Loop Hero Hands-On Preview

Ned Jordan
In Short
Taking Loop Hero out for a spin.

Devolver Digital has built a reputation for finding unconventional indie games and it looks like they’ve done it again with Loop Hero, a genre mashup in development by Four Quarters. Loop Hero exists in a world that no longer exists after it is erased by The Lich. Well, not entirely erased, there are some people left in the void including the game’s hero, and then there is the loop. The loop is a circle in both time and space, a path that always leads back to the beginning and where day cycles into night into the same day again.

In gameplay terms, the loop is a randomly generated circuit created by a series of squares around which your hero will relentlessly traverse from camp and back again in an endless cycle – at least until you decide to stop at camp when you reach it or your hero dies. Since the world is now a void, there won’t be much to the loop when you start out except for a few minor monsters and everything outside the loop will be a black void. When your hero encounters once of these monsters, a battle ensues. This part of the game takes its cue from idle games – moving around the loop and fighting in battles is all automated. The only thing that you can control is pausing the game or commanding your hero to stay in the camp when passing it by. This doesn’t mean that there’s no strategy to the game – in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Round round get around, I get around

When your hero defeats enemies in battle they’ll drop two types of items. The first type of item is equipment. When you start out on the loop you do so sans armor and weapons. Even if you survive a few iterations of the loop and decide to return to camp, you’ll start your next foray without any weapons or armor. Weapons, armor, and equipment is automatically added to your inventory when dropped by monsters, acting functionally as a queue – once full, the oldest item drops out and is lost forever. You’ll hold on to the items that you’ve equipped, though, as long as you keep going around the loop. You’ll want to take advantage of the pause button to determine if newly acquired items should be equipped or just left in the inventory queue.

The other items dropped by monsters are cards, and this is where things really get interesting. The cards let you rebuild the world that was wiped out by The Lich, and come in several varieties. There are terrain cards which are placed outside of the loop that generate resources that you can use to upgrade your camp. You can gain bonuses by placing certain cards adjacent to others, and some cards upgrade into advanced terrain when you have enough adjacent cards of the right type together.

Other cards are designed to be used on the loop to add locations such as cemeteries or caves to the loop. These locations will generate monsters once a day on the closest square on the loop. Why would you want to add monsters to the loop? The monsters will drop cards and loot when you defeat them, but more importantly the locations that generate the monsters will also generate resources that you can collect when you pass through their squares. There is strategy to placing these cards – you will want a good mix of resources, but you’ll want to avoid creating a death trap on your loop by filling squares with an overwhelming number of monsters. This brings us to the last class of cards which have a status effect on the loop, such as limiting the number of monsters that can be generated on a square.

From loop to town

Each time you venture out on the loop, you’ll need to try and build up enough challenge in your loop to gain the resources that you need without setting yourself up for failure and the loss of everything that you’ve collected. A big part of the gameplay is deciding when to stop off at camp and keep your resources and when to keep going and try to push through the loop one more time. When you return to camp, you’ll be able to use your resources to create new buildings that will provide bonuses such as unlocking new cards for your deck or even giving you access to new hero classes. Once you’re ready to venture out again, you’ll find that the loop has been regenerated. It will follow a new randomized path and all of the cards that you put into play will be gone.

Although the game is still in development and not a finished product, after playing it for a while I can see why Devolver Digital decided to pick it up. The game is like a strategy rogue-like, and while at first I wasn’t sure that I would like the hands-off nature of movement and combat, I quickly became so engrossed in the strategy aspects of building the loop and deciding what structures to create in my camp that it didn’t bother me at all. Loop Hero is more of a game about ensuring that your hero has the tools to succeed rather than one in which you’re an active participant in the battles. I enjoyed my time with Loop Hero and am really looking forward to playing the final game once it is released.

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Transmitted: 3/30/2023 9:15:56 PM