While maybe not being the most visually stunning, mechanically dense or narratively strong games of the year, Loop Hero proves that presentation is often just a single aspect to making an excellent game. What often wins at the end of the day is depth, originality and a tight design that withstands the test of time and tedium. It's certainly not a game for everyone but I have every confidence that Loop Hero will appeal to an audience that will play it to death and maybe pick up a few unexpected fans along the way.
It’s difficult to describe what sort of game Loop Hero actually is.
After having sunk plenty of hours into it, so much so that it consumed a portion of a week in a way I never expected, I know what it’s about and how it all works. Yet to actually describe it… that’s a different story altogether.
From the outset, it’s not a game that presents itself in the most approachable manner as it pulls on genres that are notorious for their complexity and inaccessibility. One would think the final product would be a mess of conflicting ideas. One would most certainly be wrong.
I’ll try and explain exactly what Loop Hero is in a second but before I struggle to turn experience into written word, you should know this game is good. Very good, in fact. All you need to do is open your mind to what it’s asking of you and you’ll be provided with several hours of engaged satisfaction. It’s also a great game to play while listening to podcasts, so that instantly nets it a few extra points in my book.
So… what is Loop Hero?
In Loop Hero you’re rebuilding the universe. A dark force, some kind of almighty Lich, has begun disassembling the universe and your hero is the only person who can remember how it was and rebuild it.
The only way to go about this is by treading through a wasteland, slaying foes in battles that gain you strength and loot.. As you slay these beasts, they’ll drop “cards” that can be spent to reconstruct the vanished world with each card’s placement providing the hero with further benefits.
Once you’ve completed a few loops of the wasteland (that’s the name of the game, you see) you’ll need to take what you’ve discovered and slay a boss. Or you can retreat to your camp and begin building up a refuge for your fellow survivors; there’s long term benefits to doing this, so it’s worth the trouble and investment. Oh, and if you die you start you lose a load of your materials and start you next loop from scratch, bare some of your permanent upgrades.
I know. It’s a lot.
It’s also intimidating when you first open the game and get stuck in. While the tutorial moves at such a pace as to ensure players are kept in the loop (lol), it also goes into enough detail that despite the complexity of it all, you’ll know what’s going on in a few minutes. It’s a testament to this game’s design that it’s not only able to take all these disparate systems and unite them into a single, satisfying package but that the whole thing is both easy to understand and difficult to master. One of those low skill floors but high skill ceilings kinda deals.
Let’s do the time loop again
I know, it sounds like it could become rather tedious doing the same thing over and over again but Loop Hero does an excellent job of keeping the player invested with plenty of unlocks and progression hooks that are consistently rewarding. Sure, you might be running the loop over and over again but there the variation in player classes, environment cards, equipment and resources to drag back to your village means that there’s always a reason to go again.
Be warned though, this is not a game to play if you’re looking for explosive action. Because most of the game’s action is down to an automatic system, you have very little say when it comes to actually battling enemies. Your actions will focus on what essentially amounts to managing menus which sounds more boring than it is. That gradual, satisfying power growth is still present in Loop Hero but it’s never made all that tangible. It’s not necessarily a flaw but certainly something I can see a lot of people turning their nose up at.
The other actual piece of criticism that can be levelled at Loop Hero is that the game is bottom-heavy with it’s content. It can take a long time to build up enough resources to build even the most basic of structures and while it’s rewarding to eventually reach those milestones it often feels like the time investment to reach that point is too steep. It takes a while to reach a stage where it feels like significant progress has been made in the game which can remove some of the enjoyment in finally unlocking that Smithy or the Cemetery; the satisfaction is rather just relief that you finally go there.
This problem with time also extends to how long it takes the hero to run a loop. Initial stages of a run can often drag as you don’t have the stats to decimate foes. While the game does offer a means to speed up time, it’s not a significant boost which also doesn’t apply to battles. It can feel drawn out and makes starting a new run somewhat tiresome.
Yet in the same vein Loop Hero is a game that reward that becomes more interesting and rewarding the longer you spend with it. Like Energade, it’s what you put in and if you’re willing to meet the game halfway then you’ll no doubt be provided with one of the most surprisingly entertaining games of the year so far. Just don’t give up it. Perseverance is the key to a good time. That’s what they say, right?
Loop Hero Verdict
While maybe not being the most visually stunning, mechanically dense or narratively strong games of the year, Loop Hero proves that presentation is often just a single aspect to making an excellent game. What often wins at the end of the day is depth, originality and a tight design that withstands the test of time and tedium. It’s certainly not a game for everyone but I have every confidence that Loop Hero will appeal to an audience that will play it to death and maybe pick up a few unexpected fans along the way.