Slay the Spire is a roguelike deck builder with challenge to spare. As lovers of both deckbuilding card games and roguelike adventures, Slay the Spire falls into a particularly sweet spot for us. However, that does not mean that it's without issues. It's not the most beautiful game you will find adorning online storefronts, neither is it the most easily accessible. Both its presentation and its mechanics took a little time to reveal their charms, however, soon after the goofy yet almost ugly character models had won us over, and after a few disastrously short runs, there it was, we had found the fun, we found the excitement, we had found our drive to slay the spire.
Slay the Spire gives you three characters to play with, The Ironclad, The Silent, and The Defect. Each has its own unique playstyle and starting stats giving the game extra depth and replayability. Although, The Silent and The Defect both are unlockable characters, so you will need to have a few runs at the spire with The Ironclad before trying out the different abilities of the other characters.
The spire itself is unforgiving. Made up from branching and interweaving paths, the route you take is critical to your success so choose carefully. A wrong choice may send you spiralling down a path without enough opportunities to heal or develop your deck, and this deck-building is the heart of the game. At the end of an encounter you will be rewarded with a combination of cash, which can be used when visiting merchants along the path, potions that can aid you in encounters, relics that provide permanent buffs (and there are tons of these), and finally a choice of three cards to add to your deck. It is adding these cards where the meta-strategy comes into play, allowing you to shape your deck and future strategies.
Along the path you will encounter enemies, elite enemies (these guys are tougher but provide a greater reward), merchants, rest stops where you can heal or upgrade a card, treasure were you can receive reward with no risk, and unknown spaces which may turn out to be anything from a strange encounter with a creature or character (where in classic roguelike adventure style you will be given a choice), to a surprise monster encounter. And last but certainly not least is the boss fight, and you had better make sure you are ready for that.
The combat itself is nicely streamlined. You are almost always provided with a heads up on what your opponents are planning to do, unless you have a particularly cunning enemy, giving you the opportunity to plan your moves in accordance with your enemy's plans. To be successful at combat in Slay the Spire you are going to need to build some synergy into your deck and try to increase the odds of certain combo of cards coming up. Like many collectable card games, each card has a cost to play. You begin with three action points that can be spent on a combination of attack, skill, status and curse cards, but your action points can be increased under certain circumstances and with certain cards. However, unlike many other similar card games, after spending all your action points and passing play over to your enemy your entire hand is discarded - don't worry that discard pile will be shuffled into your draw pile once that has been depleted. This proves to be very liberating as, where in many traditional duelling card games you will find yourself holding that one card in the hopes of being able to play it in the future, in Slay the Spire you know that that special card is likely to cycle around again pretty soon.
Synergy is definitely the name of the game here. Building your deck to suit a chosen strategy whilst remaining flexible enough to deal with different enemy types can be a real challenge, but it's rewarding when it plays out in your favour. Now beware, there are some pitfalls to look out for. Your deck can quickly fill up with duff cards, be they curses which handicap you in combat, or poor drafting choices on your part, and you are going to want to get rid of these cards. This can be done during a shop encounter, for a cost.
With two other modes available for the game there is plenty to get your teeth into. Custom allows the player to optimise the challenge however they like by adding handicaps and buffs. We have also found ourselves caught up in the Daily Climb; here you can compete with other players around the world to score the highest in a time-limited custom game with strict parameters.
We also hope there is some extra content waiting in the wings on this one, such as new playable characters and decks to really open things up. But until then, the three playable characters available provide lots of great options for different play styles. If you love opening card packs, and you love the thrill of roguelike adventuring then Slay the Spire is an unassuming gem you should definitely check out - just make sure you have the right cards to defeat the monster guarding it!