Loot Ras­cals

Ho­hokum alumni set out on a Rogue­like ad­ven­ture

EDGE - - GAMES SECTIONS -

PC, PS4

The most re­cent game from Hol­low Ponds co-founder Ricky Haggett – and, in­deed, many of the peo­ple work­ing with him at his new stu­dio – was Ho­hokum, a bor­der­less mus­ing about free­dom, self-ex­pres­sion and un­hur­ried ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. So it’s fair to say that the last thing we ex­pected to see in his lat­est project was a hex grid. But on closer in­spec­tion, Loot Ras­cals isn’t as rigidly de­fined as those hexagons sug­gest.

For starters, while this pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated Rogue­like is tech­ni­cally turn-based, you’re still able to gad around freely, mak­ing time wind on and the world rapidly switch be­tween day and night. En­e­mies, too, will only move when you do, but some of them are gifted an un­nerv­ing turn of speed when you’re dash­ing about the map. If you find your­self on the same hex as an en­emy, then a fight to the death will au­to­mat­i­cally play out.

Whether or not you emerge vic­to­ri­ous de­pends on your at­tack and de­fence rat­ing, which is de­ter­mined by the Loot Chips you have equipped in your space­suit. You’ll have a ran­dom selec­tion to be­gin with, and most en­e­mies will drop more on death. Tap­ping tri­an­gle switches from the top-down grid view to in­side your hel­met, and from here you can ar­range col­lected chips on a 5x2 board. The chips come in blue and orange va­ri­eties (de­fence and at­tack, re­spec­tively), and while they have il­lus­tra­tions and evoca­tive names – such as Hy­dra Put­ter and Abla­tive Arm­band – their only real func­tion is to boost your stats.

An ad­di­tional layer of strat­egy comes in the form of spe­cial con­di­tions on cer­tain cards. For ex­am­ple, a card might gain value if it’s placed be­low another card of the same colour, in a par­tic­u­lar row or if it’s the only card of its type equipped. Once you’ve got enough chips it be­comes a mini-puz­zle en­sur­ing you have ev­ery­thing ar­ranged in the most ef­fi­cient and pow­er­ful way. Some chips can be flipped be­tween orange and blue states; oth­ers are sticky and can­not be re­ar­ranged once placed; and still more can be laid on top of ex­ist­ing cards to be­stow state changes, such as fire or filth, and un­lock spe­cial at­tacks.

These abil­i­ties, which in­clude a freeze ray and tele­por­ta­tion, are de­ployed by aim­ing with the right stick and then tap­ping R1. You get one shot and must charge the me­ter again by re­veal­ing more of the map or find­ing a one-shot-charge tile to stand on. Com­bat is deep­ened by en­e­mies’ strong ties to the time of day – some are noc­tur­nal, oth­ers di­ur­nal – and whether their first move in an en­counter is to de­fend or at­tack will de­pend on whether it’s the sun or the moon that’s il­lu­mi­nat­ing the bat­tle­field. Some larger, more pow­er­ful en­e­mies switch be­tween strong and weak forms with ev­ery move, so you’ll have to judge when to move onto the hex they oc­cupy. If you get it wrong and are slain, the wily vic­tor will pick over your corpse and steal a Loot Chip, send­ing it to a ran­dom player’s game on­line. When you de­feat the stronger en­e­mies in your own game, they’ll drop a high-level chip looted from another player and you then have to de­cide whether to keep hold of it or send it back. Do­ing the lat­ter means you could en­counter that player’s holo­gram which will tag along and help for a time. If you keep it, the same holo­gram may well be hos­tile when you run into it.

Whether you choose benev­o­lence or greed, you’ll also have to de­cide which chips to get rid of in re­turn for gold coins – ex­change­able at each level’s home base for health, and the only way to re­cover from dam­age. Even at this early stage, the re­sult of all these sys­tems is a pacy, ad­dic­tive spin on the Rogue­like genre, and one that feels ev­ery bit as ac­com­mo­dat­ing as Ho­hokum.

Some more pow­er­ful en­e­mies switch be­tween strong and weak forms with ev­ery move

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