You can't shake a stick around Steam these days without finding a roguelike, roguelite, or roguelike-like (there may even be a version of Rogue on there), and one game that's trying to make a name in this sometimes confusing field is Tangledeep, a game that offers enough challenge for the hardcore players, while also having slightly more forgiving elements for those who want a little more leniency.
In Tangledeep you're thrown into a 16-bit world reminiscent of SNES-era graphics, and before you even get to take all this in you're given a number of options, including what mode you'd like to play, your name, your feats, and most importantly your job. We say most importantly, because job here pretty much means class, and determines the strengths, weaknesses, and abilities of your character. In true RPG fashion we soldiered on with a Spellshaper, a wielder of magic, to see if we couldn't cast a few spells here and there.
There's plenty to see in the hub world from places to plant trees to merchants, a bank, and even a rumour gatherer, so this acts as a sort of base. When you're not going into dungeons, then, either at the beginning or when you've left one later on in the game, you're going to want to explore this area and make use of everything, because you never know what might happen. The rumour gatherer, for example, gives you side quests that could be useful, and the bank can store items, so it's worth investing time and money here when possible.
As with all dungeon-crawlers (another genre Tangledeep sits nicely in) the meat of the experience is in the dungeon crawling, and boy do they teach you a lesson. The game can move fast if you want it to, so it's very tempting to move square by square in the dungeons to speed through areas turn by turn, but things can go south real quick. The first floor of a dungeon is never too difficult, and you can usually click your enemies to death with melee attacks and maybe find a secret room, but once you go further than that, the difficulty intensifies, and you'll be punished for not knowing what you're doing.
It sounds cliche after games like Dark Souls have been brutalising players for years, but you really do learn from it when you die. The game gives you as many tutorials as it can, but it's only really by perishing in the dungeons that you figure out how to get better. For example, melee attacks can only get you so far, and you learn sharpish that you need to use abilities. Taking your time, as we mentioned, is another invaluable lesson, and figuring out which good replenishes which resources is also incredibly useful.
Of course, the further you go and the longer you survive the more rewards you reap, with loot and secrets there for the curious to find. It's worth paying attention in this area, too, as you're going to be wanting to swap weapons, armour, and abilities for better versions as you go along, and the same applies to levelling up, as you want to level up the attributes that will be of most use to you. In short - the cute sprites on screen might seem simple, but there's plenty you need to keep your eye on if you don't want a swift death.
There's many abilities and attacks to perform, though, and it's not all about which sword can do the best damage. Weapons can either be melee or ranged, for example, and there's also skills to consider, which are magic abilities to help you in battle, whether offensively or defensively. All of this consumes resources, though, so you can't be casting fireballs willy nilly, although there is always the option to run away if you start a fight you can't finish.
Tangledeep is definitely a game you grow into, as we've discovered while previewing it. At first there's a swamp of information to wade into, all in a bunch of menu screens, but once you get into a groove, find your pattern, and experiment with how you play, it becomes easier, although that doesn't mean your mistakes don't get punished. One slip could leave you surrounded by monsters with no escape, and if you're in Heroic Mode you can wave goodbye to your hero, which turns Tangledeep into almost board game, where every move could be your last.