When I swipe through the games Steam is recommending me, I can usually tell in an instant if a game is interesting to me or not. Does it have cards? Does it have a hex grid? Does it even remotely look like a strategy game? I'll probably like it. Is it an AAA shooter? Does it have Japanese/Asian art style? I'll pass, thank you. But occasionally, there are games where I just think to myself "what the hell is that meant to be!?". One of these games was Loop Hero, a recently released strategy roguelite game made by Four Quarters.
All images taken from Steam
At first glance, Loop Hero is your standard roguelite game. Your hero moves around the countryside, battles monsters, finds loot, levels up, faces the boss... and eventually dies. When he does, he'll leave behind some resources which are meant to help you with your next run. What's making Loop Hero so special is the fact that you don't control the hero, like at all. Instead, you control the environment the hero is moving through. Every new run consists of a randomly generated loop that your hero will follow. Every time he meets a monster on the path, a separate window will open, showing the fully automated battle. The rest of the map is completely blank in the beginning and it's up to you to change that. Monsters that your hero kills will occasionally drop new tiles to add to the world. What tiles can be dropped is decided by you as well, but more on that later.
These tiles can either be simple landscape elements like hills, mountains, or meadows, or they can be dangerous places spawning new monsters for you hero to fight. What might sound a bit confusing at first really works out pretty well. Each tile has a different effect like increasing your champions hit points by a certain amount or spawning a Vampire every time your hero fights close to the tile. Your hero will also find a lot of different items to equip and will eventually level up, granting you additional passive effects to choose from. The game mostly revolves around making the best out of the tiles and items you are given. You have to place the tiles in a way that will allow your hero to kill as many monsters as possible without dying himself.
By combining different tiles, you can create new elements providing new effects. If you combine 3x3 rocks and mountains together, you will create a mountain peak for example. This will provide a hefty bonus to your hero's hit points but it will also spawn a strong enemy he has to fight every few days. As indicated before, you decide yourself what tiles to bring to a round and as you progress through the game, more and more tiles are unlocked allowing for many different strategies. Considering the fact that you don't control your hero in any way, you still have a lot of decisions to make. If you just mindlessly place the tiles you find, your hero will either die early or be way too weak once he has to face the level boss.
Between runs, you can build up your camp with the resources you've found on your adventures. There's a lot to be discovered there. A lot of different buildings can be constructed and upgraded, all providing additional effects, boons, and even new classes. You can also find a lot of different items during your runs which can then be equipped in the village, providing you with additional effects. All this allows for a lot of customization and obviously adds a lot of replayability to the game. There's always something to finish next, an item to test, a building to upgrade. A normal run takes between 20 and 40 minutes, so the game can be played in shorter intervals if time is a problem.
What I really don't like about the game, though, is its art. That's also the main reason I really wasn't sure what I was looking at when I first found it. To tell the truth, the game looks like it was made in 1990... by somebody not very good at making stuff like that. I really don't mind the pixelated art style that many of these indie games have. Actually, if done right, it can look really awesome. For my taste, Loop Hero is taking things a bit too far here, though. It really really isn't a good looking game.
The sound isn't that awesome either, it basically just consists of random noises. The music at least is pretty decent although I wished there would be some more variation to it, as it get's old rather fast. Nevertheless, if you can look behind these issues, you'll be rewarded with an extremely entertaining and surprisingly deep strategy game. The first stage is pretty easy but once you move on to the second level, things really heat up a lot. With all the different stats, attributes, items, buildings, tiles, classes, and what not, there's an extraordinary amount of different combinations to try. It's also really cool that you have to experiment with the different tiles yourself. More than once, I've accidentally found a new combination that killed my hero in the process but allowed me a whole new approach for my next attempt.
The game is sold at 14.99€ (which should be something like 17$) on Steam and I feel like that's a very reasonable price for what you get out of it. So far, I've played almost 25 hours and while I'm not firing it up every day, I still enjoy doing the occasional run every now and then. If you play it from start to finish, you can expect to get about 30 to 40 hours of entertainment out of it. If you want to finish all constructions and unlock all items and classes this should probably be doubled. Either way, you'll get a lot of entertainment for your money. The game is comfortably sitting at 94% positive reviews on Steam right now and I feel like that's well deserved. It's not among the best games I've ever played, but it's fresh and entertaining. A full recommendation in my book!
And that's all from me for today. Thank you all for reading and see you next time!