Fights in Tight Spaces Early Access – Ruthlessly efficient, card-based combat for the discerning face breaker

John Wick. The Raid. Into the Breach. Slay the Spire. Superhot. Mike Bithell doing, well, anything. If you’re nodding along, then you’re going to love Fights in Tight Spaces’ card-based fight choreography. You’ll likely recognise some notes cribbed from similar games, but FITS feels like an interpretation of these ideas, rather than a retread. Call it Mixed Martial Arts, because though it might borrow a few moves, it weaves them together into something wholly its own.

There’s card-based combat, roguelike deckbuilding, and node-based map progression, but I feel the trait FITS most shares with Slay the Spire is how physically satisfying it makes sliding cards around feel. Play a punch, see a punch, hear a punch, feel a punch. The gap between abstraction and action is all but erased, and the result for the player is the twin reward of cracking riddles and cracking skulls with the same mouse click.

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It’s tough, too, but it’s a toughness made consistently engaging with an accessible complexity that offers constant improvement. You’re always getting better, always finding new card combos or discovering design kinks that offer fresh manipulation of the play space.

It’s like Into the Breach in that emergent puzzle box sense. Enemies spawn at the start of a turn, then set themselves up to lay down some hurt. You’re always given perfect information, so the game becomes about surveying your available resources and riddling out how to stretch every action as far as possible. The same four cards can help you clear the board and look damn good doing it, or leave you a crumpled heap on porcelain bathroom tiles, depending on which order you play them in. No, wait! If only you’d sidestepped then pushed. Next time. There’s always next time.

It’s also got the thing where it shows you which tiles enemies will spawn on, and you can block this by moving there. I have pulled this off precisely zero times so far.

An example turn might go something like this. You’re dropped into a 4×4 restroom, with a few tiles blocked by sinks and cubicles. There’s a bad lad to your left, and a bad lad directly in front of you. You can float the cursor around and find out that they’re going to punch you, the punches are going to do 6 damage apiece, and the guy in front of you is going to punch first.

You start with 3 action points – called Momentum – and 0 out of 10 combo points. You also get six cards from your deck. Some cost Momentum – usually one – and some cost combo. You build your combo up by doing basically anything except movement. Cards with a movement icon on reduces your current combo by one. It’s a neat abstraction. Cool guys don’t move out of the way of punches, they just keep punching, or something.

Now, because the lad in front is going to punch forward, and you’ve got another lad directly to your left, you’ve got an opportunity. If you can find a way to push the front guy one square to the left, he’ll punch the other guy.

You scan your deck. Good news! You have a spin kick that deals 6 damage, and pushes the target to the left. Bad news! It costs two combo, and since you’ve just started this map node, you have none. You opt to spend one momentum point on a card that doubles your next attack damage, and one on a quick strike, which deals 8(x2) damage to the bad lad in front. You get a combo point for this, but since you only have one momentum left, and two incoming attacks, you decide it’s best to get out of the way. You play a ‘slip’ card, sliding to another square, and gaining one momentum. As a bonus, you don’t lose your combo point, as you’ve spent some of the money you get for completing bonus objectives on an upgrade for your Slip card.

The two bad lads both punch at thin air, the turn is over. You retain your health and combo, and your momentum is restored. You lose any cards you had left, and draw a fresh hand of six. If you’d have gained any block – block, uh, reduces incoming damage – you’d have lost that too. I’ve unlocked three decks so far, and one is based solely around blocking and counter-attacking. Suffice it to say, the deckbuilding part of my brain is already fizzling. I’ve barely even peeled the plastic off the basic decks, never mind the card collecting, upgrading, and culling that goes on mid-stage.

It’s all looking extremely promising. Not even ‘promising as it continues through Early Access’, but ‘promising to eat up a ton of my time in its current state’. The whole thing already sounds and looks great – all moody electro and sleek corporate logos battering each other – and runs flawlessly, too. Well worth a gander, if you’re at all curious about the most efficient way to ram someone’s face into a table.

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1 Comment

  1. I love the look of this. Reminds me – probably completely wrongly – of Metal Gear Acid, which, just to be difficult, is my favourite Metal Gear game.

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