Break The Loop hurtles heroes through time into a cartoon, run-based roguelike

Gather your adventurers and blast through time to save humanity against a deadly, abyssal monster and its minions in Break The Loop.

Break The Loop places you at the wheel of a motley crew of heroes that have been sucked through time to stop the end of the world. You’ll command knights, rockers, pirate captains and much more as you embark on roguelite runs through deadly encounters to try and stop an ungodly mass of tentacles and evil from destroying humanity.

Refreshingly though, Break The Loop actually does a fair few new things, and has a few tricks up its sleeves. That’s handy then, because it’s entering into a flooded, tired genre that’s hardly crying out for more entries and is, let’s face it, instead begging for innovation.

For a start, the plain, readable artwork of simplistic, colour-blocked characters against detailed, cartoony backgrounds is incredibly easy to read. But, secondly, there’s a whole cartoon-esque layer to the game, ranging from really fun combat animations to a high-detailed ‘entering combat’ screen. These character-arts are a delight every time they crop up and it hearkens back to earlier RPGs where the in-world is very different than in-battle.

Further, though, because that’s not all, you actually get to pick out the order of events running up to the boss battle. You can drop in all of the upgrade and buff events, and the reward and ‘decision’ events in the trickier slots or even front-load them before you face the mandatory enemy tiles, or do it in reverse. I felt like a smartarse dropping the event that was basically ‘open a chest’ into the slot that promised to restrict the timers. There’s plenty of room for that, and it really passes the buck back to the player, rather than allowing them to pin their failure on the RNG.

Break The Loop also skips party placement conventions and deals in ‘attractiveness’ and other threat equivalents. In addition to that, party members are at the front when they attack, and both the player and enemy attacks have certain tiles that they can attack. This means that you can’t just dump your healer at the back of the party when fighting melee enemies, and it means that when a side’s strategy fails they quickly fall apart.

That’s because Break The Loop is all about buffs and nerfs. You’ll want to silence the bell-containing enemies so that they don’t get a free attack when they die, you’ll want to burn, poison or otherwise weaken enemies not just because it makes them more fragile and speeds their death but because a lot of character modes gain stacked bonuses when attacking those who are afflicted with certain nerfs or buffs. Similarly, you’ll want to buff so that you don’t take maximum damage, or so that enemies simply miss you. My favourite ability in the game is that of Carmenide, who can shoot a front-row enemy, also hitting the enemy in the second row and duplicating the target’s weaknesses onto the collateral hit. It’s devious, it’s fun, and it’s one of a dozen moves that I loved messing around with.

There’s a lot of strategy required, from choosing your group of heroes. You pick four of twenty, and it has to be one of each class (Specialist, Support, Brawler and Tank). These characters aren’t quite a blank tablet on start point — the roguelite element comes in the unlocks between runs, of which you can have only a handful of buffs, but they’re pretty handy in the long run.

I mentioned earlier that there are decision events. These are quite fun but boil down to a decision between two characters. It’s great that there is flavour text for the characters, and sometimes the rewards are really fun (I lost an injured character by taking a wrong turn, but they were replaced by a fully-healed character instead), although they don’t feel frequent enough for my liking.

Decisions are, however, a great way to gain the ability vials. These change up your characters and give all sorts of cool tweaks like starting with fully charged echo (a resource gained over time that allows for the strongest moves) or health bonuses when certain combinations of attacks play out. There’s a tonne of this, I didn’t really see much repetition at all beyond the ones that benefit from being in duplicate.

Balancing your team, managing your upgrades and keeping an eye on your health, buffs and nerfs — as they don’t restore between battles — is essential, especially if you want to beat battles within the optional time limits (which are linked to energy expenditure from moves) and reap the rewards.

It has an incredible amount of new, fresh stuff going on. My only real concern for it at the moment is that it shares its name with a very common trope, and so might not be very visible online through normal means. Beyond that, Break The Loop is a great example of how to innovate within a crowded space, it feels like a great twist on the run-based, roguelite combat format.

Break The Loop doesn’t currently have a release date, however, a Windows demo is available on Steam.

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