Loop Hero Review: You Spin Me Right Round
When I previewed Loop Hero back in January, I noted that it was already shaping up to be another fantastic Devolver Digital-published title. It was addictive, weird, dark, and inventive. Which is pretty much exactly what I look for in a video game.
I’ve been logging into the game as it’s updated over the past two months and not only has it added new gameplay elements that further enriched the overall experience, but it’s also upgraded its already superb visual style, framerate, and soundtrack. After pumping several hours into it, I can safely declare that Loop Hero is something that’s worth multiple trips around the bend.
You start out as a lone hero who wakes up in a world that’s empty. Some mysterious cataclysm has befallen the world and now everything is gone. There’s no scenery or civilization. There’s not even time or memories. Just a dark empty void and a loop of land containing nothing but the most basic of RPG enemies: violent slime monsters. But as this wandering hero aimlessly trudges along this loop things start to reappear. They can suddenly construct groves, villages, graveyards, etc. Other survivors come out of the darkness to form a small camp and band together to help the hero. Soon, buildings are built, people with special skills resurface, and the hero has support as they journey out into the unknown. They must continue to go on expeditions on the constantly reforming loop to gather resources for the camp and find out who or what is responsible for the end of the world. If they’re lucky, they may be able to stop them and return things to some form of normalcy.
I love Loop Hero’s story. While it starts slow, there’s plenty of lore to discover. When you encounter new enemies there’s usually a short conversation with them prior to fighting them. New NPCs have quirky dialogue to offer. You even talk with the bosses beforehand about what happened and they give esoteric answers before trying to kill you. The dialogue is surprisingly funny and full of personality. I looked forward to talking with the lady who looked after my camp as she usually had something positive yet snarky to say.
Graphically, Loop Hero draws inspiration from the 8-bit era of RPGs. While there are well-drawn portraits for each character and enemy, most of the sprites look like they could have come from a late-era NES or DOS title. It’s not exactly a looker in terms of visuals, but it’s nostalgic and charming, which is good enough for me.
Speaking of 8-bit nostalgia, Loop Hero’s soundtrack is full of chiptunes that harken back to those days of early Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games. And it absolutely slaps. There are amazing tunes here that got me all pumped up to watch my little guy wreck some giant spiders. The soundtrack is so catchy yet spooky that I would load up the game and just let it run so I could listen to it. If the team over at Four Quarters is somehow reading this review, I’m begging you, get this up on Spotify.
I can’t recall a game I’ve played that operates like Loop Hero. It’s like a roguelike RPG where you don’t control the combat. Your hero moves independently of you. Your job as the player is to equip the hero with better gear as they pick up new items and to place down new buildings and structures. You build things by putting down cards that you gain from defeating enemies around the map. Everything you build has a different effect on the loop you’re on. They can be positive, negative, or even both.
For example, you can put down a graveyard, which lets you gather stones for your camp but also spawns skeletons. You can put down a village that heals the hero but also gives you a quest that makes a random enemy stronger. Some combinations of cards will affect each other, such as placing river cards next to mountains and forests to increase their effects. Other times placing too many of a certain card may spawn another structure that you might not want. There’s also a bar that fills each time you build something. When it’s full, that summons the boss and you better hope you’re ready when that happens.
You have to make sure your hero is properly geared up to fight the neverending hordes of enemies. There are different stats that are dependent upon certain types of gear. Armor increases your maximum health, shields increase your defense, and so on. Gear has different levels of rarity. The rarer the gear the more bonus stats it has. Defeating enemies earns you XP which fills up another bar. Once that one is full, you get a new skill that can buff you or grant you some new cards.
When battles occur, the hero decides who to attack and does all the fighting themselves. So in a way, Loop Hero resembles a simulation game where you try to prepare them the best you can. This does occasionally backfire. There were a few times where they would choose to fight a weaker enemy instead of the one that was bashing the life out of them. These fights are also affected by RNG. You might have an unlucky run where you get crummy gear and a lackluster selection of cards. However, this is a roguelike, so the goal is to keep going on more runs to accrue resources to build up your camp.
The camp acts as your base and by upgrading it, you also upgrade your hero for future runs. You can create buildings using your gathered resources that help you on expeditions This includes watchtowers with archers who help you fend off enemies, huts for civilians that allow you to equip helpful items, and other useful dwellings. There are tools, furniture, jewelry, and food items that you can find on expeditions or craft when you’ve unlocked that option. These give slight buffs that may not be complete game-changers but can make a difference. As an added bonus, each time you upgrade your camp there’s a good chance you’ll get to speak with someone who will compliment you on your heroism. And that’s swell.
If I had any major complaints about Loop Hero it would be that it can be a bit too vague about how you’re supposed to do things. There are two sides to this problem as accidentally discovering how some cards worth together or coming across a new enemy could be an incredible feeling. However, it can lead to frustration as you’re left wondering how the hell you get certain enemies to spawn or how to gather a specific resource (damn you time shards!) This seems like a game that will benefit from the multiple guides and walkthroughs that will be posted online.
The process of acquiring resources and upgrading your camp can get a little grindy. You might have to make multiple runs around the loop to find what you’re looking for and to get enough of it. If you happen to die before you reach the camp or during a boss fight, you forfeit a large percentage of what you’ve found. So it can take a while to collect everything you want, but that’s the nature of roguelikes.
Loop Hero may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s essentially a game where you watch a little hero fight vampires and goblins on their own while you handle their equipment. But I found it to be enthralling. This odd world combined with a unique brand of gameplay captured my attention immediately. I’ve pumped around 30 hours into the game and I can easily see myself going back for more. There’s a tremendous sense of discovery when you stumble across something new and triumphing over a boss requires some careful planning and strategy. Also, because it must be mentioned again, the soundtrack is chockful of absolute 8-bit bangers.
I would highly recommend checking this out if you’re looking for an original indie experience. I tend to criticize games when they make me run around in circles, but I’m more than willing to make an exception for Loop Hero.
A PC copy of Loop Hero was provided to TheGamer for this review. Loop Hero is available on PC.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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