Fights in Tight Spaces: review of a very interesting card-based rogue-lite



Our review of Fights in Tight Spaces, a card-based rogue-lite that puts us in the shoes of a secret agent who must break up organized crime

A secret agent walks into a bar. Three bikers are at the bar, but more are soon to arrive. The agent is quickly surrounded and the confrontation begins. To the casual observer, however, it might look more like a dance, a set of punches, kicks, and repositioning so fluid that it looks like it’s all calculated to the millimeter. And in fact it is, because it is us – with all calm – to decide what to do in the battle. What are we talking about? Of a rogue-lite deck-building strategic and turn-based: here is our review of Fights in tight spaces.

Cards and spaces

Agent d Fights in tight spaces can launch enemies off the map

Fights in tight spaces, recently available in full version after a long period of Early Access, is a new turn-based game based on cards. Unlike other exponents of the genre, such as Slay the Spire or Inscryption, we play in a real 3D environment in which it’s not only important to attack and defend, but also to manage our position in the best way.

Each match is placed in a confined space (hence the title), whether it’s a bar, a balcony or the prison police van. Each place is divided into squares and each attack, ours or our opponents’, has a certain minimum and maximum radius to be activated. We will therefore have to figure out how to position ourselves, between one blow and another, to maximize the damage inflicted and reduce (or better yet, cancel) the damage suffered. In addition, opponents can suffer friendly fire and this pushes us to condition their movements in our favor. Finally, almost all the maps have points where it is possible to drop enemies, so as to eliminate them in one shot.

Beyond the positioning management, Fights in tight spaces is a fairly classic card game that won’t confuse those accustomed to the genre. First of all, each match provides us with a basic deck (we can unlock various types) with a few cards and each victory allows us to get at least one card to add to the deck. During a match, we’ll have a certain number of points to spend and the cards have their own cost. Therefore, you’ll have to calculate every move of the round in advance to make sure you don’t make any mistakes: also because of this, the game rhythm is quite low.

A small change is related to the combo counter. Fights in tight spaces proposes some cards that have zero cost, but require you to have a certain level of active combo. Every attack increases this value, but every square move of our character decreases it. The combo therefore encourages us to optimize our actions and not to overdo the repositioning.

Enemies and power-ups

Various types of enemies on the roof of a building, in a clash of Fights in tight spaces

It is also very important to reason about the enemies’ abilities. Fights in tight spaces puts us against multiple types of henchmen from the most disparate gangs and criminal gangs. Beyond the narrative characterization, what interests us is what they are capable of doing. The opponents of our secret agent, basically, attack in their turn, but they have abilities such as counterattack (which is self-explanatory) and the annoying automatic attack that is activated every time we act and we are within their reach. Others are immune to frontal strikes, others still dodge the first attack every turn. Others can inflict bleeding or debilitate our character with various malus.

The variety of enemies is great and, even if the arenas are a bit ‘all the same and tend to fall apart soon, the fights are always fresh and interesting, also because everything depends on our cards. Even an identical fight can have very different results due to a few tactical choices, as we were able to prove ourselves retrying from scratch some fights (which is possible at some difficulties, which we will discuss shortly).

What didn’t particularly convince us, however, is the handling of the bosses. Fights in tight spaces is divided into missions, and at the end of each mission you must face a more powerful enemy. In this case, however, both the arenas and the fights are not too dissimilar from the standard ones. In more advanced missions, bosses have additional abilities, even unique ones, but the substance doesn’t change and they never give the impression that they’re actually fighting a unique battle, so much as a slower version of a normal fight. For sure there could have been a bit more effort in characterizing them and proposing situations that required more elaborate and precise tactics.

By spending money you can upgrade cards

Beyond the bosses, every fight is satisfying, also because it allows us to get various bonuses. The simple victory gets us a card, but if we are able to complete a series of secondary objectives (win within certain turns, eliminate enemies by throwing them off the map, collect a briefcase placed in a box…) we can have various upgrades, such as a larger compo counter, more points to spend each turn to use the cards and especially money.

The money is used to heal the character, increase his maximum life, buy new cards, upgrade the ones we have or eliminate a useless card from the deck, all in specific places located between confrontations in each mission.

In addition, there are the events, non-combat scenes with multiple options, which often allow us to get money, life, or other bonuses, with outcomes also based on luck. Events have a brief narrative introduction, but are often poorly contextualized: if we’re exploring a dungeon, why at some point do we find ourselves entering a hotel room or in the middle of the ocean punching a shark?

Overall, Fights in tigth spaces doesn’t particularly care about context and plot, which are just a cursory justification for putting us in the field and making us fight. Each player will decide whether a narrative component is relevant in a rogue-lite game or not.

Rogue-lite and difficulty levels

The agent does a suplex on an enemy

Speaking of its being rogue-lite, Fights in tight spaces proposes a classic advancement system. In each game, at the end of each fight, we will be rewarded on the basis of our performance (number of enemies defeated, damage suffered, number of turns required, secondary objectives completed …) with a score. When we have completed the game, winning or losing, the points will level up the character that will unlock new cards and new deck archetypes to choose from at the beginning of a new game.

The points obtained are generous even at low difficulty, so in a few games we’ll be able to unlock many new cards and decks. Even those who are less capable should not be afraid of getting stuck and having the feeling of not achieving anything in case of defeat, notwithstanding that at some point you will have to learn to fight well.

Fortunately, Fights in tight spaces offers multiple difficulty levels that also let you undo mistakes and advance in the missions with a bit more peace of mind. The lowest levels let you restart the round from scratch in case you made a mistake. In case you lose, it is also possible to simply repeat the encounter all over again, even going back to the map to try and change exploration direction and choose a different battle. Also, at low levels you are guaranteed a movement card every turn, so you can always get out of trouble. Basically, you can also approach the game with a lot of peace of mind and without being punished.

Of course, you can do the opposite, aiming for the highest difficulty, without help of any kind, thus gaining more experience points. This freedom of approach is not taken for granted in the genre rogue-lite, so we can not do anything but praise the development team.

Visually everything is very flat, with few full colors and few details

Finally, a quick comment on the graphics. Fights in tight spaces has a simple, minimalist aesthetic, even too much. The white environments with gray shadows and enemies in full color quickly tire. Great that there is a night mode, to make the environments dark, but overall visual level could work to make it more intriguing. The advantage of these graphics is that it is always very readable, although we would have preferred to be able to rotate the camera freely, instead of being forced to choose between one of the four pre-set isometric viewing angles.

Comment

Fights in Tight Spaces is a well-crafted card-based tactical turn-based roguelike that will satisfy fans of the genre. It lacks character, both visually and narratively, but makes up for it with an intriguing and challenging enough combat system. Excellent the ability to choose between multiple levels of difficulty, so you can play in a relaxed or with a sword of Damocles on his head depending on our taste. The progression is fast, moreover, so you unlock new things quickly.

PRO

  • Excellent combat system
  • Many levels of difficulty
  • Rapid progression
  • Stylistically a bit poor
  • The narrative context is banal
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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