I love card games and I love roguelikes (most of them, anyway), so when I learned indie dev Mega Crit Games was combining the two, my curiosity was piqued, to say the least. Truthfully, I’ve been disappointed with a lot of roguelikes over the years; FTL spoiled me too much. But Slay the Spire’s combination of FTL-style discovery, deck building, and turn-based combat checks all the right boxes for me and so far it’s been a bit of a time vampire.
You start the game out by picking from one of two characters: the Ironclad or the Silent. The Ironclad is a warrior type character who heals a bit after each combat. He’s a bit tougher, too. The Huntress, which you’ll need to unlock (I unlocked her after my first unsuccessful run), is more of your rogue type. She’s got less HP, but she draws two additional cards at the start of each combat.
There’s no real intro to the game, you’re simply presented with a map and various paths through the dungeon. It’s important to consider your path as some paths can be harder than others, but perhaps more rewarding, and some are full of mysteries where you won’t know what to expect. As you make your way through, you’ll encounter enemies, events, elite fights, merchants, rest sites, and so on. Along the way you’ll unlock cards and relics, items which provide a passive bonus to your character, building yourself up to tackle additional challenges. Proper deck building and resource management are key to your survival. You can choose to do things like upgrade a card when you encounter a rest site, but you’ll be giving up the opportunity to heal yourself up to do so. Maybe you’ve encountered an event promising a powerful artifact, but you overextend yourself trying to acquire it and just end up taking a ton of damage and getting a cursed card placed into your deck. There are tons of possibilities.
If you’re a fan of turn-based combat, you’ll find the gameplay in Slay the Spire highly addictive. Each turn you’ll draw a full hand of cards and you have a set amount of energy to play with, but whichever cards you don’t use go back into the discard pile, so it’s a bit different than say, Hearthstone. There are ways to draw additional cards, bump discarded cards to the top of the pile, or even find relics that let you keep unused cards in your hand, but it was definitely something I had to get used to at first.
Slay the Spire gives you more information than you’d expect to have in either a card game or a turn-based RPG and using that information is key to coming out alive. You’ll be able to tell if your enemy plans to attack you, afflict you with a negative status, block, etc. If you see your enemy is going to attack, it’s important to use cards granting you Block to defend against the damage, or you’ll take it full-on. If an enemy plans on blocking next turn, you might want to go with an all-out assault. There’s a lot to juggle, but it’s crazy fun.
Like many roguelikes, there’s often a purpose in the inevitable death you’ll experience. The better you do on a run, the more experience you’ll accrue for the character you’re playing, which rewards you with new cards to add to your deck at each milestone. I tend to find these sorts of mechanics annoying, because they make early runs feel impossible, like you’re just expected to die, but I felt like I could play around whatever Slay the Spire threw at me right out the gate. I’m sure I’ll benefit from having the additional cards, but I’m glad I didn’t just hit a difficulty spike early on that would be insurmountable without grinding out a few runs.
Unfortunately, as great as Slay the Spire is right now, it’s still an incomplete title. The game is currently in Early Access on Steam, though there’s plenty to play with at the moment, the team needs another four to eight months to finish things out. At launch, the devs plan to have an additional character available to play, leaderboards, daily runs and social features of some sort. I’m looking forward to it!
Have you played Slay the Spire? Share your thoughts on the game in the comments below!