I knew I’d put myself in an impossible situation as soon as I made the move, but there I was nothing I could do.
I was out of momentum. It didn’t matter that I had the right cards or that I knew what I needed to do. Next turn, the enemies beat poor Agent 11 to a pulp, and I was hitting the New Game button on the title screen.
So it goes in Fights in TIght Spaces, a deck-building roguelike from Ground Shatter. Players step into the suit of Agent 11, an intelligence operative who gets things done the James Bond way — with his fists.
After picking a starting deck, players choose from one of several missions, traversing stages after stage of fights and events until they reach the boss they’re trying to take down. In true roguelike fashion, there are branching paths to select from, new cards to acquire, upgrades to buy, and events to discover, and none of it is the same twice.
Fights in TIght Spaces delivers on its title, dropping Agent 11 into bars, bathrooms, alleys, and all manner of tiny spots full of enemies. Combat is turn-based. Each turn, the player draws a number of actions from their deck. The cards control everything, from Agent 11’s movement options to the kinds of attacks he can deploy.
What you can play is determined by momentum. Agent 11 starts with 3 momentum per turn. Some cards have no cost, while others cost one or two, and still more require that Agent 11 build up a combo before using them. Any card that isn’t used will be discarded once the player ends their turn and returned to the deck once fully drawn, unless stated otherwise.
Most cards are pretty simple, offering basic attack, defense, or movement options, but the most interesting ones force the player to make use of the environment. Cards like Slip allow you to move around or past enemies, offering positional advantages, while Throw takes enemies to the ground, and Push moves an enemy to an adjacent space.
Complicating matters are the enemies themselves. Each has its own style, and requires different tactics to deal with. Security will automatically Push Agent 11 if he’s next to them, while Chonks attack everything around them, friendly or not. The player can always see what an enemy will do and can plan accordingly.
Players can tackle Fights in Tight Spaces by just punching things, but it’s much more interesting to use the enemies’ behavior against them. If one enemy has a gun trained on Agent 11, players can use specific cards to move another enemy into the line of the bullet. Got a Chonk nearby? Push another enemy into his attack area. One near a wall? Use a combo ender to slam his head into it.
If there’s an enemy Agent 11 can’t escape from, Throw can take him to the ground, rendering him harmless. Certain cards can even knock enemies through doors and out of the environment, killing them instantly. Naturally, the player is limited to whatever cards are in their hand at the time and many of them can’t be saved for the next turn, so there’s no reason not to use them.
Figuring out the best option based on the available hand, Agent 11’s positioning, and the environment around him is always an interesting challenge, but each level also offers bonus challenges like building a certain combo count or winning in a specific number of turns. Completing these challenges awards cash, which can be spent to upgrade cards, heal, or participate in unique events between fights.
Fights in Tight Spaces isn’t an easy game — I’ve yet to make a complete run, but it is a challenging and intriguing one. The focus on positioning reminds me of Into the Breach, but the card game element adds a welcome element of randomness. No two players will play the same way, and no one will make the same run twice. There’s a lot of depth to mine here, and at its best, the game admirably recreates the best moments from action films in a way that is tactically engaging.
Fights in Tight Spaces is in Early Access on PC and Xbox right now, but there are already several paths to choose from and a good variety of starting decks, so there’s no shortage of content for players who decide to jump in now. I haven’t seen all of what Fights in Tight Spaces has to offer yet, but I’m already hooked on what the game offers. If Ground Shatter can build on the excellent work they’ve already done here, we’re in for something truly special when the game releases later this year.
— Will Borger