Loot River’s a game that I’ve been trying to write about for the better part of a few weeks. The reason I haven’t yet is mainly because of other things taking priority. But now that we’ve got all of that other stuff and a one-week break out of the way, let’s talk about this interestingly weird take on Roguelikes.
Developed by straka.studio and published by Superhot Team (yes, that Superhot Team), Loot River is a dungeon-crawling roguelike with procedurally generated dungeons and puzzles. The setup is simple: you awaken and find yourself on a raft in an underground river and have to navigate your way out and when you do you find a sanctuary with other people and do your best to get to the centre/top of the labyrinth. It certainly takes more of a Dark Souls approach to the storytelling and I appreciate that. The main reason for this is because the characters you meet are all interesting, chief among them being Karla the armorsmith who fishes using lightning and the potion maker who is meant to be this game’s take on Patches. He hasn’t thrown me down a hole yet, but I got an eye on the twitchy bastard.
The main structure that the game has is a simple one; you go into the labyrinth, fight enemies, level up, collect gold and knowledge to unlock new items permanently, etc, etc. It’s all standard stuff we’ve seen before and it’s done well here. But the twist comes in the way travel works. The one thing I left out about the labyrinth is that it’s mostly underwater. This means that you move around in the water with makeshift rafts made of debris using the right stick. This means that these rafts can be shaped in unique ways that can interlock with each other. The game outside of combat turns into this incredibly cool traversal puzzle and that’s where most of the fun is in Loot River if I’m being honest, seeing how efficiently you can move through the maze to get through each area. I kind of wish the game was entirely made of this because it’s way more interesting than the combat.
That’s not to say that combat is bad, far from it. It’s an isometric take on the combat found in Souls games, but a bit faster. You got light attacks, heavy attacks, parries, dodges, and magic. And they all work well enough with the varied enemy types that are in the game to create a good action combat experience. The most striking thing to me is the parry system because all of the weapons have different parry and block properties depending on their weight class. This led to me focusing on the one-handed swords and rapiers because it was the easiest to get the parry timing down. And this is all before we take the PRG mechanics into account. Six stats can be levelled up and different rings and medals can be found that can augment your abilities and stats, making them more potent. And some modifiers change the world as well to make things more interesting. My favourite style of play was leaning into a Dexterity/Vitality build because I could attack faster and the parry timing was more generous. Mix that with the charm that grants you health whenever you successfully parry and congratulations, you can never die if you are skilled enough. But hubris cares not for skill and I’ve died numerous times, so do as I say, not as I do, kids.
These ideas come together to make an interesting experience that I’m glad I played. And while I do think that the puzzle aspect is more interesting than the combat, there’s still enough there to fully get into it. I recommend it if you have Game Pass (which is how I played it), but it’s not for everyone.