Slay the Spire is an indie rogue-like that combines procedurally generated dungeon crawling with card game mechanics in the vein of Hearthstone or The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Whilst the title is still in Early Access on Steam it has an incredible amount of work put into it already and is being updated on a weekly basis. This is an evaluation of the hands-on experience from many hours spent in the 5.28.18 version of the game.
As previously stated, Slay the Spire combines dungeon crawling with card game mechanics. Where this game shines is in how it plays. Every time you play, you will always experience something new. When players first start the game they’re greeted with the options of two different character classes (with another character class currently available exclusively through opting into the Steam Beta) and two different modes in which to play with yet another mode available to be unlocked later.
When selecting a mode to play in, you either can play the standard mode where you will start with set stats and cards based on your chosen class or my personal favorite, the Daily Climb in which you are dealt set parameters that will keep you on your toes. Each mode of Slay the Spire plays differently as they both have cards and relics exclusive to them. For example, The Ironclad is a more combat heavy class with the ability to heal after combat encounters as opposed to The Silent which has lower health but has a wider selection of status effect cards and the ability to start combat with extra cards, or the third class called The Defect which utilizes both cards and Orbs through the usage of cards (which are exclusive to The Defect class).
Once you are actually playing, you are greeted with many options and branching paths in which to proceed, whether it be fighting every enemy you see to beef up your deck and line your pockets with gold, taking the risk of random encounters that can lead to Relics or to Curses and status effects, finding a shop so you can buy cards, relics and potion or remove unwanted cards from your deck or getting to a rest site to either heal or upgrade your deck.
When in combat, it plays very much like Hearthstone utilizing a set amount of mana per turn. Unlike TES: Legends which increases this limit as each turn goes by, Slay the Spire has players make use of three mana but they can increase their mana permanently through relics or temporarily through cards and potions. Players are forced to be strategic as they have to balance five key components: the amount of block they have to prevent damage, your stats such as Strength for better damage and Dexterity to gain more block, buffs and de-buffs for both yourself and your opponents, the amount of damage you are dealing and of course, your health. The game never forces you to take a certain path or play certain cards which allows Slay The Spire to avoid feeling monotonous and gives an organic sense of progress through your growth as the player as well as your character.
The art direction in Slay the Spire is very charming but also surrounds the player with a sense of fear and dread through its dark and gritty style. Every card, relic, monster and encounter is well detailed in its appearance and it is very clear that a lot of heart and soul is put into making everything look its best and fit the dark theme. The sound effects are also very well done. The game’s soundtrack features music which fits the game’s theme superbly. Part of this is by containing varied composition based on where in the spire you are. The sound direction in general sets the tone as it embroils the player with shouts of pain of which they experience or are dishing out. You hear the sword strikes, the poison burning skin, the grunts, and the moans of agony as you continue to fight your way to the end. My only gripe is that the game’s sound effects themselves can sometimes drown the music out.
ONLINE CAPABILITIES / REPLAY VALUE
Slay the Spire doesn’t have a formal online multiplayer but there are leaderboards that allow the player to see where they rank against other players when they play the Daily Climb mode which is a neat way to see if you are getting better over time.
As a rogue-like, Slay The Spire puts other games to shame as it really feels like you never do the same thing twice. As well, every run you complete, whether it be a failure or success, you are rewarded with progression in your characters class which unlocks more cards for future runs. The addition of the Daily Climb always makes sure you’ll have a unique experience every day you play and the constant updates and patches makes sure that when you come back, there is something new that wasn’t there the week before.
Overall, Mega Crit Games is creating something special with Slay the Spire in its presentation as some fresh air in the rogue-like genre. It’s a very hard game to put down once you get into it. The game isn’t difficult and in fact is a very new kind of user friendly. This makes the fun of Slay the Spire not determined merely by winning or losing but instead about learning and adapting to things that previously defeated you. It is easy to learn but nearly impossible to master.
I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Slay the Spire. In the meantime I highly suggest you pick this game up and be a part of the growth of this new experience and highly recommend opting into the beta build. For the sacrifice of few occasional frame rate drops, beta users get have access to all of the glorious characters available.