It’s easy to ignore a game based on how it looks, and if you glance over the screenshots for Loop Hero, you’ll instantly notice how much it resembles the Commodore 64 era. Dig it a little deeper, though, and you find that Four Quarters has actually made something with so much depth and strategy that’s capable of swallowing up hours upon hours of your time. It manages to blend the rogue-like and deck building genre perfectly, with no two runs the same, and a satisfying gameplay loop that’ll pull you into its wonderful world of risk and reward.
In Loop Hero, you automatically travel around a continuous path fighting green blobs. This is the beginning of every expedition, but as you kill them, you’ll begin to unlock cards that can be placed either on the path itself, or on the surrounding area. By doing this, new types of enemies will spawn, buffs and abilities will be applied to your character, and the underlying story of Loop Hero will begin to unravel. All you know going in is that a Lich has sent the world spiralling into chaos, and the unnamed hero must begin to remember what has happened. It feels like a mix of Dungeons and Dragons and Dark Souls, and every time a new card becomes available or you fight an enemy that hasn’t been fought before, you become rather invested in its world.
Perhaps the most refreshing element of Loop Hero is its gameplay. You don’t control your hero as they move around the loop automatically. You can pause their journey to place cards on the map or swap out equipment, then hit play to see how your changes effect the hero. It’s very user-friendly, and adds an almost relaxing feel to a game about hellish beings, monsters, and impending death. It also makes you feel that you’re in control of someone else’s story, much like a dungeon master in a game of D&D; something I spend a considerable amount of time doing in the real world.
What makes the gameplay loop so addictive is how every card plays a role. By laying mountains down, you’ll increase your HP, or by placing a vampire mansion, grove, or cemetery, you’ll begin to spawn harder enemies that’ll drop better loot. There are plenty of combinations of cards that bring about some new cards or surprise enemies, meaning you’re constantly learning the more you play. With almost every successful battle, you’ll acquire new equipment. Making sure you place enough of these locations means a new sword or shield will drop with better stats, but you don’t want to crowd your journey with too many at the risk of being overwhelmed by foes to face.
There are other cards you can drop on the map such as Lighthouses that speed up player movement, and placing a lantern on one of the tiles adjacent to the path will reduce the amount of enemies that spawn there. There’s a great deal of risk and reward at play in Loop Hero that makes every expedition different from the last. As you begin to flesh out the map, your hero will face everything from goblins to harpies, and if you manage to survive and expedition by filling out the entire map, a boss will spawn which you’ll have to battle. Every fight you take part in and every card you lay down provides you with basic materials such as wood and metal that can be used to build your camp, and by expanding your settlement, new abilities will become available.
Your campsite is your safe place, and you can choose to return there whenever you like, but doing will ‘reset’ the expedition. Loop Hero is all about learning as you play, and even though it might take five or six hours until you fight your first boss, making sure your camp has certain areas unlocked such as the smithy (grants you basic equipment every time you start a new expedition) or the gymnasium (unlocks special traits after defeating monsters) improves every trip out into the evil and unforgiving world. As you spend more time upgrading your camp, you’ll unlock the XP feature, and encyclopaedia of monsters, and so much more, as well as brand new cards to place on the map.
Loop Hero is a dense and dangerous adventure that puts you in full control of everything. Before every journey, you can build your deck of cards you intend to place on the map, choose your class after unlocking more than just the warrior, with every choice you make affecting the hero’s journey. Whilst it may be difficult to learn everything the game throws at you, a little patience and planning will go a long way in getting the most out of Four Quarters’ smart and unique game. The story is engaging, and being drip fed every nugget of information about the world, along with new characters you meet and enemies you face provides one hell of a game.
Satisfying gameplay loop
Interesting and unique design
Plenty of options at your disposal
A lot to learn