May 18, 2015 11:00 AM | John Bridgman
What's the best thing about crawling through a dungeon? Exploring the unknown? Discovering forgotten magics? Is it unraveling a fantastic plot? No! It's all about the loot. Getting riches and power the likes of which the world has never before seen is what compels us as players to continue delving deeper and deeper into dungeons countless miles below the surface, facing down the great darkness and evils below our unsuspecting feet. OrangePixel skips straight to the important business with their retro action game Heroes of Loot, coming May 26th to Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Heroes of Loot draws a lot of inspiration from classic arcade games, especially Gauntlet, tasking its players to shoot their way through swarms of monsters as they delve deeper and deeper into an ever-upgrading dungeon. Borrowing also the classes from that game, you are asked to choose your character from the cast of wizard, elf, warrior, and valkyrie, then begin your quest for loot, and sometimes heroics. Shooting mechanics aren't quite twin-stick style, as instead you can either shoot manually with the mouse pointer, or using the keyboard and giving your shots a bit of an auto-aim effect. This doesn't make the game too simple by any measure, it's just a good compensation for the limits of its two input settings, and it works nicely.
In truth, there isn't that much loot for these heroes. There's a lot of gold that drops as you battle through the levels of the dungeon, and most levels have a shop or random quest that sometimes lets you get gear with a temporary effect, but for the most part, your main progression is actually through gathering XP and leveling up to get a bigger life bar and projectiles. It's a system that works nicely, and the occasional shield or magic rune that you do find is enough to shake things up as you progress deeper and deeper into the dungeon.
The pixel graphics are tiny but they're distinctive, and they work with the game's retro feel well enough. The playable characters have a chunky square look and it gives them a lighthearted look that works along with the silliness the game serves up in its cutscenes. These scenes fill the necessary checkboxes for plot the game has, though it's extremely unimportant to what's going on, and the extent of it really is "We're going deeper in the dungeon and now there's new monsters", followed by the Warrior doing something foolish.
New monsters appearing in the dungeon is part of one of the game's main gimmicks, where as you play through the game, the dungeon upgrades itself for future playthroughs - new monsters like bats and cyclopes will start spawning as you trigger upgrades, and these persist through, making the dungeon more difficult the more often you play the game. It's an interesting take on difficulty, and it means that starting a new game after dying avoids being too unexciting to discourage you from playing further.
The game delivers some good chiptune music that suits the action as well as serves the dungeoneering aspect. The menu and shop theme is catchy and might get your head bobbing a bit, while the in-game music is ominous and ambient. Its sound effects aren't the greatest, being somewhat muffled and low-quality, but they still work to give feedback to what happens in-game.The lack of a volume control means that you may just mute the sounds altogether, as they're a bit too loud by default.
Heroes of Loot is a great game to pick up and play for a little while in some free time. No elaborate plot to concern yourself with, just you and hordes of monsters to shoot down. Anybody looking for a quick retro action game should consider giving it a shot, because it hits all the notes that genre requires without asking too much time investment by the player. It's very easy to jump in and get drawn in to, and the upgrading difficulty mechanic means replaying the early game never gets too stale.