Hack Slash Loot – Review

Hack, Slash, Loot

developed by David Williamson

I’ve enjoyed Roguelikes ever since I was a kid.  The simple design and whimsical fantasy Role-Playing setting provided gamers with a theme park specifically designed with the use of ones imagination in mind.  Hack Slash Loot or HSL, is an addictive, if somewhat divergent, title in the genre.  It’s both familiar, and yet very different, mostly in a good way.

It used to be that a Roguelike would consist of extremely simple graphics contrasted by a rather complex control scheme.  Ascii characters were used to provide the graphics in most cases, while two dozen (if not more) keyboard keys would act as the controls.

Everything from combat, movement, climbing or descending stairs, casting spells, and quaffing potions, required the stroke of a keyboard key.  It sounds more difficult than it actually was, especially if you were the type of gamer that enjoyed using your imagination, and if you’re patient and willing to look passed the steep learning curve.

The controls were somewhat complex, but the gameplay could also be very challenging.  Exploring dense wildernesses and dank dungeons wasn’t for the faint of heart.  No matter how much time and effort you put into picking and choosing your character class and their role, the only thing that really mattered was staying alive.  For you see, death was permanent.  No extra lives or continues.  Just you and your weapons, spells, armor, and your wits.

Hack Slash Loot is a bit different as it takes some of the complexities found in most Roguelikes and throws them right out the window.  For starters, HSL can be played entirely with the mouse.  No longer is there a need to memorize dozens of keystrokes.  Secondly, for better or worse, character classes are preset with stats that cannot be adjusted manually.  Inventory is limited to what you find in any given dungeon and by what you immediately equip.  You cannot save weapons, items, or armor for later use.

These features make HSL a great game for jump-in, jump-out gameplay, something that can even be enjoyable during a short coffee break.  However, the lack of customization also leads to a more challenging game.  Like it’s predecessors, death is a permanent affliction.  Although the gameplay is simplified to the point where casual gamers can jump right in and play, the challenge and difficulty level might be more appreciated by veteran gamers and Roguelike enthusiasts looking for a “Lite” Role-Playing experience.

Rather than a single story with sidequests, HSL has several campaigns each with its own setting and theme to play through.  This is largely due to the fact that each adventure is somewhat compact.  The differences between these campaigns usually have an affect on the enemies and dangers you’ll face the items and loot that you’ll be rewarded with.

Their are a handful of character classes to choose from, more of which become unlocked the more you play and ultimately die and this also applies to unlocking the various campaign scenarios.

Every new game provides a randomly generated dungeon, so no two play throughs, of any campaign, will be the same twice.  This randomization can have a drastic affects on your experience every time you play.  Sometimes you’ll be fortunate enough to discover helpful items almost immediately, while at other times you’ll find yourself swarmed and subsequently raped simply because you the very first room you entered was inhabited by a dozen or more angry goblins.  You never know what’s around the next corner or in the next room, but this is part of what makes Hack Slash Loot so addictive and fun.

The graphics and audio are appropriately retro.  Characters and enemies are sprite based.  They actually look great and are a nice upgrade from the ascii graphics of old.  Even the weapons and items are nicely detailed for the pixelated sprites that they are.  The sound design is simple but also very suitable.  The sound of hacking and slashing your enemies is very cool.

Hack Slash Loot is one of those games that demands repeat gaming sessions.  It contains the addictive quality of casual games with all the challenge found in classic Roguelikes.  With that said, the gameplay won’t be for everyone.  Though the controls have been simplified, customization found in most classic Roguelikes has been omitted.  Gamers that expect to be rewarded often and at every turn of gameplay might find that this game is not their cup of tea.  However, HSL does have gameplay that is perfect for beginners who have always wanted to give a Roguelike a try but were too intimidated by the controls.

Hack Slash Loot is one of those games that rewards players who do not accept defeat but instead view death as merely an obstacle to be overcome.  Don’t be fooled by the simple visuals and streamlined gameplay, Hack Slash Loot is a Roguelike unlike most others.  Its design allows for short pick-up and play game sessions that can be addictive and rewarding to those willing to persist and persevere while enduring multiple playthroughs.  If this sounds good to you then I definitely recommend you buy the game.  If you’re remotely interested by how this all sounds then I encourage you to give the free demo a try!

HSL is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux users.  You can try the demo or purchase full game of Hack Slash Loot straight from the developers site by going here.  You can also find it on some of the popular gaming portals such as GamersGate, Indievania, and Desura.

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