This blog has been around for a good while now, and if you’ve been following since the inception around 2011, you’ll know a few things about me. I collect video games, I like Mega Man III more than Mega Man II (fight me), and card-game RPGs are my favorite niche genre.
You also might recall a little game called Rogue Legacy coming along and changing my mind about indie games. Prior to that game (and in part to other before it), I really didn’t give much though to indie games. Instead, I passed them off as inferior experiences that couldn’t compete with big budget, triple A games. The sheer amount of unbridled fun and enjoyment I had with Rogue Legacy made that all go away, and I’m happy for it. (Fun fact: Rogue Legacy 2 is coming out in the future and I am pumped).
Fast forward 4 years (yes, it’s been that long) and I’m currently addicted to Slay the Spire on the PlayStation 4. A roguelite game with card based RPG elements that’s immediately playable and infinitely re-playable, Slay the Spire is absolutely worth your time. Or at least it is if you enjoy those two justifiably random sub-genres.
The gameplay is simple enough: you need to go through 50 rooms to the top of the “Spire”, all the while defeating monsters, encountering random events, resting to gain health, fighting bosses, etc. It’s everything you’d imagine being in a typical dungeon crawling RPG, but instead of massing away on buttons to deal damage and cast spells, you’re playing cards. Think Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but actually good. After each battle, assuming you live, you’ll be awarded some gold, a new card to add to your deck, and maybe some other bonuses like potions or powerful relics.
“Think Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but actually good.”
A surprising amount of depth is beneath each encounter. Enemies have patterns they follow which can be exploited. Some foes are easier to defeat for one character than another. Further still some battles come down to if you have the correct cards in your deck to overcome the challenge. I liked the strategy not only mid-fight, but post-fight. Should I rest up at the upcoming campfire, or upgrade a powerful card and forego healing? These decisions are make-or-break for your run. With the game being a roguelike, there are so many random chances no one choice is correct, making subsequent playthroughs all the more exciting and difficult.
The game, when fully updated with a free content patch, features four playable characters, each with their own unique cards and gimmicks. The Ironclad, for example, heals a bit after each battle, while the mechanical Defect has Orbs he can summon and channel to grant passive buffs every round. The variety of play styles and cards for each character are so different it’s entirely possible to complete one game as one character and fail miserably employing the same strategies as another. I liked this engagement to try new things and to find your favorite character (Which is the poison-dealing assassin The Silent, by the way).
“The ingredients were all there for me to really like it, and honestly, the game delivers on all fronts for me.”
As with Rogue Legacy and every rouelike, Slay the Spire has near limitless replay value. Even if you manage to defeat the tower as each class, you’ll then unlock a new “True” ending by doing it all again and overcoming an even harder 4th tower. Then there’s Ascension Mode, which adds modifiers to the game, like normal enemies being more deadly, but also rewarding you with greater post-battle goodies. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a daily challenge that tasks you with slaying the spire under very odd circumstances. I usually discount these modes as superfluous, but honestly I have some of the most fun seeing what the developers throw at you, and how fun the wackiness can be. There was one time I was basically unkillable and it was amazing!
Slay the Spire isn’t for everyone. The game is very straightforward in what it offers. If you aren’t a fan of card based RPGs, you’re not going to have a good time. Also, the game is minimalistic in terms of visuals and sound design. You’re really here for the gameplay and the gameplay only. Also, there isn’t much of story. You’re just kinda… there. Slaying the spire and stuff. So fans of grand adventures may look elsewhere.
Easily the most enjoyable game I’ve played so far this year, Slay the Spire is a wonderful title I am happy to say I played. The ingredients were all there for me to really like it, and honestly, the game delivers on all fronts for me. It’s also incredibly cheap right now, with online sales dropping the game well below $10. If you didn’t already have an inkling to play the game, you should now.