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Monday, September 20, 2021

Loop Hero combines deck-building and roguelike games into an addictive masterpiece

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I’ve recently started playing Loop Hero by Four Quarters Digital, and I can’t recommend it enough.

The game is an impressive mix of genres, but the real magic is just how perfectly balanced the risk/reward mechanics are. But before I get into that, I’ll explain how the roguelike game works. For those who are unaware, roguelikes are a subgenre of role-playing games that often feature procedurally generated environments and permanent character death.

The goal of Loop Hero is to last as long as possible as your character loops around a randomly shaped track. You can either set out on the loop to gather resources or fight the boss.

However, instead of directly controlling the character as you do in most games, you build out the world around it and equip your avatar with gear to set yourself up for success. As you traverse around the loop, you fight enemies that unlock card tiles you can add to the map and gear/weapons you can equip to your character.

The cards range from enemy spawns like a ‘Vampire Mansion’ to helpful cards like a ‘Meadow’ that rewards you with HP every day. The cool thing is that you can place these tiles down beside other items on the map to get even more bonuses without knowing it. For example, my favourite combo is placing a Vampire Mansion beside a ‘Village.’ The Village is usually a healing item, but if it’s beside a Vampire card then it will spawn Ghouls for three loops before upgrading into the ‘Count’s Land,’ which heals you twice as much as a basic Village.

There are lots of hidden card combos that lend Loop Hero a gratifying sense of discovery. Plus, once you figure out new ways to combine cards, you can get a nice edge for your next run around the loop.

Beyond that, the game’s story is also tied into the game mechanics, much like the critically acclaimed Hades from last year. In Loop Hero, the world has been erased and no one has any memory of what happened before. As you play, you’ll unlock a camp that you can upgrade with resources you gather in each loop. This also ties into the risk/reward aspect of the game. Retreating to camp on the ‘Campfire tile’ lets you keep all of the things you’ve collected in that mission. Retreating on any other tile only allows you to keep 60 percent of your goods, and when you die mid-loop, you can only keep 30 percent.

The resources and the camp are also vital to unlocking power-ups and new cards to help you on your quest, which, ultimately, is to beat three bosses. Each boss appears after you place down a certain amount of cards, yet another mechanic lends itself to the game’s risk/reward balancing act.

There’s more to unlock, including new character classes, tons of cards and buildings, but I won’t go too much into that since a big part of the game is discovering it for yourself.

My only gripe with Loop Hero is that it’s only available on Mac and PC and not mobile or Switch, where I think it would really shine. That said, the game is really lightweight and only required 200MB of space, so you could even run it on an old laptop, making it semi-portable. For instance, I’ve been running it on an older 2016 MacBook Pro, and it plays without issues.

You can buy Loop Hero on Steam, the Epic Games Store, GOG and the Humble Store for $17.50 CAD.

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