Rogue-likes have become popular in recent years, constantly reviving in the digital market. Loopmancer by Chinese team eBrain is an action rogue-like platformer announced last year that features an intriguing tale of a detective getting caught in a loop while investigating a missing journalist. The game features realistic graphics and a rich cyberpunk setting with action-oriented and platforming gameplay.
When starting the demo, the first thing players will notice is how beautiful the game is, as long as the models are not in the frame. Obviously the character models could use a little less plastic-like work, but players won’t notice them for most of the game anyway. The developers at eBrain have done a fantastic job creating an atmospheric cyberpunk setting filled with stunning neon lights and detailed backgrounds. The setting has become the backdrop for popular games such as Cyberpunk 2077mainly because of the stunning visuals that can come with it. Loopmancer does not disappoint in its environmental designs.
Once the demo begins, players are given the story in bursts of exposure. The player starts Loopmancer as Xiang Zixu, a grieving father who attempts to uncover the connections behind his daughter’s death. Currently, he is investigating a missing journalist, who was last seen talking to a criminal who is very angry with the protagonist. a fact that Loopmancer will drill into the player’s head before they have even completed the first loop.
During the first round, Xiang dies and returns to his apartment at the start of the day. In the apartment, the player can improve their abilities, change clothes and give themselves random buffs by petting the cat, which is the perfect way to encourage the player to interact with the environment, especially later on, even if this can lead to ruined races. if a buff is not as effective as the others.
The next stopping point is the Detective Agency, where the player can determine which area to choose via the Intelligence Specialist, or buy/upgrade weapons via the Weapons Expert.
This is how each loop will begin, going through both the apartment and the detective agency just to get to the gameplay. Along the way, the player will see several cutscenes and be stopped to have conversations with characters. This can be especially annoying during repeat races, where most players just want to make choices about what to do and then enter. Shortening that duration of the game, or having a way to skip it all, would be better to get the player right back into the action without anything interrupting them.
Loopmancer takes a more focused approach to both action and platform. While it wasn’t as pronounced in the early stages of the demo, the focus is on platform performance throughout the level. Moving quickly and platforming are important to getting through each run, with the player having the option to wall jump and use a grappling hook which is needed to move on to the next area. The skill required is not at the level of a fast platformer like Ghostrunnerbut at times the player will have to chain moves, such as grabbing twice in a row.
Overall, the traversal is satisfying to perform, which makes getting around the world fun and fast. The movement and usability of the provided tools is smooth, which is important in a game that weighs more heavily on the platform than most other roguelikes that like to lean more towards the action.
The areas the player will explore are vast and are likely to differ from loop to loop, so exploring during each run could prove fruitful for anyone looking to find better items. Luckily, if the player wishes to return to the same loop, they can teleport through machines that also provide a small amount of healing, usually accompanied by the merchant Funk.
Loopmancer focuses heavily on it, making sure there’s enough depth to make performing each loop fun and engaging. The feel of this fight was nice and fast-paced, and once players get the hang of it, decimating enemies in an instant with whatever the player has can be incredibly satisfying. Players may be able to compare it to something action like dead cells, where the player mostly runs through and cuts their enemies to pieces.
How a player approaches a situation will depend on what weapons they have and what abilities they have. Throughout the levels are machines called PUT machines, which allow players to transfer Loopmancer, known as eCoins, and invest in a new weapon. These carry over to the next loop, so investing early is a good idea.
Weapons players can reach in Loopmancer are diverse, ranging from more damaging weapons like katanas and fireaxes, to improvisational or joke weapons like a folding stool or saltfish. They can also include special attacks, such as the golf club that can launch projectiles at enemies. From what has been seen of the stats on these weapons, they are viable for combat, so potentially a player could complete the entire game holding a Seasoned Salmon.
On top of that, players can carry a gun, prosthetic ability, and gear like mines or grenades. Being able to use all of this enough in the heat of battle is the key to survival. Stocks are limited, but Loopmancer includes occasional supply boxes to replenish anything lost. This helps encourage the player to use the items they have more frequently without worrying about needing them later, a problem players can have in many RPGs and rogue-likes. Additionally, the player will find booster orbs throughout their playthrough that give them a choice of two stat boosts, such as max stamina or health bottles.
One big question that came as a real surprise is that the environment really matters when facing battle. This mostly comes in the form of explosive barrels littered all over the area, which can cause great damage not only to enemies, but to the player as well. In addition to this, several areas encountered presented environmental risks such as excessive speed of vehicles on the highway. While these didn’t do much damage to enemies, they still knock them down, allowing for more attacks before they get up.
Enemies can be easy to take down, but require a strategy based on their position. These are indicated by the color in which they flash; if it’s red they still take damage but don’t get knocked back, if it’s yellow they block so they don’t take much damage. This approach keeps players on their toes, but it would be nice to have blocking for the protagonist themselves, as attacks can be quick and very damaging. Having to dodge out of the way is a little tricky, and a quick block could improve the fight.
On top of that, one of the biggest issues facing these enemies is the fact that the enemies like grenades. Inconsistencies in enemy animation and grenade detonation time can lead to frustration and force players to restart a loop.
Small gripes aside, Loopmancer turns out to be a promising addition to the rogue-like action genre. With an intriguing premise and engaging combat model, this will be a game that rogue-like fans will find hard to put down.
Loopmancer is slated for release in 2022 on PC.
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