by Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
There’s no denying Rogue-lite games have enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent times. Games like Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells have proved to be invaluable for spreading the love of the genre. That being said, these games owe their success to their cousin, the Rogue-like. These turn-based games are much more strategic and slower paced, but can offer just as great, if not greater, challenge to their more action-oriented neighbors. Enter Tangledeep. A 16-bit rogue-like very much reminiscent of classic Super Nintendo titles such as Secret of Mana, Tangledeep offers that true Rogue-like experience to interested players. Is it enjoyable, though? More importantly to many, is it worth a look, given the fact it’s in Early Access?
From the start, you’re presented with three different control options to use: controller, WASD + Mouse, and full keyboard. Gloriously, you can switch to any of these on the fly at any time; there’s no options menu fiddling here! Interestingly enough, I found each of the control methods useful for one thing or another. Controller was definitely the easiest to move around with, WASD + Mouse was my preferred method for combat, and full keyboard was great for skill use.
Most rogue-likes offer standard normal and hardcore modes for players. Tangledeep is no exception to that, as heroic mode is your standard. Dying in Heroic mode means you start a brand new character, but all items you’ve deposited in your bank, and the progress you’ve made on your town (more on this later) remain. Hardcore, of course, means that if you die, everything is lost on that save. What Tangledeep offers in addition, though, is a third option: Adventure mode. In this mode, when you die, you’re teleported back to town. You lose the progress in your current level (no loss in levels though), half of your accumulated job points, and half of your gold. This makes the game much more like a traditional Japanese RPG in its own right, which may be a much more comforting experience to new players in the genre.
There are currently nine available classes to choose from, and from what I can tell, they’re all quite unique from each other. Did I mention every class is unique? It’s quite refreshing to see such a nice diverse range of skills. These aren’t your typical classes on the surface either. Sure, there are some traditional classes available. Brigands are like rogues, spellshapers are wizards, and paladins are … well, what’s a paladin anyway? Then you have classes like the floramancer who summons vines to attack her foes, or the husyn that weaves magic with technology to the detriment of her enemies.
That’s not even getting into traits. You select from two of ten when you create your character, and they can really dictate how that character will play. The trait system also enables you to really push the envelope of character types, like playing a caster who over time gains more and more health and makes monsters less aggressive, if that fits your style best. I enjoy games that give you so much choice in how you want to develop your characters. It also plays strongly towards people who want to min-max every aspect of said character, too.
The core gameplay takes places in the town and the dungeon. The town is split up into two sections. The top section is where you can find your shops, your bank, and your healer. Also there you can find your class changer. Once you fulfill certain conditions, you can switch to another class, keeping most of the skills of your original one intact. This just adds a whole new dimension to character development, which I find completely refreshing in a rogue-like. The bottom half of the town consists of an Orchard where you can grow new plants that give a variety of effects, and where you can store captured monsters. Capturing monsters gives you bonuses against that particular monster, and lesser bonuses against other monsters in the same family, so it’s quite useful to capture some of the more common enemies.
The dungeon itself is randomly generated, and each floor has the potential for multiple exits and even secret areas to uncover. While the goal is obviously to get to the bottom, these side paths often have very useful rewards, though some are also quite dangerous. Each of the monsters you encounter have their own AI. Some will charge you when they see you, others flee. Some even just wander aimlessly and don’t care about you at all. Also note, you can’t actually defeat everything on a level to clear it, at least so far as I’ve found, as creatures spawn at a decent rate while you explore.
Combat is quite typical to the genre, and that’s not a bad thing. When you move, the enemies move. When you attack, the enemies attack (though it does seem your attacks have priority). Your use of skills is what will really help you succeed. Most skill usage is gated by either stamina, energy, or a cooldown. Expect to find elite versions of the monsters on some floors too! Beating these tougher baddies does reward you with more experience, and usually more items.
For an early access title, I feel Tangledeep still offers quite the polished experience. Having every class be unique certainly helps, because while you’ll probably find yourself dying a lot, the replay value will keep you coming back. The art style is charming, and really fits the aesthetic the game is trying to achieve. The simple addition of Adventure mode also means that people who don’t care for the permadeath style of rogue-likes can still find quite a bit of enjoyment. Frequent updates from the developer also help immensely; every Friday they do a patch roundup detailing the work that’s been done for the game. With new classes, on the horizon, and a new game plus mode just added at the time of writing, Tangledeep is certainly shaping up to be an excellent game indeed.
Note: A game key was provided for preview purposes.