Random generation has been a boon for indie developers the world over. Used correctly, it can add near-infinite variety and replayability to your game, providing something fresh and new for your players over multiple hours of playtime. However, itâ€™s a bit of a double-edged sword, because if itâ€™s mishandled, what youâ€™ll end up with is an unbalanced explosion of, well, randomness. Design and pacing go out the window, and progression feels like a vague repetitive slog through a cold-hearted algorithm, like trying to find a good video recommendation on YouTube.
I think you can see where Iâ€™m going with this.
Heroes of Loot 2 is a port of a mobile game from 2016. It comes from veteran indie developer OrangePixel, whose charming and recognisable pixel art style has been wrapped around satisfying arcade-like experiences for over a decade. To my knowledge, their games have always been released primarily on mobile platforms, where the easy to pick up gameplay and polished presentation is right at home in the â€˜have a quick goâ€™ format of a mobile game.
HoL 2 is another one of those. A randomly generated twin-stick dungeon crawler, with all the usual trappings that entails. Keys, doors, secrets, fantasy classes, experience points and, of course, quite a lot of loot. Itâ€™s treading well-worn ground, especially being a sequel itself, but thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing. Thereâ€™s no need to reinvent the wheel when people still like having just good wheels.
Most of it is polished, competent and a pleasure to play. The lighting is especially of note, creating a colourful glowing atmosphere that the developer has used to great effect over their last few outings.
Through up 50 levels per run, youâ€™ll mow down hordes of imps, little squiggly worm things, teleporting black mages, goblins etc, while occasionally dealing with spontaneously spawning mini-bosses like minotaurs, and other nefarious creatures from the full gamut of mythological Bad Things. Each individual level is generally never too long, and thereâ€™s something satisfying about effortlessly chopping your way through 20-odd fodder enemies like a weed-whacker.
Where the wheels (that havenâ€™t been reinvented) start to fall off is when youâ€™re making progress past about level 20, and you start to realise that the enemy placement, level shape and item spawns are a little bit too random. As an example, one of the mechanics is an in-level teleporter, which magically warps you to another part of the level youâ€™re on. Every single time Iâ€™ve taken one of those, which are required to make progress, Iâ€™ve ended up in a room full of mobs that have already spawned, just endlessly battering me with waves of immediate projectiles before Iâ€™ve had a chance to think.
Or how about the switches? There are, occasionally, locked doors that require a switch to open. Some of those switches need a heavy thing put on top of them to keep them pressed. So far, so standard. Except for this one time, I wandered around an otherwise empty level for a good ten minutes because the thing you have to push on to the switch had, in fact, spawned on top of the switch and, rather than immediately then activate said switch, it just sat there, doing nothing. These are the tiny but aggravating quirks of a random generation system thatâ€™s gone a little bit too far to the â€˜randomâ€™ side.
Couple this with a disappointing lack of variety in the mobs and settings, and all of these tiny annoyances build up into a thick, aggravating slog, where you donâ€™t feel particularly driven to get to the next level at all, because you know itâ€™s going to be more of the same.
Every single death Iâ€™ve had in the game was a result of too many mobs spawning in a way I couldnâ€™t mitigate, since the random generation creates clearly defined narrow corridors in between rooms, leaving no room for clever or strategic positioning. Youâ€™ll just walk into a new room, see twenty annoying things spawn and shoot you, and eventually die. The inclusion of a dash/dodge mechanic mightâ€™ve helped, since youâ€™re otherwise entirely without recourse and backing up doesnâ€™t help when youâ€™re just walking backwards into a one-square-wide corridor.
I think itâ€™s also right for me to mention the technical execution, because itâ€™s actively tied to your long-term experience with the game.
Iâ€™ve had this review code for well over a week, but Iâ€™ve put off writing the review as the code I received would habitually crash when I tried to play it docked, on my not-launch-model standard Switch and I was hoping for a day-one patch to rectify some issues. OrangePixel is, as far as Iâ€™m aware, a solo developer, so Iâ€™m not suggesting the timeline for fixes should be immediate and â€˜oh no how dare youâ€™, but the problem is, if the game crashes while youâ€™re mid-run, it just loses your entire run. Because of the Roguelite elements of the game, there are no saves created per level, and as I mightâ€™ve mentioned, eventually it can all feel like a bit of a slog.
Nothing is going to put you off wanting to come back more than being on level 40-something, crashing out of the game, and having to start from scratch with nothing to show for it.
At the time of writing, the game is still on v1.0.0 and, given the developerâ€™s prolific and commendable output, Iâ€™m not sure if a fix for this sort-of thing is going to be particularly high on their list of priorities. This is fine, because eventually, I managed to get through the game on my Lite instead without issue, but itâ€™s something I felt I had to mention because itâ€™s made worse by some of the repetitive design (or lack thereof) of the levels.
Heroes of Loot 2 made for a great mobile game. Itâ€™s light and breezy on a phone, good for â€˜one more goâ€™ attempts and an impressive little lighting showcase full of pleasant pixel art and simple gameplay. On the Switch though, itâ€™s a bit less â€˜one more goâ€™ and a bit more â€˜no, go awayâ€™.
Heroes of Loot 2 is out now on Switch. It first launched on mobile and PC.