Developer: Four Quarters
Release Date: March 4, 2021
There’s nothing more likely to make me pass over a title altogether than finding out it’s the hot new “it game” that everyone is playing. Seriously. I might actually be allergic to hype. On the few occasions I’ve been unable to resist, it was either (a) something that had been on my radar for a long time prior to the hype train speeding out of control or (b) I’ve ended up at least somewhat disappointed in the experience, even when it’s a mostly satisfying one.
All this is to say that I probably wouldn’t have bought Loop Hero anytime soon. However, Epic gave it away back in December, and despite not actually playing much of anything via the Epic launcher, I’m pretty meticulous about grabbing my weekly freebie. I noticed that it was published within the project window to qualify for Just One Percent, so I figured I’d try it out.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell you I was not expecting to play for almost two hours without a break. In fact, I was initially leaning towards this being another Not For Me title. The world has ended, and somehow you are the intrepid hero that has figured out how to start rebuilding the world from the nothingness. I was relieved that it’s not truly a card game (although I can see why some people would say that), but more of a tile game – defeating a monster sometimes rewards you with things that you place on the map, each of which has different effects on game play, but it’s not really turn-based in the way that I was expecting.
It’s quirky enough that it makes short explanations difficult. Each time you go on an expedition, you’re presented with a map that’s a random loop. Initially, all the tiles save for the starting tile are identical, and you’re out there barehandedly slapping slime monsters to death. Each time you make a full loop, some of your health is restored by passing over the campfire tile, but the monsters get just a little bit stronger.
The player has no direct control over the character – fights happen automatically whenever enemies are encountered. The player’s role is restricted to equipping gear that you pick up, and re-building the loop and the world around it from the available tiles. While you can try to do both of these things while your character keeps moving around, you can also hit the spacebar at any time to toggle “planning” mode, which gives you unlimited time to consider your options. Once you place enough tiles, you will trigger a boss encounter. I have yet to actually be able to take down the boss, so I have no clue if he’s one of many or if that’s all it takes to win.
When you die (as you inevitably will, it is a rogue-lite after all), or you make the decision to retreat, you use resources collected during the previous expedition to do a bit of base building. Each upgrade you make to the campsite unlocks new mechanics; build a herbalist to get a handful of health potions which the game automatically uses when you reach a certain percentage health, for example. Base building progress (and materials that you actually manage to return to your camp) persist between expeditions, so you have some persistent progress.
I do feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface of figuring the game out. I’ve done expeditions where I build more slowly, which means I’m not getting enough upgrades to handle the monsters well once I have a few loops under my belt. I’ve done expeditions where I try to mainly drop beneficial tiles, but Loop Hero has a contingency plan for that – too many rocks or mountains placed (which increase your hit points) will lead to the spawning of goblin camps, and thus far, goblins are my least favorite thing to have to go up against, especially when the RNG of loot hasn’t been in my favor.
All in all, I like the way the pieces of Loop Hero fit together. It’s something I am likely to revisit, and am even considering re-purchasing on Steam because I think it’ll be a fantastic game to play on the Steam Deck when I finally get my hands on one. Maybe it’s because I went in with lower expectations relative to the hype this one received on release, but I liked it far more than I expected to.
Loop Hero is definitely an indie success story for 2021. SteamDB estimates that it has sold somewhere between 528,700 and a whopping 1,450,000 copies on Steam. With over 94% of reviewers giving it a thumbs up rating, it’s ranked 88 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.