Impressions: Hack, Slash, Loot

By Adam Smith on January 24th, 2012 at 12:11 pm.

They are not dungeon defenders, they are dungeon invaders

Hack, Slash, Loot, which released yesterday, is dungeon crawling in a very pure form. Between the hacking, slashing and looting you’ll be doing a bit of walking, sure, maybe even reading the occasional scroll, but there’s not much else to distract from the bare necessities. It may well be the simplest roguelike I’ve ever played, with actual visual approximations of the things you’re looting, hacking and slashing, a point and click interface, and no inventory to manage. There’s equipment in abundance, but it’s a case of choosing what you want and leaving the rest on a dank floor somewhere. There’s a sizable demo and the full game is £6.64/$9.99 on PC/Mac/Linux. More thoughts below.

With Defender’s Quest and now this, it feels like the Tuesday of excellent variations on popular themes. Hack, Slash, Loot streamlines the process of killing and collecting and, in my opinion, looks very attractive while doing so. Rather than providing a single quest – FETCH THIS AMULET THAT MAY BE AN ORB – each game begins with choosing a class and a goal. Each mission has a themed dungeon associated with it, so if you’re tomb raiding you’ll be fighting the undead and looting tombs, whereas if you’re demon hunting you’ll be…hunting demons.

Movement is turn-based, although clicking at the opposite side of the room, or on a distant object, will send the hero trotting over to it unless interrupted by injury or death. Let it be known that the grimmest of reapers is a rude man who will not hesitate to talk over people at dinner parties or pick up the other phone line while they’re trying to talk through a tricky patch in a long distance relationship. The best way to avoid his touch in Hack, Slash, Loot is caution and cunning.

Don’t rush around opening every container in sight until a room has been cleared of enemies. Especially if those containers are crypts because do you know what crypts contain? Sometimes boots and hats, actually, which has been a constant source of delight for my needy adventurers, but the also contain skeletons. And this being a computer game, skeletons are not simply the breakable scaffolding of people who have passed on, their delicate mechanisms now doomed to be dust – skeletons are monsters that will stand up, wave an axe in your face and then cleave you into segments. I still don’t understand how they do it but they do and I’ll continue to blame the necromantic powers of Ray Harryhausen.

I said there was no inventory and that probably sounds like a terrible idea. I’m sure it will put some people off, as it means that instead of carting around what is essentially several character builds in a backpack, a decision must be made whenever loot is found. Do I want to be protected against necrotic damage but have less overall protection against claw and club? Is accuracy more important to me than damage? You can have two weapons to switch between but that’s it, so choices choices must be made partially on the basis of an individual character’s existing strengths and weaknesses, but also on the situation he/she is in at that moment. In a dungeon full of the dead, a holy dagger of smiting might be worth taking, even if it means chucking a giant bastard of a bastard sword into a corner, to rust and be forgotten.

Even scrolls, which have esoteric functions as well as fulfilling the usual roles of potions such as healing, are used on the spot. That can feel limiting but progress is so swift and injuries so common that there’s rarely a time you wouldn’t need to use something immediately. As well as only carrying the clothes on the back and the items in their hands, adventurers don’t level up in Hack, Slash, Loot. Presumably, if they did, it would be called Hack, Slash, Loot, Improve. The ‘Loot’ part takes care of any progress that’s made, with increasingly powerful artifacts being dropped and discovered as dungeons become deeper and more dangerous. It works well and helps to shift the focus onto the hundreds of weapons and armour pieces that are lying around waiting to be grabbed.

Equipment is handled elegantly. Stand on a piece of loot and it will pop out from beneath the character to be examined. Click to pick it up. As should always happen in any game that wants me to care about what I’m wielding and wearing, all the character’s stats are updated with a preview showing the loot’s effects when the mouse is held over it. With such a vast array of stuff to see it would be maddening to switch and swap, keeping mental notes of the effects of every codpiece and mitten, and the stat preview is the perfect solution to that.

That’s how the whole game functions, in fact. Information is displayed clearly and in suitable locations. Place the cursor over an enemy and its name is displayed, the weapon it’s holding (if any), its hit points, weaknesses and resistances. Good, good, good. I don’t mind digging through tomes of knowledge to find information, in some games I appreciate doing the legwork because it’s part of the experience, but Hack, Slash, Loot wants to sit in a window and entertain you for a few minutes at a time. No stress, no bother. Actually, that’s not entirely true; there’s still the stress of dying when equipped with the most glorious plate armour known to elf or man. That’s a bloody horrible feeling.

The demo provides six characters, some of which must be unlocked, and two quests, while the full version has 32 characters and six quests. That means it’s 486% bigger and 1,201% more fun. Remembering that those quests aren’t just a case of ‘find a different object’ but provide a theme for the dungeon in which they take place, it really is a decent amount of extra content. And I get to say something that I enjoy saying an incredible amount – the demo is large and a good representation of the complete product. If you like it and want more, you’ll almost certainly find that your money’s worth is concealed within the game and that’s not taking into account the possibility of further content for purchasers in the future.

I hadn’t heard anything about Hack, Slash, Loot before yesterday evening and I stayed up far too late last night playing and now I want to start playing again but can’t because I should probably write about other games as well. The title is a perfect description of what’s required and if you’ve ever enjoyed any of those three activities, this could well be to your liking. There’s less tactical planning and at times it feels more a game of exploration than character building, but these little pixel-jaunts do feel like adventures and I’ve already managed to build a couple of true heroes. Try yon demo and see for yourself.

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39 Comments »

  1. Matt says:

    I’m getting really tired of games using sfxr for their sound effects.

    Aside from that, HSL looks quite compelling. It seems like the developer also put some thought into future expansions with the quest system.

  2. Dannygeist says:

    I just love those cute-as-the-dickens sprites. They were also in Realm of the Mad God! And thanks to some mediocre internet sleuthing I found out there’s no plagiarism/ripping-off-of involved! In fact, both devs seem to be chums.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/roguelikes/comments/h3w05/hack_slash_loot_beta_ready_for_download/c1so22b

    That makes me rather happy!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’m guessing you found the part where those sprites are actually the result of a competition over on Tigsource, and have been used in a number of games because of it:

      http://www.tigsource.com/2010/02/07/assemblee-competition-results/

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      I think they were created as part of a competition a long time ago, and then used for several games afterwards. In fact, I think this is how Desktop Dungeons was originated?

      EDIT: Beaten to the punch.

    • Scio says:

      They’re from the Tigsource Assemblee Compo (Part 1): Oddball’s entries and Oryx’ versions. They are non-commercial in their distributed forms, though, and quite lovely.

    • Dannygeist says:

      @Hoaxfish Why yes I did! And it makes me even happier, because I freaking love those sprites

    • siegarettes says:

      Indeed. TIGSource has been quite a good place for indie games. The amount of quality games that have come from their compos is astonishing. Still makes me happy to know that Eufloria started as a little game for the Procedural Generation Compo and evolved into a full retail game that even made it onto the Playstation.

      Although activity from there seems a bit smaller these days.

  3. bigtoeohno says:

    I’m going to give this bad boy a try. I’ve been seeing far to many games well into the maybe pile that are left by the wayside. Noones fault bt my own and maybe the sheer number. Downoading.

  4. kukouri says:

    I’m always a sucker for games like this.

  5. PoulWrist says:

    This would be awesome here on my Galaxy Nexus. Wtb, please :-)

    • jrodman says:

      This was only a test of the reply fail system. Repeat, this was only a test.

    • Svant says:

      Indeed, used to play alot of Legends of Yore but want something new and abit more in depth and advanced.

  6. JackDandy says:

    I don’t think these kind of games are worth spending money on, especially considering there are are far better, free alternatives.

    • Koozer says:

      I got Dungeon Defenders for half the cost of this \o/

    • saturnine says:

      I don’t think these kind of comments are worth spending replies on, especially considering there are are far better, free alternatives.

    • mondomau says:

      So, examples? Or just negativity?

    • JackDandy says:

      Sorry for not providing examples, that was my bad.
      If you’re really that desperate for an intuitive graphical interface, there’s Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Check it out! You can control almost every action in it via the mouse.

      If you’re not that bothered by graphics, but the controls daunt you, try DoomRL, it’s very easy to get into, not much key commands you need to remember. Next update will have a graphical tileset too IIRC.

      And if neither graphics or key commands bother you, go ahead and play ADOM or Nethack, or simply scour the Roguelike wiki and find something you like.

      All are free and most probably more in depth then this.
      http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.org/index.php/Main_Page

      Hope that helped!

    • cafe says:

      @Saturnine: What is your problem? It’s his own honest opinion that these games aren’t worth the price. He didn’t spam or flame or anything…
      Also i think he has a point! I was going to buy this based on the review and then i went to the site and saw that it costs 8€ which is in my opinion a bit much for an indie rougelike with tons of free alternatives that even have their own artwork and not something that was allready used a couple of times in indie games.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love indie games and I purchase a few every month but some of the indie devs are going the same crazy way with their pricing as most of the big devs do. Look at Overgrowth, it’s friggin 30 bucks!!! For an Alpha! There is no way this is reasonable, even if it looks really promising.

      Sadly most indie devs have let me down after I gave them my money (looking at you cortex command, FUUU) and only a few games so far were worth my money which made me change my opinion towards indie devs a lot. (Which doesnt mean I’m generally agains indie games, i love them, its just that indie isnt always equal to fun and fair. Some of the indie devs are trying to rip you off as much as the big devs do)

      Also consider this: Do you think minecraft would have sold a quazillion times while it was still in alpha if it would have cost 30 quid?

      And yes: JackDandy, please name some of the alternatives!!!

    • JackDandy says:

      Already did, Cafe. Check my 2nd post :)

      I pretty much agree with you- Some indie games are definitely worth their price (looking forward to Grimrock, Age of Decadence, Dead State, and more), but there’s a fair amount of other indie titles and projects that have tarnished the indie dev image in my eyes. (Looking at you, Notch).

      I think every game should be judged on it’s own merits, and not just whether it has the indie tag stamped on it.

    • affront says:

      Don’t forget ToME4, guys, even though it plays like some kind of weird RPG/roguelike hybrid – but in a good way, for me at least.
      It’s gotten pretty awesome especially judging by general usability/comfort. Graphics are great too (for free and this genre anyway), apart from tiles with trees on them sometimes not being entirely clearly visible as not passable (which isn’t too often, plus you can turn tileset off if you really want to IIRC).

      http://te4.org/ for screens of UI, menus, etc.

      Also it has auto explore. Which after playing Crawl for a while nearly makes or breaks a roguelike for me these days, lazy as I am. You can also make an account on the site to have your character sheet show up online and to synch saves, keep track of your unlocks (some classes/races/skills), and if you’re logged in you have a chat channel in-game, which is pretty helpful.

    • Strange_guy says:

      Speaking of graphical rogue-likes I’ve been playing a lot of TOME 4 recently. It’s still in beta- so I’ve had some crashes and one game ending bug- but it’s fun and has about as good a graphic interference as Dungeon Crawl. In fact I was impressed enough with dragging items with abilities onto the ability bar and having a right click menu on creatures I’d call it better.

      EDIT: And just as I was typing this someone else brings it up.

    • Adam Smith says:

      TOME4 mentioned twice, seconds apart. Uncanny! It’s excellent – I only started playing it recently. Hugely impressed.

    • sneetch says:

      @cafe

      I think his problem was probably that JackDandy’s original post seemed to just be general, unspecific bashing of a game as not being worth paying for because there are unnamed “better” alternatives that are free. At least that’s why I rolled my eyes when I read it.

      Now, JackDandy gave those alternatives in a seperate post afterwards (and great they are although I did get the feeling he hasn’t actually played this game?) but the initial post seemed very much like someone casually dismissing months of someone’s effort simply because they want some money for it and seeing that kind of post again and again is just so wearying after a while (as is the increasingly common expectation that these games will be in a bundle or dirt cheap because they’re indie).

      As for this, I’ll give it a shot and if I like it I’ll pay the €8. €8 isn’t much in the grand scheme so I’m ok with that.

    • tanith says:

      Then I guess it’s time for someone to mention Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup a second time. :p
      It is a really good game. I played it a few hundred times now and haven’t beaten it even once. Now that is a true roguelike (and I am a true newbie at these games).
      Hack, Slash, Loot – well, I don’t know. It is VERY minimalistic. At the very minimum I would have expected it to be like nethack or Stone Soup but it does not even have an inventory and that is kind of disappointing… :(
      8 Euro is really a bit too much.

    • jrodman says:

      It’s funny. I enjoy these commercial low complexity roguelikes as a sort of ‘light snack’ variation on the ‘full meal’ of the open source ones.

      And since these are so simple, and readily completed (typically) I don’t mind too much that they don’t have endless challenge and enough sophistication that I want to look through their sourcey codes. While a full-strength rogulike without source just rubs me the wrong way (adom) a little ditty that costs 8 bucks is sometimes what I want.

      I am not sure how this works, as Crawl is unquestionably the higher quality title, and I’d be willing to pay someone.. not sure who.. a hundred bucks or something for it. But that’s not the way it got made. It got made because people wanted to. And that’s one of the reasons it is as great as it is.

    • srulz says:

      Hey you guys recommending the TOME 4!

      Just how is it compared to Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup? I just 15-runed a couple or so of “challenge” chars in Crawl, so I’m kinda burned out on it (just clearing Zigs for fun sometimes). So I’m currently looking for a similar game, and TOME 4 seems to be just the “perfect” one.

    • Strange_guy says:

      TOME 4 is very different from Crawl in a lot of ways. For instance classes are a lot more rigid, it is a lot more special ability based with fighters have various strikes and the like, there no identification of items really. It has a world map, background and npcs instead of being a pure dungeon crawler. There’s little in the way of resources you use up, the scroll and potion equivalents work on cooldowns. It doesn’t have hunger. You have to unlock many class and races which is a little annoying, especially as one unlock revolutionises the looting for cash (another difference) for all characters afterwards.

  7. Hodge says:

    I tried this out a couple of months back and had pretty much the same experience. I had no idea that the full version was out, so that’s my second RPS-inspired instapurchase of the day. I fear it won’t be the last.

    Also, I’m going to risk being that guy and point out that I mentioned it at the time, in the comments on Adam’s Roguelikes-of-2011 feature. Nearly two months ahead of the hivemind! I AM THE DUKE OF SMUG.

  8. Excelle says:

    Every time I see an article about roguelikes, I think how much I would love to have a properly multiplayer roguelike I can host on my server at home and have my friends come and quest in whenever they want. A bit like you could sort of make Moria do back in the day (by sharing the save file between players).

    Surely with our SuperModernTechnology(TM), someone could put this together?

    • wu wei says:

      There’s always Crossfire :)

    • sneetch says:

      Oh wow! Crossfire! I haven’t played that since… about ’95 I think. :)

      Brilliant!

    • Harlander says:

      Crossfire’s reach exceeds its grasp, though.

      Or its design is writing cheques its implementation can’t cash.

      Or something.

      I thought Wyvern was a bit more polished, but I guess no-one else did, as Wyvern died in the silence when I wasn’t looking,

    • siegarettes says:

      I love this idea, although I’d like to add real-time action to the mix. Kind of like Dungeons of Fayte, but with infinite dungeons and loot. Boy that would be sweet.

  9. sidhellfire says:

    And not only saved games, but Profiles, settings, screenshots. Devs have a mercy.

  10. jrodman says:

    Eh, on play, the controls are poor.

    It’s too easy to click a floor tile instead of a monster tile, causing you to move and be hit.
    The perspective is cute but makes the grid hard to see, so the tactics suffer.

    The game shows pop up lists of items for the mouse, but requires keyboard to enter the pickup interface — confusing.

    • jrodman says:

      Tried some more games playing keyboard-style. It works better this way but the feedback is still clunky. When targetting it’s a bit tedious to have to keep selecting your target (no, i don’t want to shoot my pet, thanks).

      But the really inexcusable thing is the ESC key being an insta-quit-death. Especially when the menu system gets you stuck without a way out if you don’t like your item. Yes, I looked up in the instructions that backspace is cancel after my first two insta-unfair-deaths, but i still use escape as cancel (because .. that’s what it means in a game typically, or a roguelike typically). So a death-by-suicide is inevitable in a longer game.

      Configurable key bindings, more feedback, better defaults, and an improved display of the dungeon and we’ll talk. Could be good!

  11. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Erm, what the hell do you do if you get poisoned? It just weakens you every turn until death?

    It totally ruined a great run-through I was just having.

  12. Pharago says:

    welcome to 1989, rps

  13. Chris says:

    I would love to play one of these games as a party rather than as a single character.