Preview – Fights in Tight Spaces [Early Access] PC
Available in Early Access NOW!
Still hesitant? Check out the FREE Prologue on Steam!
I was so excited just from the gameplay videos of Fights in Tight Spaces alone that I already wrote a preview on the free Prologue release, which is the whole first mission. Now, as far as I have seen anyway, there are only five missions in the entire game. That may make it appear like it has a lot of content but in retrospect it is nothing more than a peek through the looking glass. The enemies from the first section seem so basic when you return and bat them around like ragdolls. There are also no alternative starting decks and the available card pool is limited. The full game demands significantly more of you as you scale through each mission and in return it opens up tons of new options and unique ways to play, allowing you to find your own style and really go all in on it. Oddly enough I totally dismissed my current favourite starting deck, Counter Striker, at first. It looked so passive with all the block/counter cards but it turned out to be a beautiful blend of movement, defence, and enemy manipulation. Much like with Roguebook, I instantly fell in love.
I did assume a couple of things from the Prologue incorrectly. For example, the story-telling is basically non-existent. Instead of taking the branching paths and mission themes, like mobsters, ninjas, and man-bun toting hipsters (I’m only half-joking), and making some involved plot out of them, the game has like ten lines of inconsequential dialog. It is entirely mechanics focused, which isn’t a bad thing. I also mentioned that players wouldn’t have to “start from the very beginning”. This is only partially right. The main goal is to complete the final mission, yes, but doing that without starting a fresh run would be insanely challenging. See, much like how Spelunky works, the player can choose to start at a later stage (mission) but they won’t benefit from the rewards of the previous areas (in the form of cards, upgrades, and passive bonuses). And – as the enemies for each chapter get significantly harder via larger health pools, more consistent block points, increased damage output, wider attack ranges, and a diverse range of dangerous abilities – skipping ahead can often be suicidal.Let’s talk about the bad not so great stuff. There are a few issues with Fight in Tight Spaces, sure, but thankfully nothing that I wouldn’t expect to be ironed out during its time in Early Access. Some card effects and text aren’t very clear. Easily fixed. The ‘auto-attack’ intention, that’s an attack of opportunity for you RPG nerds, could be displayed a little better and could certainly be explained in more detail during the training. Simple. How enemy targeting works and getting them to attack each is another thing that’s hard to grasp at first, too. Finally, the big one. Please don’t start a battle by dropping me into an unwinnable position. It has only happened a couple of times but due to the randomised nature of the start positions of enemies, and the cards the player draws, I have found myself being pummeled and even killed in the very first turn. Once again, though, I’m sure all that will be tweaked to perfection with the help of an involved fanbase. And I’m confident it will quickly garner the loving fanbase it deserves because 1 – it’s freaking awesome and 2 – there just isn’t anything else like it.
I mean, there are plenty of deck builders these days but the only thing that comes close to this style of using cards to manage movement and combat on a grid in a similar way are the long-dead Metal Gear Acid games, which are underappreciated masterpieces. (Please re-release them on the PS Store!) Even then, FiTS is exactly what its title declares it to be – tight. Every scrap is a wonderful claustrophobic madhouse that forces the player to remain flexible and handle each decision with informed discipline. Finding the correct line for not just the current turn but one or two turns ahead is a work of art and never ceases to be satisfying – especially if you can pull off the optional challenges that can require some serious positional administration. Deftly moving yourself and the enemies around with special cards that can shove them one direction or another, in order to knock them out of the arena (killing them instantly) or having them end each other is my favourite part of the whole experience. But a word to the wise – those prone to analysis paralysis may be driven completely mad with it being so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of finding the perfect turn but it feels so damn good to do so.There’s still a lot not there that I want to see, however, such as more replayability outside of the upcoming daily run and ironically more ‘gamification’ of the system. Monster Train does this really well by permanently marking which cards were used to win a run, for instance. That’s entirely aesthetic but it subtly teases the player into trying cards they may not like the look of at first, silently challenging them to win with every single card in the game to complete their collection – a task that would take countless attempts. We need to see more things like that integrated here. More to keep the player coming back again and again, even after achieving mastery. I can only see Early Access doing wonders for the title as it already has a solid gold foundation that is just waiting to be pushed to the limit. I’m excited to see what the future will bring and I hope to be impressed enough to continue singing its praises. Don’t believe me? Go try the Prologue for yourself and see if you don’t get pulled in.