Loop Hero Review
I’ve spent about 30 minutes figuring out how to actually describe Loop Hero. On one hand, it’s a roguelite that employs deck-building mechanics a la Slay the Spire but without the turn-based battle system. On the other, an almost idle game where you simply watch your character hack and slash its way to victory across the world you’ve built.
It sounds like a weird combination of genres but somehow seemingly works so well that you’ll hardly notice how much time has passed, all while calling for “one more loop” as the clock strikes 3 AM.
Loop Hero is one of the best games you’ll play almost without playing anything at all, if that even makes sense.
Garbed in some delightfully old-school pixel graphics, Loop Hero is deceptively simple. You play as a hero (warrior, rogue, or necromancer, each with a few class differences) that you can’t actually control as they make their way through the randomly generated road set before them, battling monsters and reaping the rewards along the way.
The world is made of tiles and as you progress, you are rewarded with cards to “build” the world with – swamps, mountains, villages, and so on. Each card will have certain good and bad effects (increase your total HP, add monsters, etc), with the world growing depending on the way you choose to build it.
One of Loop Hero‘s biggest draw is figuring out the delicate balance between adding another tile to the world or holding out until the next loop. It takes a certain amount of restraint because you’re technically limiting the amount and variety of loot you can bring home with less cards on the board, but you’ll also have to consider whether you can actually make it back to camp to finish the round if you add that extra card.
Do you make it easy for your hero, placing less cards and essentially, less enemies, to make it a safe journey while farming for materials? Do you want a challenge, reaping more rewards but possibly not leaving enough health for yourself when you face the boss? It’s a conscious choice you have to make everytime you go on a run.
As mentioned earlier you cannot control your hero – you can’t choose where to go or what attack to do or even who to attack. This means that battles are reduced to stats, with the tactics and strategy of it all determined by placing the environment cards on the board. The most controlling you’ll be doing in Loop Hero is equipping your hero with increasingly better weapons and armor that will help them overcome the challenges you’ve placed.
Every lap (or loop) you make will yield better and higher-leveled rewards and depending on how you built your board, you’ll either meet your untimely demise or live to see another loop with better rewards. You’ll be picking up gear along the way, but the stats and bonuses that come along with feel too random to actually find a build you want to experiment with.
In the end, it simply feels like equipping the weapon or armor with the highest attack value without paying mind to its attributes like evasion or lifesteal. They help to some degree, but don’t expect anything like Hades where builds really change the way the game is played.
Playing Your Cards Right
Determining where and when to play your cards is essential in mastering Loop Hero‘s… loop. There are cards with special interactions with each other and one of the best examples (and most likely the first you’ll discover) is by placing the stone/mountain cards in a 3×3 formation, you’ll form… well, a big mountain that will grant you extra HP.
That’s good, of course! More HP = a higher chance to survive the loop, but in turn, an additional enemy will spawn every few cycles, adding a new challenge that you’ll have to manage. Balance is key in Loop Hero, but looking out for these bonuses will also be important to reaching further loops.
The strategic placement of your cards adds another layer to think about, making Loop Hero a deceptively simple game that holds a surprising amount of depth. There’s always the question of “can I handle 4 spiders and then handle a couple of vampires next?” because you placed the castle right beside a spider den? Spacing these cards out is important, but not placing them on the board is equally as crucial and is always something you’ll have to be conscious of.
After your troubles, you’ll head back to camp where you’ll be able to spend your gathered resources in building structures that add further bonuses and unlock better environment cards that you can use on your board during travels. There’s a semblance of HQ-building here in Loop Hero, one that’s not too complicated but a feature that closes the satisfying core loop of the game.
Loops in Loop Hero do not go longer than a few minutes, and you can even speed it up with some much welcome fast-forward options, making it the perfect “pick up and play for a few minutes” kind of game. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to launch on the Switch because both of these make for a great pair.
What we liked:
- Deceptively simple gameplay
- Perfect for the Switch
- Surprising amount of depth
What we didn’t like:
- Some of the text and graphics (especially in town) are hard to understand
- Low variety of practical builds for your character
- It takes quite a while to gather resources for the camp structures.
Verdict: Buy It!
Loop Hero is quite the refreshing experience, employing a mix of features and design decisions that seemingly don’t go well together but somehow makes it work. It may look simple at first, but the game offers multiple layers of strategy that will pull in newcomers and even long-time fans of the genre.
The pixel graphics and simplistic audio may turn some off, but Loop Hero is something that simply needs to be given a chance to pull you in with its addictive partly idle “one more loop” gameplay, making it a perfect match with the Nintendo Switch and its portable nature.
Loop Hero is a fine example that games do not need cutting-edge graphics nor a huge open world to explore. The game goes back to the basics, implementing a smooth and simple core loop topped off with satisfying mechanics that make it a joy to play even in short bursts of time.
*Loop Hero was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a review code provided by the publishers.