'Loop Hero' Is the Most Addictive Game I've Ever Not Played

Being stuck in a rut has rarely been this entertaining

Key Takeaways

  • Loop Hero is easy to pick up, but becomes an obsession shortly afterward.
  • The difficulty curve is steep early on, but you're rewarded for even your most humiliating losses.
  • Its English translation could've used a little more time in the oven.
The cover art for the 'Loop Hero' video game.
Devolver Digital

I almost blew my deadline for this article about my experience with Loop Hero because I've spent most of the past two days playing the game. I feel like that tells you most of what you’d want to know.

Loop Hero is a pixel-art genre-bender that combines elements from RPGs, roguelikes, auto-battlers, card games, and real-time strategy games. You're put in charge of a single adventurer with no weapons and a death wish, and are challenged with building up both him and the dungeon simultaneously, without making the dungeon too difficult for him to survive.

It's more complicated than it sounds. You die a lot in Loop Hero, but somehow, it's rarely frustrating. Even when I'd lost an initially promising run-through in what amounted to pure bad luck, it was easy to dust myself off and just try again. And again. And then it was 3 in the morning.

"I have not been able to play Loop Hero for less than two hours at a stretch."

Vicious Cycle

You start each round of Loop Hero in an empty map, with a few hostile slimes for company. You don't actually control your adventurer directly. Instead, he gets dropped into a random tile on the map and immediately starts rushing forward, fighting anything that gets in his way.

Defeating enemies earns you cards, which you can play to transform parts of the map into new locations, such as forests, graveyards, mountains, or meadows. These can provide many useful active and passive effects, like health bonuses or extra resources. They also slowly end up making the map more dangerous for your adventurer by throwing more monsters onto it.

A screenshot from a dungeon in 'Loop Hero.'

You're asked to keep a lot of plates spinning in Loop Hero, between the dangers of the map, the passage of time, your adventurer's health, the state of his equipment, and a gradually introduced suite of other mechanics, such as experience points. You can pause at any time for easy micromanagement, though, so it rarely becomes too much to handle.

It sounds complicated, and it is, but I'm genuinely impressed by how well Loop Hero manages to teach a user how to play it. While its translation into English isn’t perfect—the developers are from Russia, which also explains the game's pitch-black sense of humor—Loop Hero has one of the great all-time tutorials. I went from having no idea what I was in for to feeling entirely at ease with the game's systems in about five minutes. Given that this is about six games messily slapped together, that's amazing.

Just One More Turn

Loop Hero is set up to respect your time. Your overall goal in any given map is to gather resources, which can be used at your home base to construct useful facilities. Even if you die, you keep 20% of what you've collected; if you retreat, you can keep 60%.

In theory, that means the game's split into discrete, easily digestible chunks. You can easily bust into a map, set it up for low-impact resource farming, and make good progress in no time at all.

Screenshot of an Expedition Menu in 'Loop Hero.'

However, I have not successfully tested this theory, as I have not been able to play Loop Hero for less than two hours at a stretch. It's in the same company as games like Slay the Spire, where it constantly tempts me to run just one more map, with a different deck of cards, under slightly different conditions, and so on. Loop Hero might not have been explicitly named after "compulsion loops," but it wouldn't surprise me if it was.

It does have a few rough edges. A few of the tooltips don't make a lot of sense (like the Surveyor trait). Some of the cards have hidden interactions with one another. And in the best roguelike tradition, the difference between a successful run and a failure can come down to pure bad luck. It's the old XCOM problem, where "75% chance to dodge" actually means "get hit nine times in a row and die.” Sometimes, the computer just decides to hate you.

For $15, though, this is one of the best deals so far this year. Loop Hero is addictive, challenging, and unique, with a bizarre premise, a long learning curve, and a multi-genre construction that can pull in fans from all over the hobby. It's well worth a look.

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