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‘Loop Hero’ Review: A Roguelike That Steals Time Like Never Before

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‘Loop Hero’ Review: A Roguelike That Steals Time Like Never Before

For those of you looking for the next outrageously addictive indie game, you're in luck. Loop Hero is the time-stealing sensation that will have PC gamers going round and round until the numbers on your clock lose all meaning. However, before we go into what makes it so damn playable, there's a caution I need to impress upon you.

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Simply put, Loop Hero is not for everyone. The 'Loop' part of the title conveys a self-aware admission of its repetitive gameplay, present in arguably all games in the roguelike genre. While that's great for fans of this category, for those who don't favour endless cycles, it's a warning best not ignored. Still interested? Then read on.

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The visuals look almost like they could be from an old 8-bit game, and this crude art style married with the gloomy, dark environment produces an intense melancholy. The world of Loop Hero is not pretty, and it doesn't want to be. No matter how much you jazz it up by adding structures to your camp, or by populating the procedurally generated map you endlessly tread in each loop, the atmosphere remains despairingly drab. Frankly, it's amazing how intensely desolate it all is.

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The retro vibe of Loop Hero is compounded by a soundtrack which also harks back to the 8-bit era, with sombre chiptune tones matching the dismal on-screen imagery. The musical accompaniment is excellent, ranging from fiercely atmospheric to action-packed, all looping perfectly (pun intended).

Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital
Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital

Now, the gameplay is the part that really stands out. Loop Hero consists of two main sections: Camp and Expedition. The former lets you interact with friendly NPCs, build structures like a refuge or a smithy, unlock new perks and abilities, and generally expand your experience of the game. The bulk of the game, though, is in the Expedition part.

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This is where your titular hero faces the titular loop (or the most apparent one, anyway). Your character journeys around the map, autonomously battling against any and all enemies that dare stand in your way. That's right, you don't control your hero during gameplay, at least not directly. Instead, your role is as tactician, picking which weapons and armour to equip as you traverse the grim realm within Loop Hero.

Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital
Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital

Basically, at any time when you're not in a skirmish, you can enter the planning stage, which pauses your character's progress while you make any changes you like. This isn't just in terms of what your character wields. You're also directly responsible for much of the scenery, resources and places of interest around the map. You do this by using cards, which are collected by vanquishing foes.

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These cards let you summon environments like meadows, which grant rations to collect and use back at camp. These meadows also partially restore health at the beginning of each loop. Another available card is the graveyard, which summons skeleton enemies to fight on your journeys. "Why summon enemies?" you may ask. Well, you need enemies to overcome if you want to unlock loot, and more enemies equals more loot. So you see, it's got to be done.

Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital
Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital

It's at this point I'd like to address the way Loop Hero makes time seemingly vanish in the blink of an eye. No joke, I lost hours in what felt like minutes. How does Loop Hero do this? Well, I don't really know. What I do know, is I felt kind of hollow at the end of each session. My whole evening would go by and I'd feel as though I had nothing to show for it. When compared to fellow roguelike game Hades, which rarely feels like a session was without value, Loop Hero is a draining experience that doesn't reward commensurately with the investment required.

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Take Dead Cells or Risk of Rain. These games invite you to take a breather between runs, at least when you've made progress. But Loop Hero? There's no finality to a session. Even when you unlock the rogue class, or triumph over a boss, you're left needing more. If I was to guess why this game goes by in the blink of an eye, I'd attribute it to the lack of satisfaction. Like any addiction, the trick here is never giving you what you want, but maybe that's why this game will likely be voted 'PC Game of the Year' later down the line. I mean, who doesn't love a game that keeps you playing long into the night?

Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital
Loop Hero / Credit: Devolver Digital

Loop Hero is exceptional at what it does. It's an addictive game that steals your free time with the same ease as only Minecraft can match. It's perfect for some, but for others it can be a dissatisfying experience as it never feels like you've achieved anything until it's actually over. No little win feels worth it. If you're into roguelikes then this is potentially a great game for you, but it's not for everyone.

Pros: Retro aesthetic, great soundtrack, sessions can easily last hours

Cons: Very repetitive, can leave you feeling unsatisfied

For fans of: Hades, Dead Cells, Risk of Rain

6/10: Good

Loop Hero was played on Steam with code provided by Devolver Digital. Loop Hero is out now for PC.
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Featured Image Credit: Devolver Digital

Topics: Review, Steam, PC, Devolver Digital, Indie Games

James Daly
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