Loop Hero (Switch) Review
Loop Hero is as brutal as it is addictive. I loved it on PC without being very good at it. I was never brave enough to fully throw into the ring all available cards, opting instead for something close to dominance on the loop – at least until the boss, which regularly whacked me back to oblivion to restart from scratch. I now realise that this is a completely valid approach and that part of the beauty of Loop Hero is discovering strategies to either reap loot or go for broke against each chapter’s boss. Multiple times.
It is very much about balancing risk and challenge with reward. The tougher you make each loop, by festooning each meandering pathway with cards that change the terrain, the more bite the weapons you reap and the stronger your defensive loot. But there’s also the risk of the loop becoming so mired with graveyards, blood groves, villages and goblin nests that you’ll be depleted from battling all the little dancing sprites intent on killing you. There will be nothing left in the tank once the adamantium-encased boss appears when that happens.
The great thing about Loop Hero is that you can chip away. You can run a few loops and retire at camp, taking all the resources you have collected with you. Or you can run until victory/death transpires. You get to keep a little of what you’ve accrued if you do die. The thing with this is that the best resources come towards the end and only appear once you’ve invested a decent amount of time into each randomly generated pathway, so there are always rewards dangling just beyond reach to tempt you to risk it all.
There is a lot about Loop Hero that is not explained and which only becomes apparent through repetition and usually a lot of failure. This works both to its benefit and detriment. Players might spend a few hours with it and feel like they aren’t making any progress – but stick with it, and things will start to roll on. You’ll realise just how much is left to unlock, such as equipment slots that you haven’t even opened and card-laying synergies, or even crafting, which I’m still not quite sure about. As new elements unfold, Loop Hero turns into an addiction.
Determination helps you discover how each new class, perk, equipment slot or deck addition will affect play. It all soon becomes complex and intertwined, yet also wonderfully simplistic in that the loops themselves always feel familiar and the way that battles play out automatically gives you plenty of time to think about strategy. If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you can always limit the cards that get dealt and just not lay them down, resulting in a slower-paced experience as you farm the loop – something that becomes essential if you want any chance at defeating the boss. Early on, I would often kick absolute butt during each loop, only to get completely trounced by the boss because I had not built up a resilient enough character to have much of a chance.
This Switch version takes everything that is great about the original release and shrinks it down. It is not without a few control issues, but once you get used to what you can do with the touch screen, it becomes second nature to combine button presses with touching the screen and dragging cards to where you want to place them on the map. I did find it difficult to know what the resources are and how they could be collected, as touching them at the village only gives a description, not an indication of how you can get them to appear. It doesn’t take much to search online for resource guides, though. There are also some small PC port inconsistencies, such as text in the crafting and supplies menus that refers to “right-click” without telling you how to perform the action with buttons.
I also noticed some quality of play improvements that I’m not sure are exclusive to the Switch (I stopped playing it on Steam a while back, so these may have come in subsequent updates). The automatic pausing after each battle and on reaching the camp tile makes this a much friendlier experience, allowing you to equip new loot or play out cards without needing to remember to pause – or indeed missing the camp entirely when you intended to retreat at the end of a loop.
Loop Hero is one of the best indie games of the year, and it feels great to play on the Switch. While the controls can take some getting used to, the gameplay is engrossing enough that the learning curve is worthwhile, and somewhat reflects the deep-dive nature of the experience itself.
+ Deep and customisable
+ Direct sense of progress that grows the more you play
+ Unique premise
- Controls take time to feel natural
- Unforgiving until you look up guides