PEGBRJE: Loot Rascals and Long Gone Days
Intergalactic Card Fights and Mercenary Terrorist Groups. What a pair.
Loot Rascals is a semi turn-based deck building action brawler by Hollow Ponds, and no I’m still uncertain of that genre being factually accurate. Playing as a crashed astronaut on a foreign planet, your objective is to fight off the aliens around you to gain cards that can make your astronaut even more powerful. The goal? To rescue your giant robotic space friend Big Barry from this planet and to escape the, and I quote, “tentacled pan-dimensional godbeast.” To say this game is an acid trip of aesthetically bonkers imagination is an understatement, and can only be described as word soup made real.
Let us first get the chaotic elements out of the way — Loot Rascals is not misnamed at all, as the entirety of the game revolves around RNGesus blessing you with sweet card drops. The planet’s surface is completely reshaped after every death, so the world is a different Jackson Pollock painting of hexagons and rocks to explore. Enemy placement can leave you terrified when a cool horse-headed fuzzball spawns with 20 defense to compete against your starting 3. Death can sometimes save one of your cards, sometimes it leaves you high and dry without anything to salvage.
What holds the chaos together is the cards and combat system that Loot Rascals builds up during an informative tutorial. To acquire cards, aliens must be thwarted to acquire their loot, and the semi turn-based combat becomes key. I call it semi, as it oddly enough reminds me of Pillars of Eternity and old Baldurs Gate turn-based systems, where everything is fluid but turn order is rigid and determines attack times. Loot Rascals cleverly uses a day/night cycle as its way of achieving turn order — enemy name plates have an attack or defense icon beside them, dictating who attacks first, and they change based on the time of day. Some enemies attack first during the night, some during the day. Each tile moved pushes the timer towards the next cycle, which rotates every 5 moves. What starts out as a simple process of attacking on sight evolves into carefully maneuvering into positions to capitalize on the switching of day into night to attack first and retreating from those that attack your astronaut first.
It wouldn’t be named Loot Rascals if there wasn’t loot, and there is a ton of cards to equip, turning your astronaut into a Duel Master. With 10 card slots available and 2 rows, cards can have specific requirements to give extra boons to the player. Some may give extra attack if in the second row, or on an odd slot in the numbered card slots. Some buff other cards in a certain location based on where they are put, and some hate being beside others. Cards can also be converted into tokens to be used for other services scattered on the planet, such as healing, so even ‘useless’ cards can be useful in the long term.
What started out as a game I blindly thought was simple and almost childlike turned out to be a complex rogue-like with endless combinations and replayability wrapped in a 70s cartoon hallucination. It can be played as a casual experience since time only moves when you do, or it can pit you against others with online leader boards and other features I didn’t have access to. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a different kind of rogue-like, or if you are really into time-distorting tentacled gods coming out of your nose when you die.
If this seems too happy for you, Long Gone Days has you covered.
Long Gone Days is a narrative experience with turn based combat elements by BURA, a studio co-founded by the original demo’s creator, Camila Gormaz. Set on earth at what I can only assume is our near future, our protagonist Rourke is a member of an underground military nation known only as ‘The Core’. After learning the truth about his organizations real motives for attacking an area near Kaliningrad, Rourke deserts his fellow brethren to hopefully thwart an oncoming war.
To say Long Gone Days is heavy is putting it mildly — with the current geopolitical climate being on fire (literally and figuratively), this game’s theming of war and its causes hits a little too close to home. Rourke works as a protagonist because of his lack of experience in almost all facets of ‘normal’ life, having never even seen the sun until the game gets halfway done the intro. The medic Adair is initially hesitant to join with Rourke because of his lack of understanding, knowing that going against ‘the Core’ would go against everything he’s ever known, which in itself is terrifying. Venturing into the unknown is not something done lightly, especially if it directly pits you against those that you’ve been surrounded with your entire life. Especially when turning against them would leave you in a foreign land with no way to speak to the locals. Interpreters in Long Gone Days are lifesavers, as without them Rourke and company have an almost impossible time acquiring resources or understanding any hostilities. Miscommunication is deadly, and no better way to learn of this fact than in a war.
Combat in Long Gone Days relies heavily on its Morale system, which is interwoven into the narrative. Morale is effected by choices made, items found and locations discovered, which in turn effects how characters perform in combat. Maxed out morale means they are in high spirits, and crit on hits. Run out of morale, and suddenly they are doing half damage. Morale is also the currency used for combat skills, such as the medic’s heal, attempting to mirror how real world skills are more difficult to utilize when lacking in motivation. It brings a fresh development on the standard ‘your choices have consequences’ rhetoric that many narrative games employ, with a new layer of added information to process. Make too many choices that anger your medic, and they no longer can heal the party which spells utter doom for you. Combat feels more like an exercise on how well the previous interactions went leading up to combat, which can feel more draining on the player as they attempt to appease those they have chosen to fight with. Almost like they’re in combat or something.
It doesn’t hurt that Long Gone Days is visually breathtaking — a fantastic blend of pixel-based art layered with cutscenes and cutouts in a more animated style is extremely easy on the eyes. I’d say that this game falls into the category I’ve dubbed as ‘lazy Sunday gaming’ but I’m not sure I would want to ruin a lazy Sunday with something so serious and heavy. It is definitely a game for people looking for a narrative that is a little too realistic and utilizes diegetic gameplay mechanics to get across a very human feeling such as morale.
Long Gone Days wraps itself in beautiful imagery to tell a very bleak tale — if that’s your aesthetic, then this is the game for you.
Links below for both.
Only you can rescue Big Barry - your huge robot head pal - from a space theme park that's been invaded by a tentacled…