Loop Hero is a fine new addition to the Game Pass library, bringing another popular Devolver release to Xbox at last. We dived in for a few laps of this unique fantasy roguelite to see if Four Quarters’ game was worth the wait.
It begins with nothing. Then, from the void, a path — winding, barren, endless, and with only a single tattered campsite to punctuate our mysterious hero’s infinite trudge. The only company they find here is a never-ending procession of amorphous slime creatures, slipping in through the fractures of a world destroyed as remnants of what this strange place may once have been… and may yet be again. Out of nowhere, a treeline comes into view around the bend — not just a welcome new landmark, but an opportunity to gather wood, should whatever is making those ghastly howls see fit to let anyone leave the woods with both the supplies and their life. The trees part to reveal the outline of another new sight, a cemetery that drags forth the dead from their slumber into whatever this accursed place is. With snowballing pace, more and more locations replace the loop’s cold nothingness. A small village offers a chance to take a breather amid the confusion; mountains and fields pierce the fog in the distance, their normality lending comfort; a creepy manor rises from the side of the trail, spewing forth sinister figures to join the fray on the endless path… wait, are vampires real? Or are folklore and superstition merging with fact and reality as we reshape this destroyed world? Who is to say, but one thing is for sure — this, all of this, is your doing.
In Loop Hero, “one more lap” is never enough
Loop Hero is a fascinating and truly captivating game where you effectively control the world, not the hero. To do this, you need to assemble a deck, of sorts. It’s more a mystical Carcassonne tile bag than a true deck, since you’re able to draw into multiple copies at a time, just with rarer tiles less likely to hit your hand than the basic ones. These tiles come in three flavours, with minimum counts for each to make sure you have the tools to create a living loop — one set must be placed on the path, another directly beside it, while landscape and a few special sites must be placed away from the loop. The first lot actively alter what form the path takes when played on a square, changing it to a swampy trail, a graveyard footpath, a forest clearing, or whatever else, each offering resources usable to upgrade the base tile between runs, while also spitting out themed threats intermittently for our bold hero to face. Roadside tiles serve more as modifiers, which can be anything from lanterns to help keep beasts at bay to an ancient battlefield that lets the hero reap the spoils of a war that may or may not have happened. Landscape pieces, meanwhile, are typically environmental elements like hills, forests, and rocks, each with their own minor benefits that quickly grow pretty substantial given that with mundanity comes abundance.
So far, so simple, but the real fun begins when you start to learn how tile effects can be combined. We’ll leave most of these for you to discover as experimentation is all part of the fun, but there’s an obvious early example that serves well to explain what we mean here. Rocks and mountains offer the hero slight boosts to maximum HP when placed, with the effect enhanced when placed adjacent to other rocky tiles. Naturally, this encourages you to clump most of these together to create a sprawling mountain range that capitalises on that bonus effect, and when you do, you’ll see what will likely be your first combo effect — placing a 3×3 square of rock tiles sees them merge into a Mountain Peak, a jumbo version of the tile with an even stronger effect, in exchange for periodically having harpies fly down onto the trail. But not all such combos are this useful, as you’ll find out when you place your next rock tile after forming the peak. The trade-off for that max HP boost is that every ten rock tiles placed, a goblin camp will spawn somewhere on the loop, pouring hordes of angry little critters into play, likely where you least want or expect them. Once you’ve discovered effects such as this, the emphasis shifts onto mitigating and controlling them. Perhaps you make sure you have roadside tiles in place anywhere a camp spawn would be especially annoying, or maybe you wait until you draw into a special Oblivion card (which simply nukes a single tile from existence) before letting them spawn. You’ll quickly fall into your own patterns and rhythm as you fill out the map, until eventually the boss will appear when enough of the shattered world has been remembered.
This leads nicely into talking about combat, which will be pretty brief since you don’t actually do anything. The auto-battle system is like something out of an idle game, with the only interaction possible being the ability to change the hero’s gear on-the-fly should you want or need to. Hero and enemies alike simply attack once their action bar fills, so all you can really do to help them out is make sure their equipment is up to snuff, be that through focusing on pure damage to win fights before they can take too many hits, setting up better defence, health regeneration, or shields/evasion for mitigation, or even relying on safety in numbers in some cases so incoming damage is split across the hero and their replaceable allies. Not all hero types can fill every gear slot, nor does the stuff they find roll with the same perks — the Rogue, for example, can’t have health regeneration, but gets more equipment that can have high evasion rolls, leading to them potentially not even worrying about HP on account of being almost impossible to hit if you double down on that one stat. After a few runs and upgrades, you unlock an XP system where the hero will eventually be able to pick from a trio of unique perks. Some are universal and others are class-specific (plus more can be added to the pool by defeating bosses), and a lot of these are very potent, especially when taken early.
Enemies grow stronger with every loop you complete, so it becomes a bit of an exercise in restraint. Telling the hero to retreat from the campsite lets them take everything they’ve found with them, sending them home from elsewhere on the trail allows them to keep most of it, while returning after dying only allows them to hold onto a fraction. That said, once you get a little deeper into the game, you do have the option to spend rare boss drop currency to keep everything, which can be massively useful should you overexert while sitting on a pile of materials and special items that you absolutely don’t want to lose. If you do, though, it’s still not the end of the world — runs are nice and quick so you’ll be able to squeeze in a do-over in 15-20 minutes or so. Then another. And another. Just like Vampire Survivors, Loop Hero runs see a lot happen in a short space of time and that makes it very hard to put down, as your next upgrade is only ever just around the corner. It does share other similarities with Vampire Survivors, too — the basic yet busy visuals and myriad chimes and jingles that go off constantly like some kind of fantasy fruit machine, most notably — and while you might find that the two games scratch similar itches, there’s a more-stop-start nature to Loop Hero’s tile-laying and gear-swapping that might not be to your taste if it’s the relentless action of VS that does it for you.
There’s also a lot more management going on in Loop Hero that we haven’t covered yet, with every return to camp a chance to rebuild for permanent gains. What structures and facilities you prioritise is completely up to you, as is how you place them as you turn the run-down base into something worth fighting for. Most unlock things like additional tile options for your ‘deck,’ new hero classes, or other benefits such as setting up watchtowers that provide ranged support that covers all tiles near the camp while out on the trail — incredibly useful for both setting up farming spots packed with otherwise deadly mobs near the camp for the rangers to pepper with bolts for you, and simply making sure you get home in one piece so as not to lose all your precious loot. The more you rebuild, the more trinkets you can bestow upon the residents and their homes, too, and while each has an extremely minor benefit to begin with, stockpiling and stacking these as your capacity to do so grows opens the door to some powerful bonuses and even some new hero build options that can work wonders in tandem with certain tiles. Just like some of the best roguelites, every run feels like it is feeding into the next, and the next, and the next — success lets you advance more quickly, sure, but even if you’re struggling with a certain stage, even just being able to bring home 30% of what you scavenge after death means you’ll get to your next upgrades and improvements eventually. And for the lore-lovers out there, Loop Hero is a delight. Writing seems great so far, and every single tile, enemy, and item in the game even has its own encyclopedia page that can be expanded with even more wonderful insight for a small fee. It also must be stated that compared to some similar games, it’s refreshing how much this doesn’t withhold important information from players, and the encyclopedia is a great example, clearly outlining effects, conditions, and methods for obtaining/unlocking things in the first entry, with more colour and background added later for those who want it.
Achievements unlock at a fantastic pace, matching the flow of the game well by first rewarding you for trying out specific mechanics, then later mastering them. A few look like they could take a little while — seeing all possible tiles is going to require loading the deck in specific ways to set off combos, which will take a good bit of trial and error without a guide, while unlocking all encyclopedia entries might prove a grind as there are loads of them to get. Still, I’ve put a good dent in the list already and don’t plan on stopping now, and with everything so far seemingly unlocking correctly (a rare treat, rather disappointingly), I’m looking forward to seeing how the loop evolves even further as you keep sending the poor hero to run round and round in circles on that deadly path of your own creation.
Loop Hero offers quite the novel concept, and being able to shape the endless trail and the world around it however you see fit is a compelling twist on the more hands-on roguelites with similar loot-die-upgrade-repeat cycles. Being able to tap out at will and still keep at least some of your earnings is a fantastic addition over games where victory or death are the only ways home. That said, Loop Hero is annoyingly great at lulling you into thinking you’ll be able to survive one more lap, only for the world to then turn on you and send you off with your tail between your legs, a lot poorer than you would have been had you known when to call it quits. But as you’ll no doubt discover if it gets its hooks into you, this sick little cyclical roguelite is very difficult to quit…
Luke sunk around 12 hours into Loop Hero after the game joined Game Pass, picking up around half of the 50 achievements in the process.