>> Fights in Tight Spaces

Finished the game on XBox with Slasher, Aggressive, Grappler and Counter-Striker decks at Purist (hardest) difficulty.

I love and thirst for Metal Gear Acid's combat system, so I was excited when I found Fights in Tight Spaces that combines its solo character grid-based combat with the roguelike deck-building genre to be an addictive twist. The unique mechanic of this game aside from movement as a resource is the combo counter which goes up for each attack but decreases for each tile movement. This counter can be a card requirement which usually provides good crowd control effects and/or high damage scaling but can be detrimental or dead cards if it is not attained. I like this mechanic as it encourages aggressive plays while discouraging movement if the player uses combo cards. In terms of gameplay, I do not have much to say since it follows since it follows the genre formula of picking a starter deck and finishing five levels within two to three hours. Although it is not as deep or complex as its contemporaries, I still recommend this game for hungry fans of Metal Gear Acid.

Aside from the deck drafting mode, the game offers six starting decks each with its own strengths and weakness:

Balanced : Good movement and damage

Counter-Striker : High defense and counterattacks but lacks mobility

Aggressive : High damage attacks but requires maintaining combo

Slasher : Good mobility and bleed stacking but lacks crowd control and damage

Grappler : Good throws and crowd control but lacks both mobility and defense

Trickster : Gimmick attacks and damage but less consistent because of the randomness

I love the game, but my only big criticism is the lack of endgame content usually expected by its genre. Once you finish the game, the only incentive left is to finish it with the other starter decks. Aside from starting at a harder level, the game could use more difficulty modifiers, randomized bosses, starting characters, items and card effects specially a viable ranged build, but this might be understandably beyond the scope, budget and balance of the game.

For some of its minor issues, optional combat objectives such as pushing enemies of the ledge or finishing within a certain number of terms need to be more lenient since some starter decks cannot viably fulfill them such as pushing with the Counter-Striker or sometimes just randomness. Although optional, these objectives commonly offer money to upgrade or remove cards and sometimes more importantly losing health, combo or turn upgrades which can be devastating in the long run. Until the player recognizes their value, players are not encouraged to plan their routes for their preferred upgrades which leads into another issue.

The overall level (node and branch) design is very flat where any decision fork converges at most within three nodes which lowers its strategic depth in favor or simplicity. While this may be a valid design choice, it is one of the most visible areas of improvement. If it did have more variety, I would not just beeline for the nearest gym, hunt for every turn upgrades and occasionally rescue an informant or ambassador for heals. In fact, the medical center seems to be useless for healing assuming the player never take risks with long-term injuries which I am not sure is good design. If the game wanted to lean on this simple and flat level design, it could add some unique narrative immersion with simple randomly generated story beats why the branches diverge and converge like something in This War of Mine.

As with Metal Gear Acid, having enough movement cards in a deck so that players draw at least one on average is important specially where not moving could mean taking unavoidable damage which feels bad. With all starting decks, I found the game does not provide enough movement cards for a more balanced experience regardless of some advancing attacks or movement starting items. Some decks start with two turn cost cards which is too early while starting with three turns although combo cards here work. While it is good the starting decks represent different perspectives, they can be tuned better for newer players.

I have other smaller issues like the replay, lack of animation skipping and card balancing, but overall the game clicked with me and perhaps a sequel could introduce more content, depth and difficulty. I suggest also playing on Purist difficulty so that planning turns is an important process which I think should be the default difficulty and make the more lenient ones instead accessibility options.