Under normal circumstances, Loop Hero is the type of game I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole; it’s randomized, it’s devious, and its main hook is a trial-and-error gameplay loop. Don’t mistake my ambivalence as a slight against the game; as I’ve got older and my time has become much more finite, I tend to lean into those titles that keep their progress constant so that I can see the end more quickly.
So how is it that a game that I would typically avoid has suddenly grabbed me in earnest? The answer is that it takes the weight of decision out of being the hero, and instead makes me a passive but interested dungeon master.
Loop Hero doesn’t put you in charge of the wandering hero. Instead it casts you as an active observer. You’ll watch the little hero man slowly plod around a literal loop, as he aims to make it all the way around back to his cozy campfire at the start. As he adventures forth, he’ll run into enemy encounters and you just… watch. It’s all a numbers game from here on out, in which the hero’s stats are compared to those of his foes, and the battle unfolds automatically as you peer on anxiously. As he trudges on and wins skirmishes, you can snaffle his winnings and litter his path with things to do. Much like a collectable trading card game, you’re given a random assortment of options that you have to carefully parcel out. You have to straddle that line between making it challenging enough that the hero gives you better cards and loot, while not overdoing it to the point where he’ll perish before making it back to camp.
Loop Hero is a game that is best enjoyed in small spurts rather than marathon sessions. It’s also at its best when you get more experimental with it rather than trying to min/max the damn thing by looking up all the secrets online. The sense of discovery and realization is just as big a part of it all as the systems and intermittent lore. Loop Hero makes for a great watercooler game, in which you trade stories and tips that come from revelations and mistakes as you plunge headlong into each successive loop. If nothing else, you’ll learn something new even in failure, which you’ll take with you to provide an advantage in the next go around. It’s designed in such a way that the sense of loss you’d get under regular circumstances in a rogue-like is dulled, because retracing your path doesn’t feel like a monumental task.
I’ve been playing Loop Hero regularly for about a month and, full disclosure, I haven’t seen it through to the end yet. I will get there, but it’s worth pointing out that even when I get there, my impression of Loop Hero won’t have changed – it is a marvelously experiential game that surprises with its little details and touches. Even when I do ‘roll the credits’, I can see myself going back, because it is so endearing to make up your own story on the go.
Loop Hero was developed by Four Quarters and publisher by Devolver Digital, and it’s available on PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Loop Hero was provided by Indigo Pearl. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.