Out of all the games I've played, Loop Hero stands out as one of the hardest to categorise. It's undoubtedly a roguelike, with some definite elements that would lean towards it being a roguelite perhaps, and it has a stat system typical of traditional RPGs. But, outside of these it resembles something in itself: a reverse tower-defence board game, mashed up with a deck-building game. There is a lot clashing in Loop Hero, yet it all seems to combine perfectly.
Your character wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world with no memory, and is forced to go round in 'loops' to gather resources whilst fighting monsters and gaining equipment. This might sound repetitive, as you are literally going around in circles, but it gets far more interesting. When you first start travelling the loop (slowly, I recommend using the 2x speed option) the only enemies you will find are weak slimes. These slimes drop weak gear for your character, but also cards, which you can add to the loop and the area surrounding it. Some are simple: rocks and mountains interact with each other to boost your HP, whilst meadows boost your HP recovery per day. Other cards, however, can be placed near the loop to generate more enemies for you to fight. These include spider cocoons, swamps, and so on, resulting in you having more enemies to fight and therefore more opportunities to get equipment and more cards. As you can plan out your loop, you can tailor the experience to you, by spacing enemies out, for example.
As well as cards that create objects on the loop, which generate enemies, there are also cards such as Oblivion, which kills all the monsters on a tile and removes any object on it, the Road Lantern, which limits the amount of enemies which can spawn on roads within its radius, and vampire mansions, which cause vampires to join fights within their radius. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though - there are more cards that you unlock over time, and these cards interact with each other when placed as well, creating objects with new effects.
If a loop is becoming too difficult for you - it happens, don't worry about it - you can return to camp with all your resources. You'll lose your equipment and loop level, but keep your resources, which you can be used to upgrade your camp, unlocking new cards, improving your campfire and potions, and even a pair of new classes outside the default warrior.
As such, Loop Hero is a game of risk versus reward - will you put down a lot of spider cocoons and groves early, risking the build-up of enemies? Or will you pace yourself, only placing one or two per loop? When you reach the end of a loop and you are by your campfire, you have to make the decision: can you survive one more loop, and gain even more resources for your camp? A similar decision takes place even later, as after playing enough cards, your camp will transform, causing you to fight a powerful boss, which will surely kill you if you are low on HP or have poor equipment. Again, it's up to you to weigh the risk versus reward.
The game is incredibly retro in its graphics and musical style, something old-school gamers will appreciate for sure. The strange, post-apocalyptic landscape of the game is portrayed perfectly. I found my heart racing when the boss appeared at my campfire as the music changes to something far more fast-paced, fitting the situation perfectly.
Although Loop Hero is no doubt innovative in how it combines elements of many genres, it's not without its flaws. The game's speed can be a little slow at times (although the developers have said this will be remedied in a future update) and playing through loops can be quite repetitive, even with the unlocking of new classes, cards, and progression to expeditions with new bosses. It could also be argued that the difficulty level is rather high, although I think that playing cautiously - not playing many cards that spawn monsters early on, and not playing every single card that appears in your hand - alleviates this issue entirely, and is likely how a new player would approach the game anyway.
The promise of new content for Loop Hero is on the horizon already, with the developers hinting at new classes and cards, as well as quality of life changes, and I have no doubt that the game will improve on what is already an incredibly unique and addictive experience.