Every Day Is Exactly The Same
HIGH Finding out mountains magically interact when placed near each other…
LOW … only to find out they spawn a new strong enemy.
WTF Having full health when facing the final boss would be nice!
Memory is a fickle thing. Even an event as unforgettably catastrophic as the end of the world may be remembered differently by its survivors. Such is the case in Loop Hero, whose protagonist lost his memory after an apocalypse and is now stuck trying to piece together what little he can recall.
Four Quarters studio designed this experience by crossbreeding diverse genres like Tower Defense, RPG, Deckbuilder and Roguelite. Loop Hero’s visual style follows suit with a unique mix of 8-bit and 16-bit graphics, ending up not reductively ‘old school’ but uniquely so. It feels like experiencing an hodgepodge of early ’80s computer RPGs with portraits and battles out of a classic NES roleplayer.
Loop Hero deconstructs the basic tasks of exploration and fighting, and leaves the player occupied with orchestrating the details of the world where the main character is walking (or rather, looping.) The character auto-battles monsters he encounters around the ‘loop’ while the player keeps him well-equipped and builds up the environment — a role not altogether removed from that of a Dungeon Master in traditional pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs.
Every element in the map interacts with another — many times in unexpected ways — and effects must be balanced between positive and negative. In Loop Hero even a standard move like equipping a sword has consequences, since the previous weapon will disappear. With each choice, the player might end up gaining something (like a resource to be used in the camp or a health bonus) but lose something else.
With each loop being randomly generated, the player will have to make sure to strategically place resources and locations around the path, so as to avoid saturating it with too many building-spawning enemies, while also providing enough opportunities to collect loot. Completing a loop restores some health and also operates as the clock, which regulates enemies and resource spawning. Death (or early retirement) sends the player back to their camp, ready for another expedition on an entirely new loop.
Defeated enemies may drop equipment or cards, which are then used to further redesign the map and spawn resources to be brought back to a camp where the other survivors await. Unlocking new buildings at the camp gives the player access to new classes of characters, weapons and bonuses, along with features such as experience points. Once the final boss — who appears after enough tiles have been placed around the map — has been vanquished, further stages are unlocked.
The repetitive and apparently-casual nature of the semi-automated gameplay seems tailor-made to create addiction in the player, who will likely want to burn through levels as quickly as possible in order to unlock new classes and things to experiment with, but Loop Hero’s design doesn’t allow for rushing. Instead, one will have to wait for the character to slowly build up resources in order to “remember” new things at the camp — an apt comparison for slowly rebuilding up one’s memory and abilities after experiencing trauma.
While Four Quarters’ title operates under the trappings of casual gaming, I’d say that Loop Hero works for quick sessions, and also as a more dedicated experience that might keep one up for long hours into the night. It cherrypicks the right elements from each of the genres it takes inspiration from, and gives back a completely fresh experience with oldschool appeal.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Four Quarters and published by Devolver Digital. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB, but it contains moderate violence and mild horror with enemies like vampires and spiders. Even though I wouldn’t consider it more violent or scarier than an average RPG, I still would recommend it to a teen audience.
Colorblind Modes: Typing ‘forbianca’ at the title screen will toggle a high visibility cursor mode. It is possible to toggle some of the aesthetic choices to improve readability and enable dyslexic friendly fonts.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not feature spoken dialogue, nor are audio cues used to communicate enemies’ attacks. Text cannot be altered or resized. In my view, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game is controlled via the mouse with some additional keyboard shortcutes, it is not possible to remap the controls.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).