Fans of indie titles on Steam have probably heard of David Williamson’s rogue-like Hack, Slash, Loot. True to its name-sake HSL is an exceedingly streamlined take on the genre that is known for its occasional unforgiving difficulty, all due to the random nature of the game. In its debut on iOS, Hack, Slash, Loot [$4.99] for makes a decent transition to iPad complete with navigable touch controls. Whether its barebones gameplay makes a splash amongst a crowd of great rogue-likes on iOS is another question, however.
As a rogue-like, Hack, Slash, Loot doesn’t mess around with the basics. After a simple intro screen that controls quest and hero selection the player is provided with a simple narrative on the quest selected and the game starts. HSL’s old school roots are readily seen via its retro pixel visuals and simplified gameplay. Being a loot-based rogue-like, Hack, Slash, Loot places a great emphasis on equipment found. In fact, finding new loot and improving existing equipment (via altars) is really the primary way of improving character stats. Turn-based combat is as simple as tapping on an enemy to launch a missile (or spell) or bumping into them to execute a melee attack.
Meanwhile the controls, which were originally designed for a keyboard, make the touch transition in a decent but tedious fashion. Swiping the screen in any direction moves your hero one space in that direction, while tapping on a tile or map moves your character to that position. Both styles work well together but they aren’t perfect. Swiping becomes incredibly tedious as you get further into a dungeon and I found it too easy to accentually tap on a location, causing my character to move there and potentially jeopardizing my run due to wasting precious turns.
While I don’t necessarily have a problem with simplicity there are a few areas that I really wish HSL expanded upon. The lack of any kind of character development system (experience, leveling, traits, etc.) really removes an additional dimension that I think works well for rogue-likes. In addition, the limitations on enemy sprites and types, while not too big of an issue, leaves the game feeling a bit more stagnant with each subsequent run.
Then there’s the game’s difficulty, which I think is Hack, Slash, Loot’s most polarizing element. With a heavy emphasis on everything being randomly generated, each floor has a potential to be exceedingly difficult or just mildly tough. When you consider the need to advance through several floors to complete an adventure, the odds of your hero getting a tough break on a floor are pretty high. This makes for a game that requires plenty of luck (as well as some requisite preparation) to succeed. For fans of old-school rogue-likes, this isn’t anything new but for players used to the more skill or development based rogue-likes, it’s sure to be a frustrating experience.
Either way, I really don’t think the difficulty makes or breaks Hack, Slash, Loot. Instead, I think its focus on simplistic gameplay leaves the overall experience lacking, especially when compared to the competition on the App Store. Whether you’ll enjoy HSL or not is dependent on your preference for an “old-school” rogue-like. If that’s something up your alley, then by means give it a try.
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