Allow me to admit something from the outset: I do not really like Roguelikes. Repetitiveness annoys me, brutal survival mechanisms do not forgive my tendency to distract me during the game, and simple graphics are doing very little to keep me invested. That said, I was breathtaking by Devolver Digital‘s last incursion into the genre. Heros of the loop is partly Roguelike, partly RPG of strategy, partly city builder, who all rest too much on the cards for more comfort. It’s a bizarre combination that should not work half as well as it does it, but really keeps the game together, it’s his story. Heros of the loop is a surprisingly dark story about the fight to save a world that is already over.
_ “The stars in the sky go out. One by 1. But no one notices it. Nobody can stop it.
These are the first lines you will encounter in the game. They appear during the opening kinematics, which depicts the destruction of the world. There is no explanation and very little accumulation. All you know is that the world has been destroyed by a disturbing glowing skeleton that is called the Lich. Then you wake up alone in a void of endless darkness… or rather, it’s endless until you arrive. You quickly learn that your memories allow you to reshape the emptiness in a semblance of what it was. The disadvantage is that it brings back monsters and other dangers with the things you really need. In order to rebuild the world, you have to use fragmented memories to transform a simple circular path into a nightmare dungeon… then kill the boss that appears there. It’s more difficult than it seems.
Heros of the loop begins like a relatively standard roguelite, which means that you are always in danger, that you have very limited resources and that you can expect to die a lot. The aspects of the card game offer an additional option to overcome and fuck at the structural level. You can switch between the Planning and Adventure modes by simply pressing a button. In adventure mode, most actions such as travel and fighting are done automatically, without the player’s intervention. It would be more boring if the fights were not finished so fast. Monsters, cards and your hero appear on the map in the form of simple icons and more detailed sprites during fighting or other interactions.
Walking on your camp’s fire will restore health. Several monsters can appear on the same tile and ligrow against you. Gather loot and, more importantly, maps beating enemies. The booty can be equipped for various effects and bonuses of statistics, but the cards can be used in planning mode to enlarge the ruins of this world and change the functioning of the dungeon. The disadvantage is that they can also generate enemies or lead to other negative side effects. At least, there is a ton of options, so the game will never fail for replayability.
A more powerful booty is available in subsequent loops around the dungeon, but the enemies also become stronger at each track. The time is measured by the daily counter at the top of the screen. Keep an eye on it because it affects the appearance times of monsters. Another bar below measures your progress throughout the level. When it reaches its maximum, the boss will appear on your camp tile. When you die, or when you have gathered enough resources for this shipment, remove to enter the cities building mode. At the camp, you can use resources to build things like a comfortable campfire. Or a kitchen. Or a crypt. You can improve buildings to improve their effects or dismantle them to replace them with something else. Some key mechanisms of the game are unlocked by building certain things in the camp (as the possibility of choosing between classes), which can be a little embarrassing. In addition, the RNG is fundamentally never in your favor.
The game has a very nostalgic charm. Kinematics and battles incorporate superb graphics into pixels that can spread from cute to horrible. The card is much simpler and recalls the old Roguelikes, with tiny sprites indicating the different tiles and characters. The story, transmitted through interactions of cards, dialogs and cinematics, raises the question of whether you can really save someone through violence. Most monsters are presented fighting to communicate with the hero, showing that they all think, feel people, reduced to despair and violence by the severity of their situation. The inability of the hero to convince them not to attack is described as truly tragic. Each of these painful scenes hammers that this world, despite its cute graphics, is truly post-apocalyptic.
There is no dubbing, but the monsters, speech and actions wear their own sound effects, which makes the landscape of the game nevertheless living. Music is as fun and retro as graphics, especially the theme of the boss. It starts playing as soon as you have placed enough cards to unlock the boss and perfectly prepares the ground. The battle for the destiny of existence has never been so fun. Each boss fight also includes the themes of the impossible struggle. After all, the fact that you always fight means that this world can always be saved, right?
Overall, I had a good time with heros of the loop. I would have liked to be able to unlock the class necromancer earlier. Breaking my enemies with an army of skeletons invoked is incredible.