The E3 expo is all about the big conferences, huge announcements, and showcasing the latest AAA gaming titles, but every E3 there’s a few hidden gems on the show floor. This year’s hidden gem, at least for me personally, was a quirky deck-building strategy game by the name of Loot Rascals. Hollow Ponds founder and lead designer, Ricky Haggett, coached me through Loot Rascals as I explored each procedurally-generated level, scavenging for cards and taking down enemies to make my escape.
After a ship malfunction sends you crashing into a strange planet, you’re left with no choice but to explore and find a way out, or meet your doom from the various species of monsters, aliens, and robots lurking about. The goal of the game is to manuever your way through each procedurally-generated level which is made up of a series of hexagonal tiles, and ultimately find the exits. Each move you make onto a new hexagonal tile counts as a turn, which really comes into play in terms of strategy. As you move from tile to tile, the enemies will also move, attempting to flank you or corner you if possible. Loot Rascals features a day/night cycle which changes as you move a number of turns. The day/night cycle determines the order of attack when engaging an enemy, which is shown by an indicator above their head. Attack order may not seem like a big deal, but since the game is perma-death, you’ll need every advantage you can get.
What immediately drew me to Loot Rascals was its unique animation style, which is almost a mix of Don’t Starve and The Jetsons. Each level is littered with a large variety of wacky and bizarre enemies of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The art for Loot Rascals is done by David “Swatpaz” Ferguson, who has done work for Adventure Time and Cartoon Hangover, and Brent “Meowza” Kobayashi, who has worked on Bushido Bear and Glitch. The game also features a very quirky sense of humor that can’t really be put into words. To truly get a feel for it, you’ll have to watch the announcement trailer below.
Loot Rascals, if you couldn’t tell by the name, is all about looting. The key to your survival on this hostile planet lies within the cards. As you explore each level and defeat enemies you’ll gain equipment and special abilities, which are in card form. You have 10 card slots for equipping cards, which increase your attack, defense, health, and give you special perks. Each card often has a condition that effects your character either positively or negatively, for example a card can give you +1 health if it is equipped in an even-numbered slot, or a card can decrease the effectiveness of the card to its right. By managing your slots and swapping cards around you’ll ultimately become powerful enough to take on any enemy that comes your way. Unwanted cards can be destroyed and you’ll receive tokens, which can be used to fill your life gauge back at the safe zone of each level.
Certain enemies you’ll encounter in Loot Rascals will drop special cards that they’ve picked up from killing other players. Once the enemy has been killed, you can choose to either keep the card for yourself or give it back to the player. This of course has its benefits and consequences, because later on in the game a hologram version of that player will show up to either help you, or in my case since I was getting too greedy, they will attempt to kill you.
With its addicting deck building gameplay, wacky animation style and sense of humor, Loot Rascals was easily one of my top games for E3 2016. If you’d like to see more screenshots and other goodies, head over to the official Loot Rascals website Loot Rascals will be available in early 2017 on Playstation 4 and PC.