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  • Writer's pictureGreg Ezell

Backpack Hero Review

Worth the time or send it to the back of the bag?

Have you ever looked at a game with a weary eye and after a couple of hours, you’ve finished your session and are pleasantly surprised with the whole package? That’s how I felt coming away from Backpack Hero

There’s no doubt that roguelikes and roguelites are in my wheelhouse. Those that have listened to the podcast for any length of time know that I love roguelikes and roguelites. Games like Cult of the Lamb, Death’s Door, Rogue Legacy and Hades are held in such high regard when talking about the genre. 

But roguelike and roguelite are starting to become a watered down genre. It seems that everything these days is putting in some kind of rogue- mode in their game. The Last of Us Part 2 is putting one into their newest re-release and God of War: Ragnarok just added one to their free DLC. 

When I saw that Backpack Hero was a roguelike, inventory management game, I had some trepidation. When it comes to games, one of the things I like the least is inventory management. It is why games like Minecraft haven’t ever grabbed me. I don’t want to feel as though I’m missing out on stuff when I want to go exploring. 

a mouse looking at a map
The map allows you to choose your own adventure

Thankfully, Backpack Hero didn’t have this problem because it isn’t an open world experience like Minecraft. Backpack Hero is a dungeon crawler where you take routes based on a large map overlay. Through this dungeon, you’ll have a variety of encounters: combat, gold piles, vendors, traders, etc. The dungeons quickly become a “choose your own adventure” book because there are parts of the dungeon that will collapse, cutting you off from certain activities. It is truly up to you to figure out what is most important to you, taking care of business and getting to the exit. 

But let’s round back to the inventory management aspect of this game. When you first start, you find a magic bag that seems to increase as you defeat enemies. After your first encounter, the game will tell you that you can unlock four spaces in your bag and allows you free reign to build that bag however you’d like. 

A mouse looking at a big bag
You can expand your bag when defeating enemies

Backpack Hero creates an exercise where you have to manage your resources based on decisions you make before entering a dungeon. You are not given limitless space after encounters. You have to choose between items that are one time use consumables like armor potions, health potions or acid vials; weapons and armor that can take up a lot of space in your bag and some quest items that can help increase the size of Haversack Hill, the rundown village you hail from. 

The choices can be incredibly hard, especially as you’re moving deeper and deeper into the dungeon. Do you throw away an armor potion that will increase your block modifier for a rose that will add a damage over time modifier when you get hit? 

a mouse fighting two bearded dragons
Combat has an addictive loop

And all of this is important because combat is a major part of your dungeoning adventures. Combat is turn based, meaning you’ll go first and then your enemies will follow. There are three things you’ll want to pay attention to in combat: 

The first is how many turns you have available, indicated by the lime next to your character’s head. This is the start of planning your attacks and/or consumption of items. Normally, your turns will subtract by one when you do something, but different weapons and consumption items can add turns. 

The second is block. Block is added automatically before your turn based on any armor you’re wearing, plus any bonuses. Block is used to absorb any - or all - damage from your opponents. Once all of your block has absorbed all incoming damage, any damage after that will start to tick your health away. 

Lastly is doing your own damage. Opponents will have their own block which acts similar to yours. Once you knock down their block number, you’ll start to damage them as well. 

Using these three steps is the best way to plan your combat encounters. Thankfully, these combat encounters are not timed, so you’re able to plan out your attacks, how/when you consume items and what incoming damage you’ll take. 

Combat can be pretty jarring at the beginning, but once you understand the combat loop, it is incredibly rewarding when you complete a round against 2 or 3 enemies and you don’t take damage. Defeating enemies awards xp which allows you to expand your bag. 

a barren town
The early stages of Haversack Hill

The story mode has you rebuilding Haversack Hill, your hometown, as you look for your mother who was lost in the dungeons. Throughout your journeys in the dungeons, you’ll bring back supplies, weapons and quest items to grow your town. You’ll add buildings like a general store, a mill and NPC houses to fill your village and make it thrive. 

NPC will move into your village and give you quests in certain dungeons which will have different rewards. Some of these are learning how to use magic (my least favorite archetype in this game), while some are different resource runs to assist in the building of your village. 

A look at the different dungeons
Talking to NPCs will give you different dungeons

The town management isn’t as deep as something like Cult of the Lamb, but scratches the itch as a town management-lite. It is another nice addition to a game that is already chalk full of content, but if this is what you’re looking to do, other games do it better. 

That’s not a knock against Backpack Hero either. No one buys an inventory management roguelike thinking they’re getting an expansive and masterful town management sim as well. It’s a nice little addition! 

Ultimately, Backpack Hero has been a really fun surprise when it comes to roguelike games! I didn’t have many expectations when downloading this game, but I find myself coming back to it time and time again. As a roguelike and indie geek, I can definitely recommend this one to you! 

Backpack Hero is available on Steam, Xbox, Playstation 4/5 and Nintendo Switch. This copy was reviewed on PC.

*Game was supplied by publisher for review, but does not effect the outcome of the review.


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