Loop Hero

When I was a kid, I was sometimes more excited by the possibility of a story than a story itself. There was something so exciting about having tiny fragments of plot drip fed to me, about always feeling like I was on the cusp of something amazing. This was a passion that might have been born out of necessity — some of the earliest games I played had almost no story to speak of — but it was something that enthralled me all the same.

Many of these games never delivered on their promise (I waited forever for the “fantastic story” described at the beginning of Bubble Bobble, which never materialized), but that didn’t really matter to me. I loved the anticipation. I loved imagining the story that was being hinted at, even if those hints were all I would ever get. I loved experiencing story in a way that felt totally different from books or movies or any other media I interacted with, even when there wasn’t much story to speak of.

Loop Hero

I feel the same way when I play Loop Hero, an indie roguelike that mostly involves walking in circles. Story is not the emphasis of Loop Hero — it really only has smatterings of dialogue here and there — but it might be the part of the game that resonates with me the most. Every time I speak with a villager or encounter an enemy that has something to tell me, I feel like I’ve been transported back to a mostly forgotten past.

In Loop Hero, you see, the world has been destroyed. Mostly. There are only a handful of survivors that remain, and these survivors all struggle to remember the world as it should be. The new memories you make are almost impossible to carry with you, like air or fog. Loop Hero exists in a world where the hazy, barely-there stories from the games of my youth are the only thing that can exist.

The game that Loop Hero most reminds me of is the first roguelike I ever played, Castle of the Winds. At its start, Castle of the Winds only gives you enough story to send you on an adventure. Your family is killed and the hamlet you live in is destroyed, so you venture into a fortress seeking answers. Most of your time will be spent fighting enemies, and collecting loot, but it always feels like there’s something much deeper under the surface waiting to be unearthed. The promise of that discovery was enough to keep me coming back again and again, even in the face of constant death and failure.

Loop Hero

But while I find the little snippets of story in Loop Hero to be incredibly alluring, it’s the gameplay that has me addicted. Loop Hero is an auto-battler, which means starting a loop doesn’t require you to do much more than press start. As your character circles around again and again, the monsters in the loop will become more powerful, making it harder to keep your character alive if you just let the game play itself.

Thankfully, you have a few tools in your arsenal that help you keep up with the ever-rising monster threats. As you fight enemies, you’ll collect gear that you can use to give your character much-needed stat upgrades. Weapons and armor can be equipped at any time, even if you’re in the middle of a battle. Sometimes, an enemy dropping a powerful sword mid-fight is enough to save you from certain death.

The other tool you have at your disposal is a set of cards. Before you set out on a new expedition, you can build a deck that you’ll draw from during your loops. You can then place the cards you collect on the map, transforming it into a vibrant world that’s filled with greater threats and more enticing rewards.

Loop Hero

What I find particularly captivating about this aspect of Loop Hero is how much card placement matters. Placing one card next to another could create something else entirely. This can be simple — placing a Meadow next to something else creates a Blooming Meadow — but it can also be fairly complex.

For example, placing a Vampire Mansion card means that vampires will spawn on your map. Place it next to a Village and it will create a Ransacked Village, which spawns Ghouls. Survive for three more loops and it will turn into a Count’s Lands, which provides powerful healing benefits every time you walk through it. I’ve uncharacteristically refused to look anything up during my playthroughs, and I feel like I’m constantly making these kinds of discoveries.

Loop Hero also offers an occasional respite from its never-ending loops. At any time, you have the option to retreat and return to the camp you’ve made with other survivors. This is where you’ll encounter Loop Hero’s town-building elements. As you build new structures and enhance your existing ones, you’ll gain access to new cards, perks, and even brand-new classes to play.

Loop Hero

This aspect feels a little more modern than other elements of Loop Hero, but it helps give your constant loops a sense of purpose. When I head out on a new expedition, I’m not just looping for the sake of it (though I would probably do that too); I’m specifically venturing out to gather new materials so I can craft new structures, access new gameplay features, and meet more of the strange characters that make up Loop Hero‘s clouded world.

It didn’t take me long for me to realize that I was going to love Loop Hero, and I’ve only fallen deeper in love with the game with each subsequent loop. It’s an addictive little game that’s made up of contradictions. It’s familiar and nostalgic, but it feels like an incredibly fresh take on the roguelike genre. It will play itself in the background if you let it, but it’s also deeply strategic and surprisingly challenging.

At the time of writing, we’re just over halfway through 2021, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Loop Hero winds up being one of my most played games of the year. It’s a game that can be played in short bursts or for hours at a time, and it’s riveting enough to draw me in again and again.

Loop Hero isn’t a game for everyone, but if you do fall for this game of endless repetition, you can expect to fall hard.

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Fire man
1 year ago

I already played the demo and really loved it but I wanna hear your soothing voice agree with me as well. I also found this game one of the best and its concept, hats off to developers.

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