port is invaluable; this proves that the hero has increasingly useful skills to pick up in the loop for the next race. But building is expensive, and only grinding in the loop can provide players with the raw materials they need to rebuild the world.

There is always tension in play. The first few times the hero goes around a loop, he’ll likely find some pieces of armor or a useful sword. But after a while, getting back to the campfire without killing the hero requires more than a bit of strategy. Although the player cannot directly influence how the Hero acts in combat, he does can configure the hero to do better in the long run. Playing certain cards on empty tiles allows the Hero to fall on precious treasure chests, extending their longevity by giving them access to better equipment. Better equipment leads to more monsters being defeated, which leads to more resources found, which leads to more building once the expedition is over. Losing a battle over and over has serious consequences; players can lose up to seventy percent of what they’ve found so far if they’re not careful. Knowing when to retreat and when to stay in the loop to maximize the loot found is crucial.

“I believe you, sure, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Every expedition is different. And while the universe doesn’t really call for more pixelated roguelikes, Loop hero has its own distinct identity. The objectives are largely the same, run to run: provide the hero with enough opportunities to collect powerful weapons and survive enough loops to trigger a boss fight the next time he returns to the campfire. A boss fight is no easy task, and players need to consider whether it is worth it to have their hero fight a battle they have a good chance of losing. But victory over the Lich is the only way to find out what happened to the world and unravel the mystery of how the earth was plunged into darkness. Loop hero effortlessly realizes its narrative, teasing players with tidbits of story whenever they encounter a new enemy or build a new structure in their home base. It’s a dark, fantasy world seen through a sneaky modern lens, and the looming mystery of “what happened here” contrasts wonderfully with the witty, well-written dialogue of the villagers who appear with every newly constructed building on. the original base.

While each loop is a fresh start, the player improves their chances of gaining the resources they need with the best weapon of all: knowledge. But at every turn Loop hero more complex layers to the procedure. This game is more than a pseudo-RPG; the deckbuilding element completely changes the nature of a given expedition. Before sending their hero through the loop, players can influence the pool of cards available to them during Expeditions, determining the types of enemies that appear and a myriad of other factors. Loop hero features an incredibly unique mix of gameplay mechanics and the result is exquisite. Complexity may not be for everyone, but in practice it is Simcity meet autobattlers with a sprinkling of Dungeons & Dragons tropes. Not being able to directly control the hero may seem limited at first, but in practice it leads to a unique game system unlike anything else. The story subverts and contorts fantasy tropes in engaging ways. Getting to the heart of the Big Bad’s so-called “crusade against the universe” is an incredibly inventive mystery that feels exciting and fresh.

Loop hero well worth the time it takes to grok its locking systems. The novelty of a void that begs to be filled at the start of each expedition aligns perfectly with the more strategic home base planning. It’s not easy, and it won’t be for everyone, but Loop hero deserves never to be forgotten.

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