Loop Hero should be boring. If you describe Loop Hero to someone it doesn’t even sound like a real game. It sounds like a joke. A half-baked phone game port, which should be in the same category as a million other terrible ideas on Steam.
It’s got all the warning signs. Pixel art, low-fi, lack of definitive “genre” tags, cheap, studio that I hadn’t heard of before. Basically everything was telling me “ignore this game!” It was only Discord pal and long time Linux gaming nerd Ozoned telling me to give it a look that prompted me to lean a little closer to my monitor.
Upon more than a glancing inspection I saw that the Pixel art was all in a solid consistent style using a very intentional C64 inspired palette. I read the store page and couldn’t get a good bead on what the game actually was. Usually this means it’s trying not to admit that it’s a clicker (which is infuriating because I love clickers). It looked cohesive and designed with a description that was properly written not a stack of indie buzz words with a gif attached to excite and distract.
I found that with my discount on the Humble Bundle store I could snap it up just over eight English Groats, or British pounds as you may know them. Checked out and installed! Within moments I was in the game (because it’s about 5k installed (I know it’s more than 5k – Don’t e-mail me.))
As you can probably see from the two videos I have made on the topic. I enjoy Loop hero. It’s a perfect synergy between strategy and RNG. It straddles the “one more turn” and the “I can do it next time” compulsive gaming habits wonderfully.
He loop goes like this.
Pick cards (using defined min-max rules) to best accomplish the method you are going to try this time. I like less cards, more utility and simple strategy, so for me it’s all Villages and Vampires.
Then start the loop. Literally a looped path that has nothing on it other than a few slime enemies. It is then up to you to populate this world by placing cards at strategically spaced locations as best you can when taking into consideration the random order they arrive in. All cards are either locations or Utility. Locations give you resources but are also spawn points for enemies. Utility do things like reduce maximum enemy count, add health regen max health, some give damage over time to enemies or add special states. Some wonderful utility cards are Oblivion cards. Use Oblivion cards to remove unwanted guests such as bandits. Maybe keep some bandits… maybe don’t.
Gear is randomly dropped from enemies and it has lots of different RPG stats. The whole time you are playing you are assigning gear, based again on strategy and stats. One run I only replaced gear for higher vampirism rating not damage or defence. Went well that one did. One run I went all attack speed. Another was all defence.
When you pass a camp fire tile you get health back and the loop count goes up. This increases the level of all enemies and potentially the quality of loot that is dropped.
There’s also a timer in play. A little bar on the top left fills up and each time it does its “daytime” this gives you an income of health, or other things depending on your card choices. You can maximise this by placing Meadow tiles that give you a small stacking daily health injection.
If you keep placing cards you will eventually summon the boss. This does not come as a surprise There is a bar you can see filling up. That boss, he is a bad man, wants to kill you. He is also very good at killing you so you need to be ready. You can be smart and save some Oblivion tiles to remove his supporting buildings that appear with him. This makes your day a little easier but most the time he will kill you. Kill you dead. Dead as fuck.
You can leave any time and take 0% of your loot with you. If you die you can take 30%. If you do happen to kill mr boss you can use his skull as a currency to nip off with 100%.
Between loops you have a little down you can manage. I say manage, its just a case of slapping down things you can afford. Farms, Armoury, other stuff… Everything you do in the town goes a little way to making our future runs easier. A little. Just a tiny bit.
Then the loop starts again.
The game is deeply addictive and the things you can try to get an edge seem endless. Each time it starts at a leisurely pace with simple iterations. Soon enough I’m compulsively pausing and planning with every tile being a potential battle to the death. Maximising my resources through forward thinking and hoping that I can scrape my way to the next “daytime” event or health source.
It’s a bloody brilliant game that I am obsessed with and is easily the best thing I have played since Star Traders Frontiers. I love this game. I also love that it doesn’t have any kind of tutorial it just sort of presents its self and lets you work it out. It assumes the player knows how to play games and doesn’t take away your sense of discovery.
I think part of what makes is so addictive to me is that I have never played anything like it. It’s such a mashing of genres that I think it may actually be something new. A Genre that currently has no classification. Its best described as “Slay the Spire” with reverse tower defence. At the very least I expect to start seeing “Loop-like” be a genre before the year is out.
I also think that this game is so unusual that it’s going to be a slow burner. Even though it seems to have sold quite well and has good reviews I think it’s going to explode with popularity over the next few months. I think it will take a while to get people to understand what the game is and why it’s worth their attention.
While the visual tone of the game is perfect it’s not an eye catcher. It can be dismissed as “another pixel art rogue like” without a second thought. It is only when you dig into it that you realise why it is so perfect. The melancholy non-anime pixel art that has a classical C64 time complements the sad but hopeful story and the compelling game play perfectly. There is literally nothing to improve about this title.
Go and play it.