EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Camrin Santchi
previewed on PC
Into the void
It can often be a difficult balance to achieve when a game attempts to bring back nostalgic gameplay, without any of the clunkiness that the original versions of those games. This is the case with Four Quarters’ Loop Hero, where gamers are cast into a retro-style game that exists in an all-consuming void. A being known as the Lich has turned the world into… basically nothingness, with the amount of things that still exist being far easier to list than those things that have been erased, including memory and time itself.
Loop Hero is built around expeditions, where the protagonist leaves a small camp and explores a randomized path. As he explores the path he engages in battle with foes and ‘remembers’ the environment around him little by little, which is simulated by a deck of cards that the player has to place carefully to get as many bonuses and as few disadvantages as possible. Some are placed directly next to the looping path, some far to the distance, and some on the path itself, and these can be anything from graveyards to mountains.
As gamers progress through Loop Hero, enemies get stronger and more numerous. Players can upgrade their base camp in order to acquire new cards that they can use to find new effects, creating a rogue-lite effect on a deck building game. It manages to merge all of these elements into something that feels definitively new and beautifully ironic considering the fact the entire game’s design is meant to bring homage to old point and clicks. This gives the game a timeless style, which is impressively ironic considering the whole point of the game being a world that itself is timeless and spaceless.
Pause and plan
One feature that really helps Loop Hero stand above the rest is one that is almost insanely simple: a pause button -specifically called a ‘Planning Phase'. When in this mode, the hero does not move and the game is frozen, allowing the player to plan out where they want to place cards, whether to switch their equipped gear, or even plan an end to the run if they feel it likely they would die in an upcoming battle.
Strategy even comes into play when at the base camp, players needing to decide where to place buildings in order to have the best effects. Fortunately it is easy to dismantle buildings in order to attempt to coordinate them, but the randomness on receiving the resources can be difficult, and sometimes it feels like no progress is made whatsoever, an unfortunate truth of infinitely sprawling games like Loop Hero.
The infinite sprawling of the loops can lead players to bucking patterns in order to see what works best. Because certain terrain cards have multiple effects based on which they are placed adjacent to, gamers may stick to the patterns that they have previously discovered (For example, enough rocks and mountains next to each other create a mountain peak). That, or they will try for seemingly random ideas that could lead to similar effects (Another example, any meadow will ‘bloom’ and be stronger if placed beside any terrain that isn’t another meadow). These are just two of the potential combinations that lead to each expedition feeling fresh rather than feeling dry or repetitive. This is good because repetition can be a problem in games that contain rogue-lite elements, if they feel too samey it can drag the entire game down.
Coming together nicely
In all Loop Hero is a satisfying game that manages to bring modern rogue-lite elements, deck building, and strategy all together in a retro package that is thankfully very polished. The game is lacking in anti-frustration features, though whether that is a pro or con is very dependent on the gamer. This game is set to release some time in 2021, so be on the lookout.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.