Tangledeep sure is a roguelike. It does roguelike things and does them pretty well. It looks nice (for the most part), sounds nice, and makes sure every replay is a completely new experience while also making sure the early sections you’ve played repeatedly aren’t an annoying grind. If you like roguelikes, you’ll probably like Tangledeep, and if you don’t, you probably won’t, and I’m giving this game a solid 7.5/10.
This review of Tangledeep was based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game, and a review code was provided.
In all seriousness, I found Tangledeep to do everything right in somehow the most ambivalent way possible. I should love this game, I like roguelikes, I like fantasy, I like the soundtrack, I like class-based RPGs, I like having progression between runs, but Tangledeep feels like it’s missing something, and the worst part is I don’t have any idea what. Let’s look further, maybe we’ll figure it out.
At the start of the game, you can pick from a number of classes, each with different abilities and playstyles, and you can unlock more as you progress through the game. You can also pick from different game modes: adventure, heroic, and hardcore. Heroic mode is the standard game mode: if you unlock a class during the game, you can play as them after your next death, and that character will be allowed access to any money or items stored in the bank. In adventure mode, permadeath mechanics are turned off and you maintain all your items and level, losing your experience towards the next level, your JP to buy new abilities, and half your money. In hardcore mode, death is the absolute end, and you have to start over entirely, with no progress carrying over. On top of all that, you can pick additional gameplay modifiers to make the game easier or harder, customizing the experience to be just how you like it. This is all great, making Tangledeep both a nice intro to roguelike newcomers and a challenge for veterans.
Outside of the main dungeon, there’s a campsite-esque area for you to stock up before going in. Here you can buy and make food, get items, heal up, change your class, and learn new techniques. You can return here from most points in the dungeon and then return to the floor you left off on, so you’re always able to heal up, refresh your inventory, or put your money away so you don’t lose it when you die. Going south leads you to another area, which has some other important amenities. One is a tree farm, where you can plant seeds you find within Tangledeep. These will drop food and cooking items as you adventure, and you can chop them down for exp and jp. This is a great way to get yourself caught up to where you left off after death, and it’s a good idea to plant a few in the early game and let them grow a lot before the late game. Another is a monster pen. You can tame monsters you find in the dungeons, and keep them in the pen until you want to take one of them out to adventure with you. They’re incredibly useful in the early stages, and even get stronger alongside you as you travel.
Clearly, the roguelike mechanics are sound. Impact Gameworks have put in a lot of work to make sure you don’t get bored on replay, and they’ve succeeded on pretty much all fronts. What about the gameplay, then? Tangledeep is turn based, similar to the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. Every move, attack, or item use takes up a turn. Every enemy will only take a turn when you do, giving you time to strategize and plan your next move. You have a basic attack that you’ll probably use for most battles, but each class also has a number of specialty abilities that range from stronger attacks, movement abilities, buffs and debuffs, elemental attacks, and so on. A lot of them play off each other, like the brigand being able to inflict bleed and also having an attack that’s stronger against bleeding opponents, so you’ll develop a number of strategies to get you through different fights.
The dungeon’s also not bad to explore. Once you find the staircase, you can move on to the next area, or keep fighting monsters and looking for treasures. Sometimes you’ll find hidden areas, a stronger enemy that drops better loot, a fountain to refill your healing flask at, or a pandora’s box. Opening pandora’s box will net you a lot of experience and get you some powerful items, but will permanently make the rest of the dungeon harder, so think carefully before making your decision. The only major complaint I have here is with the map. There are three different map options: a smaller, opaque map; a bigger version of the first map; and a transparent map that lets you navigate the dungeon with the map open. Unfortunately, the transparent map is a bit of an eyesore, and you have to change between focusing on the overlaid map or the actual dungeon. The alternatives to this are stopping every once in a while to check the map or just not having a map at all, and I’d much prefer some kind of minimap in the corner to any of these.
With enough exploration, you’ll find lots and lots of items, and I mean lots. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about running out of inventory space, but with so many items filling it up, things are gonna get lost. Tangledeep does its best to keep everything relatively organized, but there’s so many items, types of food, and weapons that all have different qualities that it’s impossible to keep track. It wants you to use potions and healing buffs and set traps, but the inventory just gets so cluttered that everything you might want to use gets lost in the shuffle. As much as I’d like to use potions during boss fights, I can barely remember having them alongside all the other loot I’m carrying.
That’s just about everything. Tangledeep seems to do everything right with only a few small complaints, so what’s the problem? For some reason or another, Tangledeep just lost me. I never thought about it while I wasn’t playing it, I wasn’t putting off work to play it, it just completely failed to grab me. It wasn’t like when I first found FTL and was pulling out my laptop in school to get another game or Rogue Legacy where I was going out of my way to research and learn more about the game, it felt more like Overture where I was just playing it when I had the time before moving on. Objectively, it’s great, but I found it impossible to submerge myself in the world. Still looking forward to Impact’s next game, if they give it the same love and care as Tangledeep then I’m sure it’ll be great.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.