Loot Rascals: Our E3 2016 Preview

Hollow Ponds
Hollow Ponds /

Loot Rascals is smart and weird so, naturally, we like it a lot!

From the opening cut-scene, in which a chirpy computer AI boasting a thick northern accent tells you you’re “definitely going to crash” your dinky yellow spaceship, it becomes immediately clear that Loot Rascals has been developed by a British game studio. Hollow Ponds, as it happens, is a relatively new company based in London, though co-founder Ricky Haggett previously worked at Honeyslug, of Hohokum and Super Exploding Zoo Fame, and you can certainly see the similarities in the art style here.

It’s hard to describe Loot Rascals without playing it (as we did at E3 for around 30 minutes) and honestly, it looks set to work best as an experience that will be more rewarding the less you know about it going in. Even so, the most succinct way to describe the game is as a card-collecting roguelike with RPG elements and a unique multiplayer component. Yeah, as I said, it’s hard to explain.

Loot Rascals
Hollow Ponds /

You play as a voiceless astronaut whose ship has crashed on a mysterious, alien planet full of the titular loot rascals who are usually out to kill you. The planet in question is procedurally generated, letting you explore the hexagonal surfaces without any previously accumulated knowledge of where the exit to the next stage might be. Not to worry, though, because you won’t be completely out of your depth against the typically dangerous aliens in question.

You’re able to fight enemies through buffing your character based on the statistics determined by your card collection, which you can collect and expand by exploring the world and picking them up from defeated enemies and hidden locations. You can equip up to 10 cards in your active deck, and each will provide a specific bonus, statistical upgrade or allow you to perform an action. Some will increase your defense and attack strength, others might prolong the time you have a temporary ally fighting beside you.

Loot Rascals
Hollow Ponds /

This isn’t just a case of equipping and removing cards, however, as many will have certain conditions that must be met in terms of where you place them in your active deck and how you use them. Some cards may only work if they’re placed in the top row, for instance, or if all other cards are the same tiers (as you might imagine, there is a hierarchy of power and rarity to the dozens of cards available in the game). With this added aspect, every fight requires you to constantly be updating and monitoring your deck, similar to how you might strategize in a real card game, as maximizing the potential of your power is required for effective survival.

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Here is where the aforementioned multiplayer comes in; should you die (and, believe me, you will), your AI murderer is then able to randomly steal one of your cards, who will then make an appearance in another player’s game. Should that player kill said monster, they will then be given the choice to keep your stolen card or return it you. If they do keep the card, a hologram of your vengeful self will turn up to attack the thief, but should they return it, this hologram will instead aid them in battle.

Loot Rascals
Hollow Pond /

Echoing games like Diablo III and Dark Souls, this inspired approach to online play adds a genuinely fresh dynamic to the core single-player experience, even if it’s unclear just how frequently such encounters might occur.

We began Loot Rascals slightly taken aback and bewildered by the kooky tone and alien mechanics, but 20 minutes in and we found ourselves totally engaged and on board with this genre-bending title, set to release on PlayStation 4 sometime early next year.