by Jason “Evil Robot Master” Parker (Ragachak)
I love a good card game, but the real tedious part is all the farming to create, craft, and crack packs to get the cards. That’s where “Insane Robots” has all those games beat. It’s less of a card game and more of a card battler. Those cards you use you just have access to, and are ultimately a means to an end. They are your attacks, defense items, how you hack and plot against the other robots who are just trying to stay alive. But if you are to live, they must perish; that’s the law of the land. The game was initially created with a pile of old business cards, and the developers at Playniac took inspiration from digital and physical means to create this card battler that has all the stuff I love (tactical gameplay, fun robots knocking the screws out of each other) and none of the stuff I hate (the endless, eternal hopeless grind that someone will ultimately beat with spending real money). They described it as “FTL meets Battle Royale in a card game” and I can totally see that. The final goal is to overthrow the malevolent robot, “The Kernel” (Hah, I get it!) and to do that, you need to unlock other styles of robots, build decks, and be the last bot standing.
The cards are “tokens” and there are only 22 of them, so there are not weeks of research that has to be done: You can honestly just jump right into Insane Robots and get crackin’. I don’t feel like any of the robots so far are “better” than each other, and ultimately comes down to what robot is the coolest to you. It will feature online and offline play, and we had an opportunity to play the Steam Demo. This featured the first four Tournaments featured in the single-player campaign. It also has local 2-player battles (where you can share a controller or have two plugged in) but I did not get a chance to try this. If it’s even remotely like the PVE, it’s sure to please. The writing is top-notch, very funny, terribly clever, and the characters are adorable little killing machines. There are tons of robots to unlock (I believe the current number is 46) and well over 100 augments to unlock with in-game currency (and not real money) which will power you up and customize your playstyle.
After picking your robot and learning a little about the tokens/cards, you dive into the Tournaments. These are held on grid-based maps that will feel familiar to Battletech/Fire Emblem fans, as you can move a certain amount of spaces. There are several robots on them, and they’ll be fighting each other as you start hunting them. Only one robot can take the top spot, and defeating one in a card battle will move you up that Tournaments ladder. That leads me to the actual battle itself, which is pretty damn interesting. You’ll receive a handful of cards, and as turns go on, you’ll gain energy, which lets you use more cards. In order to deal damage, you need to equip an Attack Token, though it’s much better if you pair it with a second Attack Token. You also have Defense Tokens, which the higher the energy on it, the more damage it can absorb. These robots do not have a lot of health either, so it’s imperative you have a solid defense. You can also hack/be hacked! You have hack/glitch cards that can raise (for you) and lower (for them) your energy on your cards. That’s indicated by the yellow lines on them.
When you declare an attack (if you have the energy to do so) it will calculate how much energy your Attack Tokens have versus their Defense Tokens. So you want the bigger number with them having the lowest, which makes sense. There are also Boost Tokens which raise attack/defense. There’s a lot going on for such a simple game. You, for example, can also merge cards together to have a new/stronger effect, and it seems pretty simple from the outset, there’s a lot of tactical options going here and I absolutely love it. The best part? The goal is not only to win but to obliterate the other robot! Overkill is encouraged to the point where you get more points for Overkill, and those points are spent on your various Upgrades. So, kill as many of the other Robots as you can without getting killed yourself, and deal the absolute most damage you can. What I love about this, is that the math is easy enough that even I can do it. No ridiculous, complicated algorithms and high-math, just Attack, Defense, and violence. I do love the ol’ Ultraviolence. Not to mention, your moves on the map also have random events, and it can affect your standing in the tournament. You don’t want another robot to get all the kills and not leave enough for you to climb, now do you?
Insane Robots is coming on July 12th, and if you love card battles, adorable robots, and tons of robot-on-robot violence, this is the game for you. Playniac has a real hit on their hands here, and a roguelike card game really appeals to me on a personal level. I know I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: These little robots are awesome, and the dialogue is very clever. I’d like to see a lot of people get their hands on it to see what they come up with as far as strategies go, and I won’t have to wait long. Insane Robots is an absolute hoot, and I’m very much looking forward to progressing further and blowing up all the weak, sad robots that are lining my path.