Test your martial arts strategy in this in-depth demo of the upcoming deck-building roguelite Fights in Tight Spaces!
Format: PC via Steam
First playthrough time: 1 hour
Play time so far: 3 hours
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Fights in Tight Spaces Prologue is a turn-based, deck-building, strategy game with roguelite elements. It is also a free in-depth demo for the upcoming game Fights in Tight Spaces, slated for release in early 2021. The prologue covers the tutorial and first of the 5 missions expected for the full release. This first mission takes about an hour to run and can be replayed as many times as desired, which is handy since the mission map randomly generates leading to new paths and events to explore.
Each round of combat, players draw a fresh hand of 5 cards. Most cards cost 0-2 Momentum to play and by default, the player gets 3 Momentum a turn. Attack cards build up the player’s combo value which persists over turns. Attacks target enemies and typically have a range of 1-2 squares, with some attacks moving either the player or the opponent an additional square in the direction of the attack. Some attacks scale off the player’s combo, with particularly strong cards called combo finishers also consuming all combo stacks.
Players lose a combo stack for each move action they take that’s not part of an attack, though they cannot drop below zero. Movement can only be done with cards and, with the exception of a few cards that move relative to enemies, there are no diagonal moves. Similarly, there are no diagonal attacks, though there is one enemy that attacks in a sweep which includes diagonal squares. Enemies always move and attack in order. Their order is visible to the player and doesn’t change. With the exception of bosses, each enemy has one attack defined by their type. Players are encouraged to manipulate their enemies into arrangements where they attack each other. After combat, players can watch an instant replay of their fight, though it can look a little disjointed as all the move actions are skipped making combatants appear to teleport around.
I had some difficulty in combat easily identifying the cards and some enemies. While I absolutely loved the art style, some of the darker colored enemies were too close in color to the player and could easily trick the eye for a moment. I also found myself constantly rereading the cards because most of the punches, kicks, and move-relative-to-enemy cards were thematically too similar. Expected outcomes were also hard to tell sometimes, multiple times I accidentally used a card that moved me toward an enemy (Advance) without realizing it. The rules around how to get enemies to attack each other also seemed only partially explained and no information was given regarding knocking enemies into objects or each other.
After winning a combat, players will receive a new card option (which may be skipped) and possible additional rewards such as money for bonus objectives. Some levels have additional objectives such as to protect a non-combatant, pick-up an item, or win within a certain number of turns. Money can be used to buy new cards, upgrade existing cards, or trash cards, but only if the player lives long enough to reach a gym. Alternatively, money can be used to heal the player at a medic stop.
One of the biggest swing factors I found were random events. In my first two runs of the game, I lost near the end to random events. One damaged me sufficiently to kill me and the other started a very high-level fight I was ‘under leveled’ for and I lost to a misplay on the final enemy. In my third run, the random events were almost all kind. Only one damaged me and that ended up being the only damage I took that run before achieving my first victory.
Having played multiple runs, I was somewhat disappointed in how similar my decks ended up. There weren’t particular card synergies I could go for to make my deck play meaningfully different. Deck-building seemed primarily focused on balancing moving and attacking. The limited number of opportunities to modify the deck per run also meant it was heavily flavored by the starting deck.
Overall, I enjoyed playing this preview for Fights in Tight Spaces. It felt like there was a good amount of strategy in each level and randomization between runs. It also has a striking art style and I was excited to watch an instant replay of my fight after completing a level. However, there wasn’t a lot of ability to change up the deck each run and there were clarity issues around enemy attacks and easily identifying cards. Random events also had a tendency to be more negative than positive and could outright kill runs. I recommend Fights in Tight Spaces Prologue for players interested in giving the game a try and learning it’s combat, I’m curious to see how the game develops.