[Ever so slight spoilers to follow - mainly a picture of unlocked cards]
Along with one hundred and fifty thousand others, I have recently jumped into Loop Hero and I couldn't resist writing about my dilemma. At this point I have around fifteen hours played and I have unlocked enough to get a feel for how the game will play out.
I just don't know if I like it or not.
Do you ever get that? When you have consumed a piece of media so much that you think you must enjoy it but simultaneously it isn't quite hitting the spot. Right now I feel a compulsion to play more but whenever I load it I last ten or so minutes before I turn it back off and question why I started.
For the uninitiated Loop Hero is a roguelike card game where you have a hero character that automatically walks around a path and battles any enemies. Enemies drop cards and equipment when defeated, the quality of which depending on the difficulty of the monster. The cards are used to add locations to the map with each location providing a different effect including spawning different monsters, adding ways to heal your hero or increasing their stats. The equipment is also used to increase your hero's stats and to provide survivability bonuses, for example one stat is evasion which is the percentage chance you will dodge an attack. When you finish a loop you go back to your camp where you can build new buildings which provide your bonuses such as the ability to resurrect or they unlock more cards for you to use in subsequent runs.
The interesting part of this is you can combine cards to trigger certain events which you have to find out through experimentation. For example if you place a vampire mansion next to a village, the village will become a ransacked village due to the vampires presence. If you survive enough loops the ransacked village is then transformed again into a different village entirely.
This experimentation is a key part of the game and provides a lot of incentive to play just so you can try and discover all the combinations. This extends to what monsters you place as well - do you place a lot of easier enemies which will allow you to cycle through cards quickly at the expense of the rarity of the loot dropped or do you focus on a smaller number of high risk engagements? Even after fifteen hours I'm still not sure the true relationship between monster difficulty and rewards and whether different monsters are more likely to give me specific cards and I definitely feel a need to find out the answer to this.
So far so good right? I find it interesting and engaging and I want to see more, so why do I feel like quitting it whenever I start playing? I think the answer lies in the following: repetition, speed and difficulty.
The repetition part comes from a lot of your core card actions will be exactly the same. Once you have discovered a few combinations you tend to replay a core set of them every single run. This tends to also coincide with the start of each run so the initial stage of the game feels essentially the same with barely any change. Similarly the equipment dropped by monsters is also generally uninteresting at the start of each run so there is no joy to be found there. I think this is why I drop off very quickly at the moment - when your first experience when loading is the same slog it's very hard to push yourself past it to the fun parts.
It also straddles a line between being too slow to keep you engaged but at the same time too fast to leave alone. As the hero automatically walks and attacks the only actions you have as a player is to place cards and equip new loot. It would be fine if I could leave it for a few minutes and then come back and do a large number of actions, rinse repeat. Unfortunately it demands just enough attention from you that you can never leave it alone for long - if you don't place your cards they get recycled and you always need to upgrade your equipment to maintain survivability and damage output. These moments come in short bursts though and are spaced just too slightly far apart - just as your brain disengages it is suddenly required again. These disconnects make maintaining interest far harder than it should be.
My issue with the difficulty may be unique to me and I'm sure others will praise this part or tell me to "git gud" but so far I am finding it impossible to progress past the second boss. This usually wouldn't be a problem, however the issue lies with the experimentation, the same experimentation which makes Loop Hero great, which is there is an extreme lack of feedback of why I am losing. Am I placing too many monsters? Is my loot not good enough? Do I need to go back to my camp and build some new buildings? All three of them? I have absolutely no idea. Without resorting to an external guide I feel like the only way for me to find this out is to throw more hours into the game and hope I make a connection, whereupon our old friend repetition rears it's ugly head again. There is also some disconnects between energy damage and hero healing potential which I think makes surviving harder than it should be.
Yet I am left with a desire to finish this game. I want to find out why I am failing. I want to know what I'm doing wrong. I want to know what cards I have yet to unlock. I want to know how strong I can make my hero. I want to do everything possible, I just wish the game wasn't fighting me every step of the way.
This is where I leave it: a game that I find frustrating and laborious to play but I know that tomorrow I will launch it again to start just one more run. Maybe that will be the run where it all clicks and I start progressing again but I suspect it'll be another one where I quit after 10 minutes.