Loop Hero hits Steam today, a little indie gem that combines some different genre styles and mechanisms for a fairly compelling effect. While it’s a different sort of beast than many of today’s other deckbuilding roguelikes such as Slay the Spire or Monster Train, I’m guessing the same crowd is going to be rather enthralled with Loop Hero. Essentially, it combines deckbuilding, townbuilding, and… dungeon building. And idling. Yeah. You don’t control your hero at all. Instead, you make the major decisions that determine the hero’s future by creating a world around them, a loop that they’ll walk around until you either summon and defeat a boss or die.
Build too many obstacles and enemies to battle, and your poor champion finds themself overburdened and dead. Build too few, and you won’t be able to acquire the gear or experience needed to survive as the enemies grow stronger every loop. And throughout it all, you’re tasked with creating creative combinations by using the board space and special cards to assemble the best possible dungeon for your intrepid explorer to destroy.
The so-called “gameplay loop” of loop hero lets you take on the encounters with a variety of classes once you get going. With a warrior, a rogue, and necromancer, there are different loop templates to tackle that come with different modifiers. Of course, you’re not going to win every time. In fact you’re often going to lose and get sent back to your encampment with some collected resources to spend on permanent and powerful settlement upgrades, making this a roguelite instead of a roguelike for those who care about such designations. While in the loop, you’re constantly faced with a value proposition each time you complete a loop around the circuit – do you cash out with the full resources you’ve collected or do you press your luck and keep going? If you do end up dying, you’re only going to get to take home thirty percent of your haul, so knowing when to call it a day and head back with a full yield is another important skill that must be learned.
The most entertaining aspect of Loop Hero is constructing your loops for your daring adventurers to explore. There are many hidden combinations to discover that can alter the landscape. Building mountains can increase your character’s life points, but what if you stack a 3×3 grid full of them to build a towering peak? There’s a bonus for that, but it will also bring harpies to land occasionally on your loop, causing problems.
Perhaps you enjoy building forests for an attack speed bonus. Build too many, and a village of evil wooden training dummies will spawn that you hopefully have a Oblivion spell ready to destroy before you end up getting slaughtered by a stack of persnickety planks. On the same note, perhaps you could build a lightning temple off to the side, but with forests in your path – forests burn, you know, and it might alter their effects. The constant juggling of myriad locations and their various effects on the board state create a consistently enjoyable value proposition that’s a blast to grind and grind, even if you never actually have any real control over your champion’s attacks or defenses.
Just because you’re not controlling your character directly doesn’t mean you’re not making choices. Crushing legions of foes gives experience points that you can use to level up, selecting from three different choices each level that you can use with gear and carefully selected map effects to create potent builds. There are also “gold cards” you can unlock and pick one of to use each run which can completely change the way you approach a challenge. For instance, one gold card removes your armor HP bonus (which is significant!) but gives you more maximum hit points every time you kill a creature with a soul. You’re going to take that into account when you build your deck, because you’re not going to want to stick a bunch of soulless foes in there, and you’re going to want to try to shoot for numerous, weaker living creatures in order to take advantage of the bonus. On the surface, this may seem incredibly obvious, and it is – things get interesting when you’re making many of these macro and micro decisions, weaving them together, and watching how it all plays out.
Loop Hero has interesting and intriguing mysteries to dive into with a strategy RPG deckbuilding roguelike experience where you craft your own perils and then overcome them. Loop Hero is available on Steam today, but I hope it comes to other platforms as well.