Across the last decade, gamers have been inundated with Rogue-likes. Some like Shiren the Wanderer, Touhou Genso Wanderer and Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku are exceptional entries, each offering their own adept and distinctive take on genre tenets like procedurally created dungeons and perma-death. But many others are less remarkable, offering a bit of mild, but woefully forgettable escapism.
However, The Early Access release of Tangledeep is poised to make an impression on players. Earlier this year title shattered its Kickstarter goal, receiving over thirty thousand dollars from twelve hundred backers. After delivering a succession of alpha builds, the title has now made its way onto Steam, where it already demonstrates a respectable amount of polish and promise. Given the game’s current state, it would be easy to imagine Tangledeep turning into a near-essential purchase for both fans of the genre and those who appreciate the aesthetics of a bygone gaming era, especially if some mechanical innovation takes place.
Undoubtedly, the first thing you’ll notice about the title is the symphonic soundtrack, which expertly recalls some of the best melodies to emanate from the Super Nintendo’s S-SMP audio processing unit. Given that lead developer Andrew Aversa has spent the better part of the last decade coding sound tools and crafting music for titles like Soulcalibur V and ReCore. Boot up Tangledeep and you’ll be treated to the kind of graceful piano-lead melody that dominated 16- and 32-bit Japanese role-playing game. Suggesting the kind of contemplative interludes that the genre does so well, Tangledeep’s other songs are just as masterful, with plaintive refrains that build to a stirring crescendo. Beyond Aversa’s own work, the project promises to bring in Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana, Shining Hearts, and Seiken Densetsu 3) as a guest composer, enriching the title’s aural talent pool either further.
Yet, as promising as the soundtrack seems, sound is only one component of an interactive experience. Fortunately, Tangledeep’s other elements are nearly as proficient. Pleasingly, the game has a stimulating amount of flexibility. Before delving into a dungeon, players can opt for authentic Rogue-like play style. Heroic Mode is built around the idea of permadeath, with characters eternally departed once their heath is completely depleted. Although you can bequeath items to future adventurers and you’ll undoubtedly want to advance vigilantly. Alternatively, Adventure Mode is closer to RPG tradition. Once an explorer has been defeated, they are returned to town, forfeiting any recently gained experience and half their pocket money.
While Tangledeep intends to have a dozen different jobs in the game, the current build offers nine vocational choices. Here, the game’s candor should be commended, with Tangledeep not only showing the different sprites for each class, but also revealing each profession’s basic, advanced, and master abilities. More importantly, the capabilities for each job are displayed, with players able to view variables like cost, target size, and cooldown time, ensuring they’ll be little occupational regret when exploring the town’s neighboring dungeon. Further customization is also found when you are able to choose a pair of special abilities, with perks like starting with extra HP or being able to glean more information when encountering enemies. Before you venture into the depths of Tangledeep you can also visit the local Riverstone merchants to ensure you have the essential sundries.
Unsurprisingly, exploration and engagement are handled proficiently. Like most Rogue-likes, time moves forward when players initiate an action, giving time for strategizing or hot-swapping items from your on-screen inventory. Changes on the equipment screen do consume a single turn, but pleasingly Tangledeep conveys all the essential information, with stats shown via mouse-over menu.
Combat is handled just as elegantly, allowing players to melee adjacent adversaries, strike a ranged target, or initiate any abilities. Fundamentally, enemy and assist AI is competent. Foes will occasionally retreat when wounded or even heal, if they have the ability. Magic-based classes like the Floracaster can summon creatures that will seek out any nearby enemies. Naturally, there are limitations in place, with players required to keep on eye on their stamina and energy pools and a few concealed rules that do things like constrain adventurers to having a single assistant. But even in this early state, conflict almost always feels fair, except when you are bombarded with opponents upon first stepping foot in Tangledeep.
The one issue that seasoned adventures might find is that Tangledeep is light in innovation. There’s a nice mix of terrain-based concerns, confrontation with a steady supply of spawning foes, and resource management. But each facet has been employed in other Rogue-likes, making the title feel a bit conventional. Hopefully, the team at Impact Gameworks is adopting an approach where the basics are solidified before innovation gets injected in.
At the game’s current state, there are several elements that aren’t close to being finalized. Player animation can seem a bit sparse, with your avatar always facing toward the player. But that said, creature and attack animations do show promise. Currently, the game permits a mouse-based, mouse-and-keyboard, or controller based input system, but the latter isn’t quite finalized yet and lacks direction-pad support. Finally, Impact Gameworks plans to insert more lore into the game, which could help endow the game with distinction. Agreeably, they’ve mentioned an elective approach, there you can read about things if you interested or just ignore it, chasing loot and legacy.
Elevated by a stirring score and built around a well-oiled combat system, Tangledeep certainly shows promise, even in the game’s Early Access state. Although the game might be light on innovation, it appears on track to deliver a polished play experience- and one that’s capable of running on almost any rig. Genre fans who appreciate a multiplicity of play styles, where you can be a trap laying Hunter or a Floracaster with a martial art-using Budoka, might want to reconnoiter Tangledeep’s recesses.