Loop Hero Proves That Players Want Games that Play Themselves
Okay, idle game fans, don’t get too upset. You might just be onto something.
The latest indie game success, Loop Hero, is unorthodox by every means. The game’s name implies some kind of tower defense or even conjures thoughts of mobile gacha games. In this situation, you really need to take the title at its most literal meaning — Loop Hero is about a hero, after a major catastrophe piecing together their memories while attempting to save the world. And gameplay takes in loops around the map, on a path whose environment is built out by the player.
Your map is unique, as you create it as your little hero traverses the loop over and over. Each iteration gets harder and harder, and only a well-oiled machine of well-placed baddies and terrain will help you make it to, and complete, the final boss of each level.
When you put down mountains, you are raising your max HP. When you place a meadow, you are giving yourself regen on each time you complete a day without dying. On the flip side, you need to place tiles that will spawn baddies that will eventually pile up in the loop. Put too many, and your hero will die overrun by monsters. Put too few, and your wimpy hero will have a one-way ticket to a Boss-sized beating.
This balance is key to playing the game. Put all this on top of a base-building system, where you need to collect resources from your loop iterations to use to build up stations in your base that give you buffs; Now you have quite the complex system to manage. As you can see, nothing in this game goes without purpose!
Within the loop that your hero traverses, the core gameplay loop revolves around getting equipment drops from enemies, then gearing and re-gearing your champion with the best of the best loadout. You will be constantly questioning whether vampiric properties in your spear beat out the critical rate and regen per second of your sword. The game forces you to experiment with different methods in order to find what play style works best for you.
This task of checking gear stats and reconfiguring your hero constantly seems like a simple task, but can become equally parts stressful and demanding. Thankfully the game gives you the option to toggle a “Planning” mode that lets you take a breather and rethink your trajectory after each battle. I catch myself toggling this on and off as the game progresses, and by late game this becomes basically a necessity. So for those thinking the game is 100% auto chess, you’ll be sadly mistaken.
Pause one moment. Let’s dissect this a little bit. Yes, Loop Hero does require some brainpower, clicking, dragging, and resource management. However, the game basically runs itself by design. In fact, the game rewards skilled players with more idle time. If your loadout and configurations keep your player healthy and prosperous, you really don’t need to do anything more than place equipment and terrain tiles, while watching your health. Anyone can do this while watching Hulu or doing their day job (the second option is not recommended!).
The ecosystem of idle games and roguelikes has taught players that some games are simply more accessible than others. Teamfight Tactics, Auto Chess, and other idle games took the “casual idle” genre and legitimized it with the backbone of more complex systems to manage — all without forcing the player to commit too much time to the game. Loop Hero is basically just the next iteration of this trend and has improved and expanded upon the mechanics present in the “auto” game genre.
Loop Hero requires you to focus on your hero’s equipment and placing terrain intelligently, but the battles play themselves, and the world literally gives you everything you need to play the game on loop, at least until you die or beat the level. The numbers don’t lie: with an all-time peak of 51K concurrent players, and a 94% positivity rating on Steam reviews, the people have spoken. Gamers love Loop Hero for its simplicity, along with its nostalgic design and art style, low price point, and unique take on roguelikes.
Interested in Indie Games? Well — so am I! Check out some of my other articles talking about what indie games do right, and how to start your own indie game studio!