I really don’t take any joy in writing a review like this. I’m generally positive and optimistic, but I struggled to enjoy… well, any part of indie game Hack, Slash, Loot. For ten dollars, there is an abysmally low amount of content, and what’s there is incredibly frustrating and tedious.
Hack, Slash, Loot manages to stick competently to its roguelike genre. Randomly generated dungeons make up the entire game and are filled with, you guessed it, hacking, slashing, and looting. There are a handful of different “quests” to choose from, sending you off to different dungeons with slightly different themes and gimmicks. One primarily has goblins as enemies, for example, while another is filled with crypts and another has you fight alongside NPC allies that turn into undead when killed. These quests are not overly varied, but do provide a slight change of pace if you need one. Sadly, that’s where my praise for this game ends. These quests do include slightly different opening pieces of text that function as a sort of plot, but they’re ultimately redundant and would have been better off omitted entirely. I could have avoided scoring it for story that way.
When beginning a new game, you must first pick your class. Initially, you’re limited to a choice between a saracen (similar to a warrior), archer and wizard. All three play pretty much like you’d expect, though there is virtually no difference between the archer and wizard characters aside from their attack animations. As you clear quests or, more likely, die too often, you unlock new classes, and these are generally more powerful versions of the standard melee/ranged/magic class types. There are over 30 different classes available (from amazons to hill dwarves to knights), which is pretty awesome… except they all play the same. They look slightly different, and they might have slightly different starting equipment or stats, but there’s nothing even remotely interesting that sets one apart from another. To make it worse, no levelling up or special skills means each class plays exactly the same at the end of a quest as at the beginning.
Hack, Slash, Loot is turn-based, so each time you make a move, your enemy takes a turn too. You move your character on a square grid and attack in either adjacent or diagonal squares by literally ramming into the tile your enemy occupies. The game can be controlled via the keyboard or mouse, but both feel rather clunky, in part due to the odd lag-like effect resulting from the turn-based system. If you try to move multiple squares at once with the mouse, your character actually pauses as the enemy takes a turn. If there are multiple enemies, the effect is amplified. This is worsened by an odd interface that forces you to scroll through options and choices, most notably the class selection, instead of just picking from a list.
The most infuriating aspect of the game is, however, the horrendous dependence on luck. Failure to discover amazing equipment within the first few rooms guarantees a failed quest and an early death. Occasionally you’ll even be killed in the first room, or not far from it. There’s no inventory system either, so any potions you pick up can’t be saved for later. Likewise, there is no way to stop and heal. Each game is comparable to an endurance race as you watch your health slowly drop room by room. Enemies pursue you relentlessly and there’s no way to escape them once they have you in their sights. The only useful strategy involves using the room layout to create choke points, but if you’re fighting ranged enemies, the technique is useless.
Even though each quest has slightly different visuals, within a single dungeon everything looks nearly identical. There’s no variation on floor or wall textures, and the same random decorative (and I use that word loosely) items are scattered through rooms over and over again. The same can be said for the foes you encounter. Sure, a new enemy or two might be added on each floor, but that’s about it; for the most part, each quest reuses the same adversaries. The “cutesy” pixel-style visuals are, frankly, horrid and extremely low in quality. You could argue that it attempts to emulate the good-ole retro days, but even they (and other indie games) have better quality and design than what’s on display here. You could argue the same for the sound, but it’s just as poor. In fact, it’s probably worse. The same dull tune plays nearly the same handful of bars over and over in the background, and a few sound effects are constantly reused for everything in the game.
Hack, Slash, Loot is not a good game, and I couldn’t even recommend it to the most hardcore roguelike enthusiasts. It’s dull, it’s frustrating, it’s entirely dependent on luck and, most significantly, it’s not even remotely fun to play. The graphics and sound are appalling, and a little variation in dungeon types isn’t enough to save this horrid title. Go spend your money elsewhere.