What happens when the resident God gets tired of dealing with their pack of ungrateful humans? Nothing good that’s for sure! In Loop Hero from Four Quarters, this disgruntled deity just up and erased the whole world… save one lowly hero who has the uncanny ability to bring the world back from oblivion just by recalling and surviving his memories. A skill like that is going to draw some attention and oh do the lord’s lackeys come rolling in to rain fire on his behalf. So let’s see if we can’t lord over this loop ourselves shall we?
I’ll admit that my first brush with Loop Hero a few years ago left me uninterested due to the overly simple graphical style of the gameplay. I walked away from the trailer and proceeded to wipe it from my mind until I saw it was available on GamePass recently. Having broadened my horizons since that time has taught me that judging a book by its cover will leave you with some unfortunate missed opportunities, and of course hearing Loop Hero’s praise being sung all over the internet helped as well, but here we are a few weeks later and fully on board with all things Loop Hero. Obsessed and ready to start a new circuit, and then another, and then another…
Loop Hero comes with a laundry of category titles like RPG, roguelike, strategy, deck builder, etc. And it’s certainly all of those things in one creatively executed little package. I will say that roguelike is a bit misleading though and roguelite might be more appropriate in this situation. That’s because in Loop Hero, while death can most certainly be a progress halting punishment, all you really lose is some materials. Nothing really gets “reset” other than your expedition loop. In turn, you get to keep everything else you’ve unlocked or gained without consequence. Not a bad thing by any means, but roguelike implies a much more devastating loss than what you’ll find playing this game.
That being said there are still a ton of moving parts to take into consideration, and miraculously they all seem to work seamlessly together. The choices you make, the strategies you employ, and of course a heavy dose of luck will be what determines a good run from a bad one. There are three character classes to choose from, soldier, rogue, and necromancer, and each one truly requires a unique approach if you want to hit those milestones. On top of that you’ll also need to assemble a deck of cards for your expedition. Which ones you choose to include or not however, will determine what types of enemies you’ll encounter, what resources will spawn, and what kinds of helping hands you’ll find along your path.
When you aren’t out crushing baddies you’ll spend time back at your base camp. Lots of new people are showing up and they all want to help you succeed. You’ll need to build them job specific buildings, housing and storage. You’ll also be bringing things like rivers and forests back into the world and all of those things cost resources. Lots and lots of resources. That’s where a successful run really comes in clutch. If you beat the chapter boss or leave from your campfire you can take everything you’ve acquired so far back to camp with you. If you leave mid loop you’ll only get to take about 60% of your loot back. And if you die you can say goodbye to a solid 70% of all those hard earned resources! Now, there are ways around losing so much thankfully but you’re going to need to kick some boss butt first!
Now as with any rogue-type game the risk/reward mechanic plays a huge part. And Loop Hero uses it judiciously! Can I survive one more loop? Is it worth it to shirk a bit of defense to raise up another stat? Can I handle more enemies? Should I hand my villages over to the vampires in exchange for better healing and quests? It’s 2 am, should I go to bed or do one more loop!? All tough choices to make! And all are really a part of my one and only complaint.
There are so many moving parts, so many upgrades to make, and things to unlock, that the grind can definitely get the better of you and at times can make you hit a plateau with your progress. Sure, you can play it safe and put down a bare minimum of enemies during your expedition but that means less valuable resources to bring back with you. You could also not take the risk of one more loop or fighting the boss, but again that means less loot. On the other hand, you can brave the penultimate battle or one more trek around the course and bring home a butt ton of stuff… or die and lose even more of your goods. It’s easy to get yourself into a place where you feel like you’re moving in tiny imperceivable increments, and honestly I think any game of this type presents this danger, so Loop hero isn’t any different in that regard. However, Loop Hero at least offers you an occasional (earned) reprieve from devastating loss where you can spend skull tokens earned from bosses that no matter how you’re leaving the loop will allow you to take everything with you. It’s up to you to use them wisely though!
What I think is most impressive about Loop Hero is that despite your struggles or setbacks, you’re continuously motivated to push forward and keep trying. That’s because the game is artfully designed to drip feed you rewards each time you make even the smallest amount of progress. Whether its access to a new card, perks from a new supply, benefits from a new building, or getting one step closer to figuring out what’s going on in its mysterious narrative. Loop Hero’s “carrot on a stick” game is strong, and I more than appreciate that. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that being able to listen to its fantastic soundtrack is enough to make you want to try one more loop.
Loop Hero is one of those games that though seemingly simplistic ends up all coming together in an addictively complex way. Story, art, mechanics, and music (the soundtrack is SO good) all work together like a well oiled machine that will have you coming back for more time and time again, even if you’ve just gotten your butt handed to you for the 10th time! Two deity defying thumbs UP!