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One of the best roguelike strategy games is back and better than ever

Knights in Tight Spaces is a deck-building roguelike strategy game building on the magnificent Fights in Tight Spaces with a medieval twist.

Among all the roguelike deckbuilders on Steam, 2021’s Fights in Tight Spaces is one of my favorites, and certainly one of the coolest. Using your deck of cards to overcome overwhelming odds and deliver brutal takedowns to your assailants, it perfectly captures the essence of the most iconic close-quarters fight scenes – John Wick, the Oldboy corridor scene, and that bus fight from Nobody. Now, it’s back with a medieval twist and better than ever in Knights in Tight Spaces. PCGamesN got a hands-on demo of the new game at GDC, speaking to game director James Parker of developer Ground Shatter about the new additions.

Knights in Tight Spaces looks to build on the fantastic gameplay of the first game, with that same combination of deck-building and turn-based tactics fusing into one of the most satisfying strategy games around. Along with the ability to assemble a party of heroes this time around, there’s over 300 cards to discover, all manner of different classes and gear, and an upgrade system to ensure a rich depth that’ll keep you coming back again and again.

The party system means you’ll be controlling up to three characters at once, each of whom has their own characteristics. However, their momentum pool – and the cards in your deck – are shared, meaning you’ll need to balance out your actions. You can switch between multiple characters in a turn, or use just one repeatedly if your deck suits it, and while certain actions will be restricted by a party member’s equipment other moves can be used by anyone.

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A big addition brought in by the new setting is magic, Parker tells us. “Some of the character classes, the attuned, have spells, which often have slightly more widespread effects – things that we couldn’t do before for technical or narrative reasons. We have some supernatural characters, which can really change the gameplay up in lots of interesting ways.”

Roguelike deckbuilders are great in part because of their short runtime but extensive replayability, and Parker notes that Ground Shatter “tries to specialize in quite short session games,” and that “there’s no time pressure – you don’t have to be 100% engaged all the time, but while you are playing it it’s a nice cerebral experience that engages you.”

Along with some of the more obvious inspirations of the first game, Parker says Knights offers up “even more opportunities – you start to bring in anime fight sequences for the big spinny sword stuff, and there’s lots of good sword fighting or hack and slash movies as well.”

Another such scene that comes up is the elevator fight in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier; the idea of the odds being heavily stacked against you. “We’ve had to escalate that [in Knights],” he notes, “because when you’ve got three characters, suddenly three-on-three isn’t exciting. So we’re now having to put, say, nine enemies in to keep those tricky odds alive.”

Knights in Tight Spaces - A group of fantasy warriors fight in a tightly-packed medieval style kitchen.

Parker hopes Knights will give players “the tools to keep enjoying it” for a long time. “We’re looking at having multiple endings and different ways to experience the stories based on the choices you make.” The sequel will also offer a custom difficulty level, giving players control over the challenge on offer. “You can make all the enemies super tough, but you can also make your characters even tougher, adjust things to your particular desires.”

Knights in Tight Spaces is more than just a cleverly named follow-up, then; this is an exciting evolution of one of the best turn-based strategy games in recent memory, and I’m very much looking forward to its arrival. If you want to try it out for yourself, the first Knights in Tight Spaces online demo will be available during the Steam Deckbuilders Fest, which runs Monday March 25 to Monday April 1.

In the meantime, there’s even more of the best card games on the table, along with all the best roguelike games in 2024 so you aren’t missing out on any run-based essentials.

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Additional reporting by Ed Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.