Developed By: Impact Gameworks
Published By: Impact Gameworks
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Roguelike games are one genre that can be quite hard to make an immediate impact or gain widespread appeal. The idea of a dungeon crawler where death is constant and restarting from scratch is part and parcel of the whole gameplay. That in itself does not translate to being a fun experience for many. Over the years, many games have tried different approaches revolving around the roguelike genre may it be from presentation to even add up different mechanics, however, the lasting appeal is still quite a challenge.
Tangledeep has been a Kickstarter project since 2017 by Impact Gameworks and was on Early Access on PC. Ever since then, the game has gone through refinements and polish before making its way to the Nintendo Switch. Now it is here to pick up the gauntlet.
From the get-go, the graphical presentation is really gorgeous. This pixel art style is not new especially when it comes to indie games and even more so for other roguelike titles. Tangledeep’s 16-bit retro-styled approach is charming and yet also very clean. There are other titles that would either be too rough and sharp which can make characters look rather indistinguishable. Tangledeep finds a nice balance between both without losing the charm and characteristics of this approach.
The game also stylistically chooses classic scanlines which adds to the retro vibe and if that is not to your liking, it can be turned off through the settings menu. The user interface (UI) design harkens back to the olden days of Ragnarok Online. Even the skill icons themselves look very similar. While the design is quite archaic, the functionality serves well. On the left, you have a chatbox that displays information such as picked up items, damage numbers as well as how many days have passed. On the right side, is a hot bar for skills and equipped weapons which can be customized through the menu screen.
The whole design oozes charm. However, the font size can be difficult to read especially when you are playing on the handheld mode and there is no option to tweak the size other than choosing between Normal or Compact – which makes it even smaller.
At its core, Tangledeep is a roguelike dungeon crawler. What makes it different however is how Impact Gameworks brilliantly weaved in some modern conventions in it. At the start, you have 12 classes to choose from – 3 of which can be unlocked through meeting certain requirements as you progress in the game. You then are given an option of choosing between Heroic, Adventure and Hardcore modes. Heroic and Hardcore mode both have permadeath on with the exception of the latter where your save file will be deleted upon death. Adventure mode takes away the permadeath aspect and you are able to respawn back at the hub without losing inventory and acquired skills but at the cost of some gold and Job Points or JP. If the permadeath sound like a tough pill to swallow, the game allows you to choose modifiers that could ease up the experience or even make it even harder.
Nonetheless, there is a goodness that comes from the permanent death experience. You can store loot as well as gold with an NPC. So the next time when you start a new character, you would at least have a head start.
These 12 classes have their own unique Job Abilities. These abilities can be unlocked using JP which can be earned as you defeat enemies. No class plays the same and it is unique in their own way. For instance, The Floramancer has the ability to summon vines to trap monsters then summon a thorned plant to attack. My personal favourite, the Sword Dancer, is able to channel qi to shoot out ice shards and also disable enemies whilst making a defensive retreat for better positioning. You will also unlock passive bonuses which are unique to each class as you spend more JP to unlock more skills.
A Class Above
The choice of classes is an interesting approach, especially for a roguelike game. Not only does it add appeal but also a layer of depth which keeps each playthrough fresh. Once a class is mastered completely, you will be given a choice to earn a job emblem which is earned through a Job Trial. These emblems, when equipped, provides a huge bonus boost to the specific class.
Another layer to the game is the availability to change class at the hub anytime but for a price. Once a class is changed, you will lose out the class-specific passives but you get to keep the class-specific skills that you’ve unlocked. So what does this mean? Anyone that is into theory crafting would instantly fall in love in this aspect of Tangledeep. The class customization layer adds so much depth that it feels rewarding as you find the right skill combinations to fit into your favourite class.
To understand the skills from every 12 classes can be overwhelming and intimidating. One of the issues I faced is there is no way to see how each skill would work or look like other than a short description of said skill. The need to farm JP in order to see how a particular skill work can be irksome and time-consuming especially when you wish to see how each skill works immediately to craft out a build of your own. Having an option to try out every class would definitely encourage more players to experiment further through the class customization feature. Nonetheless, this is just a very minor gripe.
Simple but hard
While the mechanics are not too complex, the game can still be daunting especially when you are still new to the game. The approach of the game is simple, choose a class and explore dungeons below while collecting loot along the way. What makes the journey tricky is the turn-based gameplay system. The enemies move as you make a move on a grid-based pathway. At early dungeons, the enemies aren’t too hard and manageable even when you’re not well equipped and low in level. However, as you further progress, the game can throw you a curveball. That is where the need to properly plan your moves so if the going gets tough, there is a small window to retreat.
The game has the ability to lure you into a false pretext that you are growing steadily strong only to suddenly overwhelm you as enemies can hit really hard and they can take the damage you dish out. This isn’t to say it is a bad thing. It actually adds to the need for planning out your equipment and proper skill building in order to overcome a level. Most roguelike titles rely more on your dexterity hence the approach in Tangledeep comes somewhat refreshing.
There is no feature to compare equipment as the game offers randomly generated stats on every equipment you pick up. Even the names of the items are randomly generated – which actually adds a touch of humour. The comparison is a minor missable feature but some players may find the need for it especially when there is a lot of good equipment to use.
Furthermore, you are also able to capture creatures in the dungeons as pets which could assist you during battle. However, I haven’t been able to fully test this out as I have troubles capturing one at the moment. Nonetheless, from what I have managed to gather, there are major benefits in having one and you are also able to store them at a farm down at the town hub.
It’s a start. Tangledeep can be a very hard game and many will find it to be a major turn off. However, roguelike enthusiasts will definitely relish the new approach the game offers. That being said, newcomers should not shy away from this title as it offers an abundance of content and replay value, it just needs a little bit of patience.
With features that make the game refreshing and fun, this game provides a fresh look into the Roguelike Genre that has long been plagued with overly repetitive gameplay and recycled concept. Tangledeep proved that there’s still room to explore and that there is still a place for this genre in the future