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Backpack Hero Review

Because of the amount of AAA titles launching every year, it’s easy for indie games to fly under the radar. Especially if they’re made by a single developer. But it’s often these games that manage to surprise me. Over the years, it’s happened quite a few times. And Backpack Hero is the latest indie game that’s taken me by surprise. Read on for our Backpack Hero review.

Taking it to the next level

Backpack Hero is a turn-based rpg roguelike. Probably the most well known game in this genre is Slay The Spire. Dozens of roguelikes have tried to imitate the Slay The Spire formulae, hoping to ride its success. Backpack Hero is one of the few games which are similar to Slay The Spire but do something truly unique and make it a better game, in my opinion.

In Backpack Hero you’ll be scouring dungeons with your magic backpack. You’ll be crawling through dungeons using a map, where at first glance part of the map is hidden. Just like your classic dungeon crawlers. You’ll find rooms with items, friendly encounters or enemies. Essentially, every dungeon or tier has three floors. At the end of the third floor, there’s always a boss. On the way, you’ll have to fight at least a few enemies but can choose to do more for extra rewards.

Magic backpack

The basics of combat are reminiscent of Slay The Spire. You start with 3 energy per turn (This can change depending on items in your backpack). Using items from your backpack takes a set amount of energy, from 0 to 2. You can attack to do damage to enemies or block to gain armor. And there’s loads of consumables. Now, this all sounds very basic and not very different from most roguelikes. I agree.

This is where your magic backpack comes in. You don’t fight using cards. Using items in your backpack is how it’s done. You always start out with a starter pack of items. You’ll need to place them in your backpack carefully. Using a small grid of nine squares, you need to place them much like tetris so they fit in your backpack. Every combat gives you the chance to take new items. But, when your backpack is full, you need to choose which items to replace. Ironically, with just the starter set, your backpack is always full.

Inventory management

Upon leveling up (Often after the first combat), your stats don’t increase. But your space in your backpack does. You get to choose how you expand your backpack, which is important as items have varying sizes. It’s an innovative system and works excellently. The great thing is there are multiple characters and all of them have backpacks which work just a bit differently. For example, there’s one character which can place literal tetris blocks of free spaces in the backpack, which synergize as long as they’re not connected. This completely changes your strategies of which items to take and how to progress.

As you progress and your backpack increases in size, you’ll discover a lot of different items. There are so many synergies in the game between the items, that you’ll often accidentally find new strategies to use. One time, I had this completely crazy run with a barrel of ale, which spawned mugs of ale at the cost of some coins. Which I could then combine with an item that destroyed consumables and did 500% damage. I steamrolled the entire dungeon using mugs of ale as weapons. There’s all sorts of crazy combinations in the game, using clever game mechanics based on managing your backpack’s space.

Rebuild your home

After your first run, you’ll come out of the dungeon onto a seemingly open plain. You’ll meet your father which introduces you to the story of the game. The story is very basic and not very engaging. I found it very cheesy at some points. Either way, the story quickly points out that your main objective is to restore a village. In between every run, you’ll come back here and use the resources you acquired in the dungeon to rebuild the town. You can place buildings of all kinds and have a pretty big map to build it to your liking. This in itself is a great side activity.

However, there’s more to it than just cosmetically building a town. Before long, you’ll discover the first buildings where you can research new items. Once researched, you can start getting these items in your runs through chests or combat. In order to research, you’ll need to spend some resources or bring specific items from the dungeon. There’s hundreds of items to find and research. In every run, with the limited backpack space, I found myself constantly questioning which items to take. Do I take only useful items for this run? Or do I use some space for items I don’t intend to take but need for some research. It’s a great addition and gives the roguelike experience an extra dimension.

Plenty of Quests to go around

Often, roguelikes offer a very clear path. You constantly restart the same challenge, hoping you’ll have better luck and do make it to the end this time. The same applies to Backpack Hero, but to lessen the grind a bit and mix it up, they offer quests. Quests give you a new goal per run. It starts you off with a very specific set of items and challenges you to reach your goal like this. Some are really hard, others less so. But they all introduce you to different strategies. This is a feature I hope newer roguelikes learn from. 

Backpack Hero is a pixel art game. While these games can be graphically impressive, this cannot be said for Backpack Hero. The game doesn’t visually impress nor does it offer a stellar soundtrack. In fact, the intermediary village building offers some underwhelming graphics. However, don’t judge a book by its cover!

Conclusion

It’s easy to be put off by Backpack Hero’s mediocre storytelling and underwhelming presentation. However, if you look past that, you’ll find one of the best roguelikes you’ll ever play in my opinion. With solid gameplay, innovative ideas and loads of items and strategies to discover, it can set you up for dozens of hours of fun. A good roguelike gives you that “One more run” feeling, and this game definitely did. I will regularly be going back for it!

Pros:

  • Innovative inventory system
  • Crazy item synergies
  • Village building inbetween runs
  • A lot of items to discover

Cons:

  • Underwhelming presentation
  • Mediocre storytelling

Grade: 9

That was it for our Backpack Hero Review. Backpack Hero is available through Boosteroid. Be sure to follow us on Twitter right here.