Deckbuilding on the fly with a variety of strategies fused with tactical, grid-based positioning-matters gameplay, AND the game is based off of the John Wick style “one vs many” action sequences. While the graphics may not wow, I find the moment-to-moment interactions and layered mechanics feel very rewarding. This is one of those games where, if you can think to do something in a fight, you typically can in some fashion. For example, I was very excited to learn that after tackling an enemy to the floor, I could then stand on top of their downed body to prevent them from recovering, when I was able to move around an enemy in such a way that they accidentally friendly fired and took out their own crew, or when I repositioned and shoved a person off the map for an instant kill; it’s really neat how the game creates techniques that capitalize on smart usage of your surroundings. Even things like incidental damage from knocking into terrain or other enemies adds up and is always something to consider when setting up lethal puzzles. And yet, enemy designs become more intricate, auto-react enemies or heavier enemies that are immune to certain debuffs/instant-kill effects, shoving you around the map, etc. You feel like the enemies are bound to the same rules as you are, and yet are also capable of abusing them in similar ways. The game has a relatively average learning curve, but, for me anyways, I constantly feel galaxy-brained as the zoomers say from level to level. I think fans of Slay the Spire and Into the Breach will take to Fights in Tight Spaces very smoothly, and even if a lot of mechanics are taken wholesale, the aesthetic and unique mechanics really shine.
There’s plans for more game modes ahead, but for now, the focus is on the main rogue-like campaign. You start off with one scenario after the tutorial, but each one unlocks an increasingly challenging one. You can also unlock various starter decks that inform certain play styles, whether that be more counteractive or aggressive. The mechanics can be a bit overwhelming at first, but the myriad of tool-tips and a strong tutorial go a long way to break it all down. I also really appreciate how well telegraphed every enemy action is, although it takes some reading and hovering over enemies to get used to things. Especially once enemies start to act during your turn, you have to be careful when you interact with enemies that can turn around to face you or even retaliate if you don’t reposition. As you go on, enemies will also start to flood the map in swarms, and as the name of the game depicts, you are in pretty tight spaces. But the game gives you the tools to deal with getting surrounded by enemies, and the feeling of outmaneuvering groups of enemies and finding that perfect haven on the map that shelters you from enemy attack lines is very satisfying. Once you queue up a scenario, you are presented a map that branches out two or three ways and allows you to pick the type of map or event.
What I really enjoy is the ability to scout out levels for bonus objectives and layout. Levels themselves are isolated encounters that start with enemies closing in on you, and giving you a chance to respond in kind. By default, you start with a deck of cards, and draw five each turn. You have three momentum to use for cards, and a combo meter that builds up whenever you land an attack. Some cards are finishers that spend all your combo meter for a scaling effect, while other cards cost no momentum, but instead use combo points. There are also cards that move you orthogonally in the map, which can enable you to dodge enemy patterns or position yourself for certain attacks that require specific ranges or proximity to certain objects in the given map. Map layout is very important, from danger zones that instakill targets to shoving them into walls so that you can capitalize to enable particularly strong cards for their momentum cost.
Animations are quick and unique to most cards and there’s even an option to watch a little animation of your fight after it has concluded. You have the standard ability to buy new cards and upgrade/delete cards from your deck, and players of Slay The Spire should feel right at home in terms of navigating the map screen. There are some bonus level layouts that involve keeping a certain unit alive until the end of the level, or enemies that have to be killed in a certain order, or a briefcase that forces you to quickly move around the map before enemies surround you and choke out your escape routes. I enjoyed every new layer of complication the game threw out at me, and never felt like a certain enemy completely invalidated my approach to a fight. There were times where overly defensive decks felt very polarizing in cases where enemies don’t increase their strength over the course of a fight, or certain enemies being too easy to manipulate to become more dangerous to their own allies rather than you. But for me, the aspect of turning every advantage I could afford to was very satisfying and fun to mess around with.
All in all, Fights in Tight Spaces while very similar to Slay the Spire and Into the Breach has very unique mechanics and card designs that bring out the best out of both genres. I’m very excited to see this game grow with new archetypes or game modes that will help take the replay value of this game to the next level. As of now, I am very pleased to recommend this game even in its early access state, although I wouldn’t blame you if you waited for a price drop.
A review copy was provided by the devs.
Hellfirebam thinks this game is worth keeping your eyes on and would unanimously award the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval, if that was provided to early access games. It’s one of the top five games I’ve ever rated for IGT thus far!