Loop Hero is an indie game with an excellent “ 8-bit grime ” artistic aesthetic with a neat concept: instead of directly controlling your aforementioned hero, you send them on a “ loop ” to automatically fight enemies, within you. stopping only to swap gear or add environmental tiles to complicate the circuit.
Because Loop Hero is a rogue type game, these environmental tiles are given to you randomly – you can’t plan exactly what’s going to happen, and every time you start a new loop the map will end up looking very different. This also plays into the principle of the game: the amnesic protagonist wakes up in an empty world and begins to piece together what happened – literally – one card tile at a time.
This interplay between gameplay and storytelling makes Loop Hero compelling after the jump, and after your initial “ death ” ends your first run, you wake up to a campfire – your home between races, a border settlement in slowly expanding in the midst of cosmic nothingness to withdraw. after venturing in search of answers. Cherish that initial hour as the game gives you intriguing remnants of what happened to the world and how remnants of its past affect its future.
This is where things are heading south. Around the hour three or four, all this captivating fun stops. Game bottlenecks progress through the construction of a few buildings that require an arbitrarily high amount of resources to build. If you’re an MMO veteran, you know what’s coming: it’s time, baby. For hours and hours.
This transition is so abrupt that I felt a tonal boost as the story-rich gameplay faded into an unchanging gameplay loop of sending my hero to another run and zoning until things were right. become dangerous for the fourth or fifth circuit. You can exit a race when you reach the campfire tile and keep any resources you find, or cautiously, bond mid-loop for 60% of your catch. Die enough in battle, reducing your ratio to 30% of all you’ve gathered, and you’ll likely start dodging loops early on to reduce your potential casualties.
Sure, you’ll be able to unlock a handful of new environment tiles and even another class or two after five or six hours, but the novelty of the interactions fades into uniformity as you research a mismatch of different resources. .
Hi-ho, hi-ho …
To a certain extent, all of this is built into the design of Loop Hero: without much direction players have to experiment to progress in the game. Combine the tiles in new ways and maybe they will produce something unique. – a new environment or a monster that adds another small piece to the puzzle of what happened to this world. In a game designed to start off as an information void, discovering new ways to play fills the narrative and sets your direction.
It’s just a shame that the pace slows down to an absolute crawl after the first few hours.
Loop Hero isn’t the first game to fuel player story and mechanics as they play, but the balance seems quickly weighed towards discovery via attrition: even when I enthusiastically find new player interactions. tiles, it just results in a new enemy to fight, This is no way around the hundreds of resources that I will have to grind to build a new building in my border village.
And no, that’s not an exaggeration – you’ll need hundreds of bits of resource to get anywhere. Unfortunately, each enemy only drops 1-2 shards of a certain resource, and 10-20 shards combine into a full resource unit. This means that even basic structures may require multiple sets of resources to assemble: an early game building like a farm, for example, needs 5 wood orbs, 5 stones, 3 metals, and 2 transfiguration orbs.
If it takes 13 Scrap Metal Shards to make a unit of metal, think about how long it takes to collect 18 whole units of metal, as some later buildings require – and that’s for the base resources that drop out. common enemies. Other, more esoteric resources require much more complicated circumstances to be abandoned.
Unfortunately, players will also get bogged down in the details of the resource grind rather than having the opportunity to explore the exciting implications of all this drip-fueled lore. One of the first things you find out is that there are vampires in the game! And they imply that they formed integral (albeit parasitic) parts of human society before this reality-erasing calamity! Every new creature you speak to and every human added to your border town and even the item you pick up contributes a fascinating array of fragments of the world trying to restore normalcy. (Relatable, right?)
And yet those intriguing possibilities diminish in the rearview mirror and the grind of resources becomes the game, which begins to feel harmful like the games that usually advance the progression behind an excessive accumulation of resources: paid mobile games. Except in Loop Hero, what you pay for is time and stamina, and the fading hope that this new world has even more to offer than settling for the same chores to spend your hard-earned winnings on. an inch of progress.