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In Loop Hero, the “loop” in question is literal.

In games criticism, we talk a lot about gameplay loops. Loop, there, is shorthand for a small, but complete, section of gameplay. So, in Borderlands 3, for example, you drive across the Pandoran desert, take down a bandit camp, sift through the loot the Psychos and Tinks leave behind, hop back in your ride and drive out into the Pandoran desert. The loop ends as it began, then begins again.

But, in Loop Hero, out later this year from developer Four Quarters and publisher Devolver Digital, the loop is physical. This roguelite casts players as a standard RPG hero. But, the epic adventure you embark on takes you not out into the wilderness. Instead, Loop Hero’s warrior hero strolls around a literal loop.

It varies in shape from run to run, but the basics are always the same. You embark from camp, fight enemies, nab loot and march back to where you started. You have no direct control over your character. You don’t direct his movement and you can’t tell him which enemy to attack. Your hero auto-walks and auto-battles.

Loop Hero, instead, assigns you two simplified roles: “turn-based RPG player” and “turn-based RPG developer.” When you gain loot, you can equip it or ignore it. It may have stats that you want, like high defence or strong attack. But, you’ll need to balance those against traits like “Vampirism” and “Regen Over Time” which will help you heal up as the loops wear on. That’s the “turn-based RPG player” part.

The other half of Loop Hero’s gameplay focuses on determining what, exactly, you’re going to encounter in the loop. As you defeat monsters, in addition to loot, you’ll gain cards which you can play to shape the terrain surrounding your loop. Build enough mountains and harpies and goblins will appear. These enemies are tougher than the slimes that populate the map at the beginning of each run. But, they also drop better loot. Then again, you might want to place groves along your route. In these little thickets of forest, you can pick up wood to upgrade your camp after a run. But, every three days, a ratwolf will spawn. A day is shorter than a loop, so you may return to a grove you played to find three ratwolves lying in wait.

Despite the lack of direct control of your character, Loop Hero feels consistently action-packed. You design your loop so, if you fail, you only have yourself to blame. It’s a tense balance of risk and reward and, so far, the game walks the tightrope brilliantly. I’ve never played anything quite like it.

Loop Hero is set to launch later this year.

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