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.

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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.

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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.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • DeNappa

    I've played quite a bit of the pc version. I agree that it's quite hard. I did win a couple of times, the deciding factor mostly being acquiring regeneration. Another important thing is fighting with a light or dark weapon, as it will give you permanent stat bonuses or heals sometimes after killing monsters. Just make sure to take note of resists and weaknesses (of both you and monsters... It's no fun being one shotted by a dragon fire attack because you forgot you equipped that headpiece that gave weakness to fire)

  • YouGotHeadshot

    I got the PC version, played for a few minutes and then deleted. It may seem promising for rogue like fans, but in reality it just sucks. :(

    • gmattergames

      I'm a cheap bastard and $5 for what seems like a mobile version of Nethack, seems like way too much. You comment seems the deal, will look for a PC version

  • NinjaKitteh

    This game isn't bad, it's just underwhelming. It's really just an average roguelike. In fact I'd say it's stereotypical of the genre. If you like nethack you'll like this, if nethack is too derivative for you avoid this one.

    • irettillib

      I have no idea what you mean. Nethack is one of the most complicated roguelikes in the history of the genre, and ascension is only attainable by highly skilled and experienced players -- luck is not a large factor unless the player is a rookie. People skilled enough to consider themselves fans of Nethack will find the simplicity of HSL unbearably mindless. And the difficulty level of HSL is leagues beneath that of Nethack. Also -- derivative? Nethack practically invented the modern roguelike in the late '80s. I don't think HSL is a bad game, but I really have no clue what you're trying to get at here.

  • EvilAbdy

    I feel like rogue likes and match 3 puzzle quest style games are the new game flavor of the month / week whatever. So many of them coming out lately.... not that it's a bad thing.

    • Veoren

      it is

  • Slothwerks

    I enjoyed this on PC, but I felt that it was TOO random. Part of the joy of roguelikes for me is the randomness. You never know what to expect, and have to make do with random supplies you've obtained on each run. However, in my mind, the random nature has to be tempered with a healthy dose of items/elements that can be used/consumed to get through the dungeon.

    When a game is too random and a player feels like the death wasn't their fault, the game is ultimately less satisfying. Compare this to DCSS, which is also highly random, but I feel like most deaths are caused because I was playing sloppily or was being too stingy with my precious consumables.

    I might give this another go, though. I like how there are lots of episodes/contents to play thorugh (so sadly, I never made it that far in the PC version)

  • Tim Jordan

    My biggest whine is while the game packs DOZENS of unlockable classes, I'm not seeing big differences in them and hate that many of them are simply UPGRADED versions of earlier classes. I far prefer a game that tries to at least give each class its unique strengths so that even once all classes are unlocked there is still a point to using that original class OTHER than to handicap yourself.

  • Glorkbot

    How does it compare to Brogue? I love Brogue.

    • irettillib

      It is no where near the quality of Brogue. It's a fun little game, but Brogue is one of the tightest and cleanest designed games I've ever played. Been playing the PC version for the last few years.

Hack, Slash, Loot Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3