If you go down to the woods today, chances are it will not be a total picnic if you end up in Tangledeep. Bandits, treasure, and 16-bit adventure await you in this new title from Impact Gameworks. The latest in a long lineage of rogue like dungeon crawlers goes live on Steam July 19th and promises to pay homage to a golden age of gaming, when titles like Chrono Trigger and Secrets of Mana were barely out of their cellophane wrappers.
Development on Tagledeep first started back in February 2016 and later came to prominence on Kickstarter. It raised over $30,000 from backers, exceeding a modest target of $15,000 and is now adorned with a whole host of new systems, sprites, and some fantastic sound design. It even features a track by Hiroki Kikuta, composer on the aforementioned Secrets of Mana. On first look, Tangledeep is an utterly charming window back into a retro era. The bright palette, quirky animations, and turn based combat are all inspired by genre classics and it successfully captures the spirit of 16 bit gaming with a modern sheen. Whether this charm is enough to carry off yet another turn based, procedurally generated, retro inspired, early access game, is uncertain.
Despite its early access status, Tangledeep is a surprisingly mature title. nine classes, dozens of potential skills, quests, loot, gear, and a plethora of other systems are already in place. On beginning an adventure, Tangledeep eschews with exposition and gives players just enough context to scurry off, sword in hand, into the danger lurking in Tangledeep. What awaits is 25 floors of procedurally generated adventure. This includes a range of environments from verdant forests to stone labyrinths. Environmental hazards, lava, mud pits, and rivers all wind through the surrounding floors, providing a mix of problems to get around. Yet, a surprisingly regular re use of forest scenery does make the procedural systems seem somewhat ineffectual at times. Spending eight floors bashing monsters on the same rearranged green pastures does not really constitute variety.
The somewhat repetitive landscapes in Tangledeep are, however, paired with massive variety in almost every other system. Each of the nine classes, already available to choose from, wield as many as twelve abilities, each providing a uniquely distinct play style. While novices will find classes like the Paladin a comfortable fit, the most interesting adventures can be found with characters like the Floramancer, HuSyn, and Gambler, who uses a sizable portion of luck and a risk reward system to crush enemies. Skills such as Double Down and Blood Debts are particularly fun to play with and fit Tangledeep’s turn based combat system well, gambling a portion of HP for a potential reward.
Character progression is, however, considerably less inventive and feels quite linear. This involves a lot of bashing monsters, leveling up, and spending Job Points points. The only barrier to progression is leveling up. Similarly, gear progression seems to prioritize accessibility over progression. An impressive gear system is already in place with a huge number of implements to plunder from fallen foes. Heavy, medium and light armor are all available, each with its own problems. Heavy armor provides fantastic defensive stats, but is particularly noisy and attracts trouble, for example. Still, By the time you have assembled a new set of armor, it is evident that Tangledeep leans heavily on this variety, to both its merit and detriment.
Just like the classes, gear, and combat systems, enemy encounters in Tangledeep attempt to deliver accessible variety. Although lower levels are consistently littered with trash mobs that pose little threat, the bandits and magical adversaries that inhabit upper floors are a whole different experience. Quest systems that introduce named mobs also keep things challenging for those looking for a more hardcore experience. Both Heroic and Adventure modes are also available, which include the option of permanent death for Heroic adventurers.
Variety is by far one of this title’s strongest elements with a multitude of ways to play. Unfortunately, some elements of the game can feel a little derivative. This is, unfortunately, an issue the team at Impact Gameworks were always going to struggle with. Tangledeep is inspired by a series of titles that have influenced an entire generation of games and the market for procedural dungeon crawlers is disturbingly saturated of late. Innovating was always going to be problematic. Although Tangledeep is utterly accessible, I did find myself uninterested in my character or their motivation. Despite these issues, Tangledeep gets off on a great footing. Already Tangeldeep contains immense depth in several key areas and the potential to navigate the labyrinth of early access, smiting its competition.