By Chris Picone, 01 September 2022
Backpack Hero is an unusual roguelike focusing on what I can only describe as inventory-based combat. Getting your head around the unique system requires a lot of experimentation and it’s a lot of fun!
High quality pixel art and super cute characters, what can go wrong? The layout’s very minimalistic and the palette’s very subdued – mostly greys and browns – but this all serves to highlight the real star of the game: The inventory!
The map is your means for movement; simply click where you want to go and off you trot. There are no real surprises: You can see ahead of time where the loot is, and the locked doors that block it, and the stairs to the next level. You can even see which monsters you’ll find in any given room, and can sneak around or dodge them entirely if you like (but of course this comes at the expense of missed experience points and loot). Of course there are healers, merchants, and other random events along the way.
Combat sees you facing arrays of monsters with different attack patterns and types; they always outnumber you but they only take one action per turn each whereas you take three or more. You fight them by interacting with objects in your backpack. Click your sword, bow, or any of your other weapons to attack. Your defence primarily comes from armour and helmets and can be boosted by using shields – but all of these items are in your backpack rather than worn. This is the crux of the game: Everything you own and everything you do involves your backpack (even levelling!). This means you have to carefully manage your limited inventory, not just trying to fit in the best gear, but trying to maximise synergy between your equipment. In one run I created a “spike” build which involved boosting my defence and never actually attacking – enemies couldn’t get past my shields but would damage themselves every time they tried. I never had any luck creating an archer but there’s also capacity to synergise magic stones, artifacts, and wands to create mage builds that can self-heal or give you extra actions while using special effects or poison to damage. It’s all about experimentation and the luck of the draw.
Backpack Hero is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s familiar enough to be picked up easily but different enough that it’s a refreshing experience. Highly replayable and definitely worth the purchase for any roguelike fans.