Having just checked on Steam, I know that there are a worrying number of roguelike dungeon crawlers out there (and the fact that I own most of them worries me even more), so with that in mind, allow me to introduce Tangledeep; a retro-themed roguelike dungeon crawler, out in early access on Steam. Now, before you roll your eyes so hard they tear out of their sockets, hear me out because this game surprised the hell out of me.
The inhabitants of these lands have lived underground for centuries, with all memories of what lies above them long forgotten by now. The only way to reach the surface is to climb through the ever-changing labyrinth of Tangledeep. With each floor different than the last, no hopeful adventurers have ever managed to navigate the dungeon in its entirety to explore above their subterranean home. Despite the overwhelming odds, some of these adventurers feel drawn to the dungeon, in an almost literal call to adventure called The Touch. Those with an abundance of this Touch feel the need to venture beyond their homes, to climb through Tangledeep and explore lands no one has seen for an age. Others with that very same abundance of The Touch, but want none of that adventuring rubbish, inherit the appearances of animals; thankfully the cute animals like cats and frogs, not anglerfish.
Before you brave Tangledeep you must choose one of the nine jobs to play as. Each one has their own unique combat style and talent tree to play around with, so it ensures that no two runs are likely to be the same. Once you’ve chosen a job, you must select a pair of feats for bonus stats, and then gather supplies from the nearby town before setting off. The town is your standard home hub full of colorful characters to restock and sell your items to, but it also has some features that make life easier for your next adventure. There’s a ranch owner who lets you capture monsters to gain a slight damage bonus against their type, a bank to deposit gear and money for later runs, a campfire to turn raw ingredients into food, and a machine that allows you to enter a microverse inside your weapon to kill a boss and boost your weapon’s stats.
“The key to roguelikes is replayability, and Tangledeep does have the addictive gameplay down to a T.”
As is the tradition with roguelikes, there is an element of progression in Tangledeep. The further you progress throughout the dungeon you begin to unlock certain features for your town, such as new NPCs or an orchid to grow food at. As the game draws closer to full release, I’d love to see the town expanded a bit more, or some run challenges added to spice things up a little, as I eventually unlocked everything after a few days of playing. Despite this, though, I still had a blast.
The key to roguelikes is replayability, and Tangledeep does have the addictive gameplay down to a T. However without any reason to keep going back and unlock more stuff to use I can see myself eventually getting bored with it all. There are plenty of whacky mechanics that make exploration a lot of fun, such as enemies dressing up as other enemies to really mess with your head, but after a while, they just blend in with the rest of the game.
Tangledeep takes a leaf from Dungeons of Dredmor’s book and opts for the turn-by-turn style of gameplay, which requires you to both react to your enemy’s movements, as well as plan your own to try to stay a step ahead. Each floor is littered with roaming monsters, and killing them grants you some experience points and gold, as well as little consumables to replenish your stamina and energy. Towards the end of each area sits a boss. These are mostly just a standard mob on steroids, and they require you to think about your actions even more so, or risk being pummeled into the floor.
Every floor you pass through is procedurally generated and has a few secrets hidden inside of it, as well as two exits; one which leads to the next floor, and another which leads to a side room. These side rooms act mainly as bonus EXP and item rooms, but every now and then you’ll stumble into an NPC or a camp to rest up at. There are also golden chests which grant you a bonus to your EXP and skill points but also makes the enemies on that floor much stronger.
Being turn based, the movement in Tangledeep is plotted on a grid. Everything for this is pretty standard, with movement ranging in all eight directions, the radius’ for spells and abilities are plotted to a grid as well, with some abilities allowing you to customize the radius and direction. A nice touch I found, after hours of fudging up the horizontal movements, is that it allows you to hold down shift in order to only allow for horizontal steps.
Tangledeep boasts some fantastic 16-bit aesthetics and really captures the art style of many classic RPGs such as Chrono Trigger and Golden Sun. Even the music and menu sounds are all wonderfully reminiscent of those late 90s SNES era of games, which really took me back. On top of that, the sound effects from spells and monsters all emulate those very same games, with explosions that sound like someone threw gravel in the tumble dryer.
“Tangledeep is a fantastic little game that blew me away with its depth.”
I found the UI to be very finicky at times, though. Instead of acting as an auto-equip, the right mouse button closes your inventory entirely, which is a habit I can’t break out of after years of gaming. There were times when the yellow font on a black background made things difficult to read as well. These are minor issues, I know, but they’re the only other problems I had with this game.
Tangledeep is a fantastic little game that blew me away with its depth. Everything from the music to the art style reminded me of the games I’d play as a kid and only serve to improve what would still be a great game without it. Though plenty of people tend to avoid early-access games, Tangledeep is the result of another successful and well thought-out Kickstarter campaign and is on the path to a very successful launch thanks to constant updates, a sound plan for its future, and developers that obviously care about the game.
*** PC key provided by the publisher ***