You have woken from cryosleep, only to crash onto a moon that isn’t supposed to be there. Just your luck. Not to mention the place is crawling with odd, bloodthirsty creatures. Don’t worry though; an otherworldly entity has your back. Well, has all your parts, really. And will stick you back together upon your inevitable death. It’s going to be a long day.
Loot Rascals is a rogue-like pseudo-board game. Players move their character around a randomly generated map, consisting of terrain tiles, fighting creatures and claiming cards. Cards can be equipped to boost the player’s attack and defence, as well as grant various abilities or powers. As players move from tile to tile the days and nights cycle, and a counter deceases. The counter indicates how much time until more, and powerful, enemies arrive.
There are five levels, and players carry their cards from level to level. Should the die, the player loses all their cards and is dropped back at a randomly generated first level to start again. Some help comes in the form of card rockets, which players can place a card onto, and can be collected during another run. Also, some cards are stolen from you when you die, and other players can find and return these cards for you to use.
Combat operates on a very simple math base. A player’s attack score is subtracted from an enemy’s defence score, with what is left being the damage that is done. Enemies attacking players have their power score divided by the players defence, with the result being damage dealt. Each enemy also has two states, attack and defend. When in attack the creature attacks first when engaged, and when in defend the player attacks first. These states alternate, with the length and conditions of change being different for each foe.
This gives the game quite a complex tactical element. Players try to manoeuvre around enemies, keeping them at a distance so they can pounce when the time is right. This is all done while trying to avoid tougher creatures and generally not becoming trapped.
Cards are collected throughout the adventure. They range from cards with attack or defence characteristics, to ability cards, or cards which allow players to perform special actions.
These cards are slotted into one of ten available spaces. Those cards with attack or defence values contribute to the players overall ratings, while other cards offer passive bonuses. Some special cards can be combined with standard cards, and allow the player to access abilities like teleport or fireball. Abilities like this need to be powered up after each use, to be used again.
Loot Rascals is one of those games where its biggest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. The marriage of card collection, tactics and exploration makes it an addictive and compelling experience. Players can put a lot of thought into how they arrange their cards to maximise what they can gain from it, with a lot of options for different kinds of builds.
It can be incredibly rewarding constructing an arrangement of cards which works in beautiful unison. Even better is seeing those cards in action as you explore the various levels. However, the rogue-like aspects undo almost all of this careful planning, stripping you of any cards and upgrades you have collected.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the game was more forgiving, or if players could somehow save their progress or even a few key cards. Even starting from a level you have previously reached would be welcome. As it is, players are required to play through the entire five levels in one sitting, starting each run completely from scratch. There is some relief when you gain a card from a card rocket, or another player returns a card, but these events happen rarely.
I feel the real disappointment with Loot Rascals is that it is such a compelling, entertaining and interesting game, but how it treats its rogue-like elements creates an almost insurmountable barrier. It seems like it asks too much, for players to start completely from scratch each time. Especially since the levels are randomly generated, and some deaths are completely unavoidable due to particular random enemy and environment placements.
It is doubly disappointing because the world and narrative is so engaging that you just want to find out what is happening. For instance, I have played for over eight hours, and can only just make it to the third level. Those who have finished it gain both my admiration and sympathy!
Loot Rascals is an extremely entertaining and challenging game, which is let down a lot by its rogue-like implementation. Those deep into rogue-likes will definitely find this a sound investment. More casual players might find aspects to like, but at the approximately AUD$20 price tag, it hardly seems like value for money. Keep an eye on it, though, and grab it when it is on sale. If nothing else, the left-of-centre theme will provide ample entertainment.
Loot Rascals is developed and published by Hollow Ponds, and is available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 10 hours