Rogue-likes are really not my thing. Most of them feel tedious or stressful, and that’s hardly a recipe for fun. Loot Rascals, which I spent time with during PlayStation Experience, is a turn-based rogue-like that manages to upend expectations and deliver not just fun, but glee.
Let’s set the scene. You’ve crashed on an alien planet and need to stay alive against hordes of space baddies. To do so, you collect loot from your fallen foes in the form of cards that help boost your attack and defense stats.
Although the trappings of procedurally generated levels and permadeath with lost resources are still at play, the feel of Loot Rascals isn’t quite like other entries in this genre. It's a mellow change of pace with streamlined mechanics and a vibrant personality.
Where other games in this style often focus on player-controlled combat systems, the complexity in Loot Rascals is all in the strategy. All you do to fight is step into the same space as an enemy, and the combat exchange unfolds automatically based on the cards you’ve equipped. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t thinking about each move. The game operates on a day/night cycle, and enemies will alternate between offense and defense over those two time periods. So if a monster with a high attack appears on the horizon, do you play the avoidance game until it swaps to defense mode and hope nothing else more powerful cuts you off? Or if you’re surrounded by enemies, do you wait to spend a turn looting the card that dropped or risk getting swamped by attackers? And things get even more gnarly as you advance. Focusing on spatial awareness and positioning is a refreshing addition to the game style.
Another charming element to this game is the interaction with other players. When any person dies, the enemy who conquered them can loot their cards. When you successfully defeat that enemies in your own game, you’ll have the option to steal the special card for your own deck or to return it to the original owner. If you help out the other player, their hologram may show up to help out in your fights. Or if you steal it away, the hologram can still show up but will be…much less friendly. The asynchronous multiplayer concept is hardly new, but it’s executed in a way that feels natural and fun.
This project is the work of designer Ricky Haggett, who also masterminded the strange and lovely Hohokum. For anyone who played and loved that game back in 2014, you’ll find a familiar artistic sensibility at play in Loot Rascals. It’s weird. It is unabashedly and delightfully weird. I mean, your guide has a teapot for a head.
Loot Rascals is really like nothing else, and its commitment to both its bonkers vibe and its unique gameplay make it one to look for next year. The game is slated for launch on PlayStation 4 and PC in 2017.