No room to move and enemies everywhere. The only way to survive is to have Fights in Tight Spaces.
Around a year ago, I tried out the Early Access release of Fights in Tight Spaces and found it to be an excellent framework for a fun game. With its fun and varied combat system alongside a unique aesthetic, there was a lot to love with that initial release. Now, the full game has been released, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time running through what’s on offer now.
You play as Agent 11, a secret agent sent out to infiltrate and take down gangs across the world using your super suave skills. By super suave skills, I of course mean they have a talent for punching bad guys in the face. The story plays second fiddle to the action here unsurprisingly, and the action on offer is tremendous fun.
Fights in Tight Spaces plays like a combination of Slay the Spire and Into the Breach. Battles take place on a grid in a small area and you’ll always have the exact information on what your enemies will do on their turn, whilst you try to take them out using a deck of cards. On the surface, this is really quite simple, but there’s a lot more complexity than simply avoiding and attacking. On your opponent’s turn, they will always attack, regardless of who’s in front of them.
This is important, as some of your attack and special cards can move your foes around the room. So smart play might allow you to kick an enemy, driving them back a space into the attack range of another enemy, before you take a step back out of the line of fire of a firearm wielding foe who will end up shooting his ally. Your handful of moves may have only struck one enemy, but your opponent’s turn can end up causing significantly more damage than you ever could.
You end up treating each turn as something of a puzzle in which you maximise the damage your opponents take and evade as much incoming harm as you can. There are plenty of tools at your disposal, with cards that counter when you’re attacked, dodge damage altogether, or use the environment to deal additional damage. You’ll rarely be able to use all your cards due to limited Momentum — your resource for playing cards that recharges each turn, although some cards are played based on how many successful attacks you’ve made previously in the battle.
It’s a really fun system, and I’ve got a lot of enjoyment out of simply puzzling my way through a battle to get the best result I possibly can using my choice of starter deck and the cards I collect along the way. Managing to take down two enemies with hard hitting strikes before dodging a lethal incoming barrage in a single turn is hugely satisfying, especially when you have to deal with numerous opponents with differing abilities and attacks. It’s almost cinematic in how it plays out when you watch a post fight replay, and for a slow paced puzzle game, that’s an odd, yet exciting thing to be able to say.
Between battles, you’ll select your destination from a node based map, similar to Slay the Spire and its ilk. Most of the time you’ll get one or two choices and you’ll be told of your potential rewards for completing the stage as well as for completing certain sub objectives, such as picking up an item or winning within a set number of moves. There are Gyms that allow you to buy, upgrade, and permanently remove cards within your deck, and medical rooms for healing and improving your health. You’ll occasionally get Events that allow you to make a decision about gaining money at the expense of health, or gaining a free card upgrade. These are fine but there’s so little to them in terms of explanation that they might as well have not had any flavour text at all. A slight missed opportunity to build the world a little more.
There’s very little to complain about with Fights in Tight Spaces. Even the fact it’s a rogue-like isn’t a huge problem, as the variety of difficulty options on offer means that if you find the idea of failing and restarting from scratch objectionable, you can simply choose an option that doesn’t have that penalty — although if your deck is still weak you may find yourself becoming unstuck, so plan well. Once finished, there are a lot of ways to replay too, thanks to the different starting decks that focus on different play styles such as evasion over attack, or a predisposition towards causing bleed effects or counterattacking, as well as those difficulty options.
With that said, the deck synergies aren’t always that great. If you manage to build a deck well thanks to good card draws throughout your run, you can end up with something really effective. Unlucky draws though, can lead to a deck that isn’t a lot of fun as you’re stuck with cards that don’t play well together. This can be a little frustrating. Finally, this is a very slow game, and lacks the pace of a Slay the Spire or Monster Train. Whilst that isn’t an issue for everyone — I loved the analytical approach I was taking to most confrontations — it could put off those used to something with turns lasting under a minute.
Fights in Tight Spaces is one of my favourite games this year, and not simply because this card based genre is one I really like. The exciting yet methodical combat paired with a simple yet striking art style is tremendously enjoyable. Even after reaching the end I find myself going back to play with a different deck or a new difficulty setting just to have a play around with the options and builds on offer, I can’t recommend this strongly enough as a fabulous 2021 game, and considering how strong this years’ indie offerings have been, I consider that high praise.
Fights in Tight Spaces is out now on PC and Xbox.