Slay The Spire Review: Rogue-Like Deckbuilder With TONS Of Replayability
Not enough time to get in a full match of Fortnite/Overwatch/League of Legends but still need something to scratch that gaming itch? "Slay the Spire" might just be what you've been looking for.
Slay the Spire is a roguelike, deckbuilding game that is on Early Access on Steam. It's currently rated 10/10 with nearly 16,000 reviews that averaged out, put it at an "Overwhelmingly Positive" status on Steam. The ridiculously good scores really made me want to check it out. What did I find? An amazingly addicting, super fun game, that you can pick up and play regardless of your time constraints.
The game starts by having players pick between one of three different classes and then throws them into a massive 3 tier dungeon where they'll have to battle their way to the top. Combat is turn-based and makes use of abilities that are essentially cards. Each class is able to pick up new abilities/cards after each battle.
In addition to powering up through earning new cards, players can find chests and random events that can earn them both ability boosting relics and potions.
To get a better idea of how it plays, check out the trailer below.
The Three Classes
The three classes currently available resemble the classic holy-trinity of fantasy games: warrior, rogue, and mage.
The warrior class here is called "The Ironclad."
As you would expect from a warrior class, the Ironclad's abilities are all based around physical attacks and defensive shield techniques. He's easily the most straight-forward class of the three.
"The Silent" fits right into the rogue archetype with her usage of poisons and dagger strikes.
Sporting the lowest HP out of the three, The Silent is quite frail, and is in my opinion, the hardest class to play once you've gotten some experience playing all the characters.
"The Defect" is an extremely interesting character. You could consider him to be representative of a mage-like class, but it's not a true one-to-one comparison.
The Defect is hard to play at first, but once you get used to his special mechanics, I feel he's not as difficult to play as The Silent. Basically, his gameplay revolves around the manipulation of orbs. Different cards generate different orbs. Some increase his offensive capabilities while others boost his defensive ones. There is also a utility orb that increases his potential actions per turn.
The Spire Map
After you choose your class, you're brought to the Spire map where you can choose one of several different branching paths. Whenever you come to a fork, you can once again choose which direction you want to take. Here's what a portion of the map looks like for the first stage.
As you can see, there are numerous different sites that you can enter and the legend on the right shows you what each icon corresponds to. Here's a quick run-through starting from the bottom.
1. Elite - Battles against elite monsters. These are generally tougher than regular enemies and upon defeat, earn you a "relic" that boosts your abilities in a variety of different ways.
2. Enemy - These are basic monster battles and are among the most common tiles that you'll find on the map. After clearing the battle, you'll get to pick 1 of three new cards to add to your deck. You also have a chance to pick up a potion that can have different effects.
3. Rest - These are special areas where you can either sleep to recover 30% of your HP, or "smith" to upgrade the potency of one of your cards.
4. Treasure - A room with a relic-containing treasure chest.
5. Merchant - A room with a merchant who sells you an assortment of cards, relics, and potions. He also offers you the ability to remove a card from your deck. All of these cost gold which is earned by defeating enemies.
6. Unknown - "Unknown" tiles can feature a ton of random events. Sometimes by landing on one, you trigger a special event that can either earn you gold and items, or conversely, take both of these away from you. They can also be merchants or enemies as well - you just never know what awaits you when you go through one of them.
Slay the Spire's gameplay is pretty straight forward. You start out with a hand of cards from your deck. Playing your cards cost energy. You start out with 3 energy and each turn your energy will refill. After playing a card, it'll go into the discard pile on the right. Once you run out of cards to play, your discard pile will get shuffled back into your draw deck.
There are three different card types: attacks, skills, and powers.
Attacks are any cards that deal damage to the enemies. These can either be single target or AoE. Some of these have utility components as well, such as drawing an additional card or debuffing the enemy. There are only two kinds of debuffs: "vulnerable" which makes you deal 50% more damage to the enemy, and "weak" which lowers the damage the enemy deals to you by 25%.
Skills generally boost your armor or provide you card draw. Boosting your armor gives you a temporary 1-turn blue bar over your actual HP bar that needs to be cleared before you'll start taking actual damage.
Power cards usually increase the potency of your attacks or boost the effectiveness of your defensive skills.
The Battle Screen
Here's what the battle screen looks like.
One of the things that isn't self explanatory here is the "enemy intent." When enemies intend to deal damage on their turn, you'll see how much damage they'll be dealing noted by a sword with a digit next to it. Similarly, if they plan to do some move which will debuff you, you'll see that as a green swirl like the one pictured above.
Another thing worth pointing out here is your potion belt. Under normal conditions, you can hold a maximum of three. Potions provide temporary buffs for a battle or even a turn. Some of these range from dealing flat damage or boosting your armor. Others can even add a card to your deck for a single enemy encounter. Potions sometimes appear as a reward for defeating enemies on the post-battle reward screen.
Unlike potions that randomly appear after enemy battles, you're always given an opportunity post enemy battle to add one of three cards to your deck.
In addition to potions and cards, the third type of battle reward is a relic. The game contains a huge amount of relics, each of which provide unique buffs for the player. Here's an example of "Bronze Scales" which grants you 3 thorns at the start of combat. As in many other games, thorns are reflective damage that enemies take when they attack you.
Aside from battle rewards, items can also be obtained through events that spawn randomly upon landing on an "unknown tile." Here's one example of an event that I ran into during this run.
In these events, players are given several choices which will either award them loot, remove a card from their deck, or even teleport them directly to the stage's final boss! As I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of possible outcomes by landing on an "unknown" helping to increase the variability of each play through.
All of these stat boosting items can also be acquired through the merchant for gold. Here's a look at the merchant interface.
Despite the fact that Slay the Spire is in Early Access, the game is really polished. Animations and sounds for attacks are all smooth. I've never encountered any real bugs while playing the game and seriously, I've definitely put a considerable number of hours into it. I've had it for three weeks and have already racked up nearly 45 hours of game time!
Needless to say, Slay the Spire is an extremely fun and very addicting game.
What I Love About It
To me, one of the best things about the game is it's replayability and value. I've put in close to 50 hours, and I could easily put in double that and still feel excited to play the game.
The three classes are all very fun and their individual cards are unique enough to make each play-through seem fresh. This, coupled with the enormous number of relics, potions, and random events encountered in "unknown" tiles, also add to the replayability of the game.
It's also important for me to note here that Slay the Spire is also updated EVERY week. Each patch introduces new content such as cards or relics, and also bug/balance fixes. The devs clearly care about their work and it's easy to see how dedicated they are to supporting the game and developing even more content for it.
What I Think Could Be Improved
There aren't many glaring issues that I felt really need to be improved upon. To me, the biggest issue is just that I would like each run to be longer. Right now, my fastest clear of all three tiers of the Spire was around 40 minutes. I'd love to be able to spend more time building up my character and taking him deeper into the labyrinth. At the middle of the 3rd tier, I feel like I'm just starting to reach a complete build and in another 5-10 minutes, I'm already at the final boss.
The other minor complaint I have is regarding the boss at the end of each tier. Some of these bosses have certain mechanics which will impact the way you should build your deck. One of the complaints shared by a lot of comments on Steam is the fact that which bosses you meet are entirely random. In other words, there's a lot of RNG involved in building a deck that is not directly countered by the boss you happen to run into. I understand the need for some random elements, but I feel right now that the innate abilities of the boss are honestly too strong. You're almost guaranteed an insta-loss if you get matched up with the wrong one.
Who's Slay The Spire For?
Anyone who enjoys a challenging rogue-like game with a lot of random elements will really appreciate Slay the Spire.
Given that you can easily save and exit the game at any point, Slay the Spire is also the perfect title to play for gamers who aren't able to dedicate a solid block of time to game.
For gamers that travel a lot making internet reception unreliable, you might like to have a copy of Slay the Spire on your laptop as it doesn't require internet access. While it's not a "classic PC" game, I think it easily deserves a spot on my list of top PC games that don't require internet access.
If any of those three descriptions sound like you, give Slay the Spire a shot. You won't regret it!
Featured Image Source: Nintendo Enthusiast