Get in the Car, Loser! Trip Report: New Mechanics and Rewarding Challenge

Last week I shared my first impressions of Get in the Car, Loser! a turn-based RPG with a neat combat system broken up by fun visual novel segments. I had played the game up through the end of act one. At the time of writing, I’ve now played through a decent chunk of act two, and while I haven’t faced my second boss yet I feel there’s been plenty going on for me to update my thoughts on the game. As the mechanics have increased in complexity, I’ve been fascinated to see how act two built on the foundation of act one and really challenges you to understand exactly how the game works and to change up your strategy.

A brief refresher on the combat: the battles, while turn-based, are active time battles where characters have a cooldown after taking action. Each character in your party (by act two, you have four characters) is mapped to a single button press. What action they perform with that button press is based on the trinket they currently have equipped, and you have a dedicated button for swapping between trinket sets. There are three different trinket sets you switch between in a set order, and before you loop back around to the first, one of the characters Grace delivers a mighty blow with her Sword of Fate, inflicting a significant amount of stagger on a single target. Staggered targets take additional damage from attacks, so ideally you want to build a target’s stagger meter until they become staggered and then wail on them with attacking moves. You also have one character each for healing and tank abilities, allowing you to manage aggro and give temporary health to your allies.

That by itself may already sound like plenty to some, but I know there are some other madfolk like me who want all the mechanical complexity you can muster. For you, my friends, there’s act two. During the majority of act one you are learning the momentum of the system – how to change trinket sets right after an action to immediately get more actions and move past cooldown, and how to use the Sword of Fate to set up staggers that then lead to big damage. Most characters have one move for the two types of actions that they can do: ravage, attack, destroy, taunt, and life. These are simple actions that do exactly what they say on the tin with no frills. Act two adds new elements to consider by adding new moves, increasing the significance of elements, and throwing new monsters into the mix.

What are some ways in which the moves grow in complexity? One of the simpler ways is the addition of area of effect moves. Abilities like Ravage and Destroy can be applied to all the targets on the field at once, allowing you to build stagger or deal big damage to a whole crowd at once. The protagonist Sam gets access to support abilities outside of healing like slowing opponents down or giving boosts to allies. She can also splash heal, which sacrifices one of the main benefits of her healing ability (being able to “revive” an ally) for the opportunity to send leftover healing to another ally and potentially heal multiple targets at once. Instead of attack, you could equip Half-Attack, which doesn’t do as much damage but grants a passive ability where your attacks bonus damage when they are using a super effective element. These new abilities open up a lot of new strategies for the party, allowing you to customize your battle style or even to switch styles between battles if you wish to experiment.

Elements are something I was able to ignore relatively easy during act one of the game, but they became more obviously significant during act two. More monsters had a clear elemental association, and with that comes the danger of restoring health to enemies with your elemental abilities. Ravage All sounds great on paper until you realize you’re healing one of the enemies on the field because of their elemental affinity. It requires you to slow down a bit and pay more attention to the opponents you are fighting. But as described with Half-Attack above, you can also turn elements to your advantage and use them to much more quickly wear down difficult opponents. Or if you don’t like the risk-reward of having lots of elemental abilities, you can stick with non-elemental attacks and single-target moves if you’re willing to forgo the potential advantages those things may offer.

Now I mentioned that elemental monsters are a relatively new wrinkle in act two. Get in the Car, Loser! doesn’t necessarily have a huge selection of monsters that you’ll have to deal with, but the new ones that get added in act two really change up how you approach your battles. For example, the phoenix-like Simurgh enemies have an area attack and so you don’t really benefit from trying to aggro them with Valentin. Watery Salamanders have a hose attack that deals a repeated series of hits that can really chip down a single character’s health bar unless you shift focus to that monster and interrupt its attack with one of your own. Then there’s the leafy Erox, which has irritating vines that bind one of your characters and take them out of the action until you stagger the enemy. During act one I found that for the most part I could go through similar motions for each enemy type and didn’t have to worry much about who I was targeting in what order. In act two, I’m switching targets a lot more in an effort to counteract what I consider to be the most dangerous problem at any given moment.

In my case, I’ve even added a couple of other steps on top of these challenges. One feature you do not unlock until act two is the ability to answer requests, which are essentially optional and more difficult missions which are tied to rewards like equipment higher level than you can currently buy or one-use special rewards like app cards. Examples of challenges I’ve been taking on in this act include a battle against 30 enemies in a single sitting, or a new enemy type encountered at certain rest stops. What’s great about these is that they are optional not only in the sense that you choose whether or not to accept requests at all, but also in that you can decide when on the road you take them on. Like any other battle, you can avoid a request you don’t want to deal with right now by changing lanes on the highway. You can zoom right past it and deal with it later when you feel more ready.

The other optional challenge I am engaging with is the Devil Clock, an item which you can activate in order to give enemies buffs during combat in exchange for additional rewards. The buffs are timing based, so you are incentivized to win the battles quickly in order to prevent them from taking effect. Buffs vary in danger from making enemies sturdy (which affects stagger, as best as I can tell), to increasing their damage by five points, to my personal least favorite: ranking the enemy up one rank. Enemy ranks determine your ability to damage them, and if an enemy increases to a rank higher than yours you can lose up to 50% of your hitting power against them. What you get for winning Devil Clock fights is a currency which can be spent on an item called stickers. Stickers have no purpose outside of being spent as materials for trinket upgrades, which means that winning battles with the Devil’s Clock active gives you essentially free upgrade fodder, reducing the amount of money you have to spend on trinkets directly – or rather, allowing you to save for more powerful trinkets when you rank up.

Personally, I’ve really been enjoying how the challenge mechanics work in Get in the Car, Loser! I love when a game rewards you for pushing yourself; “hey, if you take the extra step to add some challenge to the game, we’ll give you some cool bonus tools you can use to rise up to that challenge.” It’s my favorite approach to increased difficulty and I like how it is implemented here in a way where you can opt out at any time. Remember the request I described above where I had to fight 30 enemies? I could switch off the Devil Clock for that one fight and then turn it back on for normal battles with no penalty and no judgment from the game. That freedom to customize the experience has helped with maximizing my enjoyment by allowing me to deal with just the right amount of difficulty for whatever my current mood happens to be.

I was already enjoying Get in the Car, Loser! during the first act, but the additional mechanical complexity and the options for customizing the difficulty that have been added during the second act have impressed me even more. I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the game, and while this article has been focused almost exclusively on the mechanics of battle, there’s a whole additional piece to the game that I am also really enjoying in the form of the narrative. There’s a lot to enjoy about the game, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my thoughts as I head into the second half and see what else it has to offer.

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