Hollow Ponds’ Loot Rascals is one of the most unforgiving games I have experienced in a long time. The sheer punishment it doles out makes me surprised From Software didn’t have a hand in its development. Yet when you first load up the game you’re lulled into a false sense of security by its cartoon-like artwork that wouldn’t look out of place on a TV channel for kids. It begins with an amusing opening as your character crashes onto a strange planet, and then looks for a way to escape.
At its core Loot Rascals is a roguelike strategy game that uses cards to increase your character’s attack and defence, as well as grant a number of abilities to deal with enemies. Each time you play, a map is generated from a seeded number and you can use that number to recreate the location in a seeded game, though there are a few million options there. Once the map has been created your job is to guide you character through to the end of the levels. That is no easy feat.
Honestly, you will die a lot and that can be down to a number of reasons. It may be that the cards you collected weren’t good enough. Each time you down an enemy there is a chance of collecting a card to add to your deck, and you can collect some in the environment too. These are split between weapons, armour, and ability categories, with some cards having further rules added to them. The deck layout allows you to have ten cards equipped total and maximising them is key.
You may have a defence card that adds an extra two points to that stat but only if it is placed in a certain deck slot, which could mean sacrificing a card for the better rating. Getting rid of, or decompiling as it is known in Loot Rascals, a card rewards you with a token. Acquiring tokens allows you to do things like replenishing health at a camp, or setting a trap. At first it’s easy to get rid of dud cards, but as you go on the choice becomes tougher as more powerful cards are dropped.
Sometimes you’ll find cards that have been lost by other players and here you have a choice to make. You can either keep the card and at some point face the other player’s holo, or send it back to them which means their holo will help you for a little while. This can help when you’re having trouble when looking for the exit tile on the map as the monsters close in. While you’re playing you need to explore the map to find the exit, with each move equalling a turn. Early on it may be wise to target the weak creatures to obtain cards and find paths around tougher opponents but it is very easy to get surrounded, and die.
Death in Loot Rascals is a very demoralising event. When you die you’re sent back to the beginning and you lose all of your cards. Because of this there is no true sense of progression. You can understand how the game works, how cards interact with each other, and the strengths of different enemy types, but this doesn’t translate to improving the character or your cards over games. Once you die all of the effort put in is expended without a true feeling of it having been worthwhile.
When it comes to the card drops a lot of luck is involved, as well as the enemy placement it seems. There were a number of times where I would receive sub-par cards and run into tough monsters which ended my run quickly. There were only a couple of times where it felt like Loot Rascals aligned with me to dole out decent cards and give a decent shot at getting through a game. You may receive a card back from another player but you can’t rely on that system alone to push through.
Loot Rascals has potential, but the over reliance on luck and a lack of any real progression lets it down some what. I appreciate what Hollow Ponds is attempting to do with the game but without any tangible feedback that you’re improving it can feel like effort and time is being wasted. Still, the gameplay is actually fun, and the on-the-fly strategy aspect utilising cards is a system that has been implemented well. Loot Rascals looks great and plays well, and its style will appeal to some. If you want a game that is challenging, humourous, but very reliant on luck then Loot Rascals is for you.
Version tested: PlayStation 4