Review: Loop Hero
Hello readers, I am back with the follow-up to our preview of Loop Hero – a now-released title which brings some new stuff to the table for the roguelite genre. I wrote then about how well-crafted the experience was. Now that the game has graduated from Early Access, and is now a full release for Steam, and also being offered on GOG and the Epic Games Store, let’s take a look and see what has the full version has to offer!
Remembering What We Forgot
Usually rougelikes are more gameplay than story focused, and while I wouldn’t call Loop Hero an exception to that, it does have more story elements than many I’ve played.
I won’t repeat all the specifics from before, but after the introduction sequence, you regularly encounter and speak to new people and learn more about what remains of the mostly vanished world you’re exploring. You’ll also explore why it’s happening and uncover the force behind it and, as you grow stronger through many forays into the repeatedly vanishing world, your quest comes together.
The execution is solid. Each time you play you’ll make a bit more progress and uncover more lore. While the story isn’t super deep, the method by which it’s told encourages you to keep playing, and that’s just the way I like it: given in pieces without too many big walls of text.
The core gameplay loop (pun intended) is pretty straightforward. You start each play session in your camp, the one thing that seems to be anchored to the world and doesn’t disappear. Over the expeditions you take, you meet new people here and construct facilities to develop your character. After that, you set out on an expedition.
You can find all the specifics in our preview, but what I hadn’t mentioned before is that eventually, after you go on enough runs, you’ll become strong enough to fill in the world to the point a boss appears. If you can defeat it, you’ll unlock more difficult expeditions. And boy, do they get more difficult. It doesn’t seem so hard at first, but this game will test you.
After playing a while, I managed to defeat the boss, at which point I could continue walking the road to gather more resources or return to camp to unlock a new chapter. When I did this, I went from surviving well over a dozen loops to dying on the second one in the next chapter. You’ll likely need to stick with each chapter for some time after unlocking the next one before you’re really ready for it. Just the first chapter took a good deal of playtime to complete; this game is much bigger than it appears at first glance!
The game offers a remarkable amount of strategy you’ll need to master to do well. Before you start each run you’ll form a deck of cards, which determines what sorts of things you’ll be adding to the world as you go. Cards can add graveyards and forests which will spawn enemies for you to kill (and generate gear, resources and more cards), terrain which will net you materials you need for the camp, and things like lighthouses and treasuries which offer buffs and other effects for you or the enemy.
You have to place these things carefully on the map – bunch too many enemy-producing places together and you’ll put yourself at higher risk of dying. Don’t place enough of them and you won’t get many resources and end up progressing slower. This system is really well-designed and makes you think a lot for a game that doesn’t have a heavy amount of interaction.
That Classic Feel
Loop Hero really nails the retro aesthetic, as I discussed before. It has the look and feel of PC games from the late 80s or early 90s and I love it. Since the Early Access release, they’ve continued to iterate and polish the experience here, adding more animations and graphical touches that are subtle but lend a lot of polish to what was already a solid audiovisual experience, with an excellent old school synthesized soundtrack.
And the developers may well have read our preview, because there was just one thing here that I was critical of, which was that the pixel fonts can be hard to read sometimes. They addressed this by adding options for high res and dyslexia-friendly font options which trades a little bit of retro aesthetic for much easier to read text. To that I say: awesome job, because that really helped a lot, especially for the smaller text elements. That’s really going the extra mile. The game also gained many helpful options and cosmetic enhancements, such as a CRT-style visual mode to add to the retro experience.
Here We Go Again
Early Access has been a mixed blessing for the Steam experience. Some publishers have used it to release an unfinished product that never actually changes. Others do change but stay in Early Access seemingly forever. Four Quarters has used it effectively and made improvements without falling into the trap of never being satisfied enough to call it final release. And so Loop Hero has further proved itself worthy of a strong score and my original conclusion, plus more.
I was a little bit skeptical of this game when I first started it, despite being published by Devolver, whom I know to have put out some excellent games recently. But Loop Hero delivers, both for retro and roguelike/lite gamers alike. It is clearly a lovingly crafted game that compromises on nothing. It offers creative story, game, and progression mechanics, and a wonderful overall aesthetic.
It’s the kind of game that just makes you say, “one more round,” in more ways than one, and it has only gotten better for its time spent in early access. Go on, give it a play, roguelike/lite fans. You won’t be disappointed. This game has only gotten better for the time it spent in early access and is a great addition to the library of any retro game fan as well.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review copy provided by Devolver Digital for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.
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