Loot River Review: A Satisfying Rogue-Like For Fans

Loot River is one of those games that you want to play from the second you see it. The art style and the unique gameplay mechanics were enough to instantly grab me. Actually playing the game made me glad I trusted that instinct. That being said, the game does have some issues.

The art design in this game is top-notch. The pixilated effect on what felt like 3D models works very well and looks great. The little details in “The Sanctuary” - like the pile of bones, and the head and hands statue in the middle of the area are all great for world-building and atmosphere. The water animations in the river whenever you move a platform are very pretty and satisfying. I would just move my platform back and forth every now and then because something about the rippling waves tickled my brain. It also does a great job of emphasizing your speed when you're moving platforms.
Going With The Flow
I loved Loot River’s main mechanic because it presents a way to think about combat a little differently. If you're in a tight spot with a lot of enemies chasing you, just find a platform you can move to without enemies. You can also let enemies on one by one and take care of them individually (this gets harder to do during later levels since spaces are a lot tighter and you're a lot more restricted). If you really want to, you don't have to fight enemies at all and just swiftly move from section to section. However, if you do that you won't be getting any loot. But that's not as big of a loss as you'd think.
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'Loop' River Would've Been a More Fitting Title
For a game titled Loot River, the loot is not that big of a focus. There is some loot that you can find while exploring the procedurally generated sections, but most of the chests will only contain money that you can spend to buy weapons during your run. The currency system is also a little undeveloped. Whenever I would come across NPCs in the different stages, I never had enough money to buy whatever they were offering.

The NPCs found in The Sanctuary, however, will be important if you want to make the game easier for yourself. You visit here whenever you complete a section so you can heal up and invest your health potions. 
The Weapons Feel Great To Use
In the Sanctuary you can unlock new weapons, clothing, and spells. 

Weapon quality varies from slightly underwhelming to great. Most of them have great sound design, so bigger weapons feel heftier and smaller weapons feel sharper and quicker.

You have a light attack and a heavy or magic attack. Most weapons have a basic chain attack if you trigger it at the right times. These can do different types of damage if you have a perk equipped such as: "Last attack in a chain does 30% more damage.” This gives you incentives to chain together your basic attacks.

However, the game gives you pretty generous animation canceling, so in theory you can just spam the attack button and dodge when needed. This makes for more aggressive combat encounters where you're dashing around enemies, and the combats feels more fluid. Unfortunately, it can feel clunky at times - especially if you're fighting right next to an edge of a platform. Your character tends to get stuck and doesn't move along the edge. Thankfully it's easy to avoid most of the time. 
Spells and Modifiers
There are a couple of different ways to modify your experience in Loot River. You have 5 slots that you can add mods to that change small but vital things about the player and the world. There are mods to make levels less complicated, to take away a powerful or (annoying) attack from an enemy, and to give you random weapons you've previously unlocked.

Your character's clothing can also have an effect on how you play. Some attire gives you perks like an extra dodge, enemies being scared of you, and armor that improves certain attributes. Your 16-bit appearance also changes with your clothes - which was a nice touch.

The last kind of gameplay modifiers can be found and equipped in 1 of 3 slots during your run. My favorite type of modifications are ones with a risk/reward dynamic such as “Parrying will heal a small amount of health.” With this equipped, it gives the player a reason to risk standing so close to enemies instead of dodging in and out in front of enemies. So if you know you're good at parrying, that is a completely valid way to play this game. Plus you don't have to use your health potions as often. 

There are quite a few spells that you can use to your advantage, but I always saw myself just wanting to use some of the earlier ones you unlock - like dash and invisibility. These first few spells proved to be the most helpful in my play-through so I didn't see any point in trying others. I'm curious to see what most people's builds look like since I found myself resorting to using the same spells, and there was nothing motivating me to unlock anything else.
The Bosses
My biggest complaint about Loot River is the bosses. A lot of them feel way too overpowered and are not fun to fight, resulting in me just dreading whenever I encountered a new one. While they all looked cool, I couldn't spend much time admiring them as they would immediately demolish me, sending me back to the beginning.

If there were fewer mini-boss stages found while exploring then they wouldn't be as annoying. But, as is, most of my boss encounters went 1 of 2 ways: either they killed me in one hit, or I just spammed attack and used all of my health potions.

If the game could train the player on how to fight similar but smaller enemies leading up to these boss battles instead of just throwing you at an enemy you've never seen before, it would feel a lot more fair - especially if you had only gotten to that boss because you were lucky enough to find all the items for your perfect build. 
Final Verdict
That being said, I really enjoyed Loot River and I see myself coming back to it frequently to see the updates the developers will make. They have shown a lot of dedication, and you can sense a lot of passion poured into this game.

One disclaimer: This game is on Steam for $25, and on Xbox Game Pass. I highly recommend playing this on Game Pass if you are a subscriber since it may not be for everybody. Some people just can't get into rouge-likes and that's totally understandable. Playing a game that makes you start over from the beginning whenever you fail can be disheartening. If rouge-likes (or Souls-likes) are not your cup of tea but this game looks fun to you, try it out on Game Pass instead of betting your 25 bucks.

But if you like these types of games, Loot River looks even remotely interesting to you, and you DON'T have Game Pass, I'd say it's worth it!

7.5/10

Loot River is available now on Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.
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