Where to begin with this game? It is difficult to pin down exactly what genre it is. It's like that one guy in the class who copied multiple peoples' homework and then combined them all into one stellar assignment while also putting his own unique spin on it. Nothing in Mega Crit's Slay the Spire is new, necessarily, but it is how it was all put together that makes it shine apart from its competition.
Slay the Spire is currently available on Steam Early Access for $14.99.
The goal of each combat, given the game's roguelike status, is not only to deal damage, but to survive enemy attacks. The Ironclad loves his big hits and stacking buffs, while the Silent deals in multiple hits per turn, low-cost cards, damage-over-time poisons, and unique discard mechanics. There are no random hit chances in this game; every attack card or ability will hit its target unless something is done about it. And that something is called Block. For every point of Block you generate with your cards, that is one less point of damage you take. It is like gaining a second temporary health bar that takes damage in your place, though it only lasts until the start of your next turn.
Throughout combat, you are likely to cycle through your deck several times depending on your deck size. Unlike most collectible card games, you don't instantly lose when you're out of cards. In fact, the only real restriction on how much you draw is your hand size, which caps at 10 cards, though it's unlikely that you will reach that unless you specifically build for it. But it isn't the number of cards in your hand that winds fights, it's how you use them. And which relics you've found during your journey.
Relics are powerful items that you collect as you climb the Spire. Each hero starts with their own unique relic: one that regenerates some health at the end of combat relic for the Ironclad, and one that draws two extra cards on the first turn of every combat for the Silent. There are dozens of other relics in the game, however, and each one can empower you substantially or push you towards a specific deck style. For example, one relic gained from defeating a boss can grant you an additional point of energy on the first turn, or ever third turn. Another could inflict a status on all enemies or give you a buff at the start of combat.
In order to get the best goodies, you need to pick your path through the Spire that will best suit your needs. Each "floor" in the Spire is represented by an icon on your map, which has a handy legend on the right. First, you decide which path to start in based on where the path will lead. There are basic combat floors where you fight an enemy, as well as merchant spaces where you use your accumulated gold to buy new cards, remove cards from your deck, or purchase relics or potions. After each combat, you can select from among three random cards to add to your deck. Your deck's build depends highly on which cards you roll in these loot stages. Elite enemy enemies are more powerful, meaning a quick death if you're unprepared, but at the promise of gaining a new relic once you defeat it. You gain more relics as you defeat strong enemies, but there are other ways to gain them: Mystery floors.
Similarly, the placement of enemies is different in every run. You'll never know which monster will attack you when you move forward, and some of them will catch you offguard. Every enemy, even the basic thief, has a gimmick of some sort. Given the (eventual) plethora of cards and powers available to you in any given run, this is fair. For example, some monsters can shuffle status cards into your deck, which are always unplayable cards that either hurt your or simply disappear after they appear in your hand. This shakes up the notion that you will always eventually draw your best cards, since these status cards take up space in your hand that could otherwise be used to smack the enemy.
Finally, there are campfire floors, where you can rest and regain your health or upgrade one of your cards. Resting will restore a small percentage of your maximum health. There are also some relics that can add to your choices while camping, such as digging for a random relic, removing a card from your deck for free, or spending the evening doing squats to build strength. Meanwhile, upgrading is a very valuable ability, as it permanently buffs all of a card's effects. If it deals damage, it'll deal more damage. If it lets you draw a card, it'll let you draw more cards. If it hits something three times, it'll hit four times instead. Upgrading can also reduce the cost of a card, giving you some breathing room to use it on more occasions than before. Mystery floors and some cards can upgrade them, too. Here's a tip: if you see a card called Apotheosis at the merchant's place, get it ASAP.
One might think that being forced to restart just because of a bad draw is terrible game design, but a full run only takes one to two hours to finish, so it isn't a huge loss of time. In addition, every time you die or succeed, you will gain points that build up to different unlockable cards for each character. After the gauge fills, you are granted three new cards that will be available to you in all future runs. Whether you like the cards or not is up to preference, but I appreciate this kind of expansion of your card library in this kind of game.
Graphics and Audio
The backgrounds in this game are very well drawn, and every card in the game has its own unique artwork that is easy to tell apart from others, at least most of the time. The artwork for Unknown floor events are colorful and unique between each other, and the fact that you won't always meet with the same result despite similar visuals gives the game a mysterious air. However, I feel like some aspects of the visuals could use some touching-up. The fire effects at campsites, for example, look a bit tacked-on and lame compared to the rest of the game.
As for audio, it gets the job done, but you'll likely not turn off the game humming the combat theme. I would definitely appreciate some variety in the attack sounds. Hearing "Whap!" for the basic Strike card, and then the exact same sound for a an awesome multi-hit attack card, just a bit faster, leaves a bit to be desired.
|+ Large and colorful library of cards for both current characters||– Somewhat limited audio|
|+ Building viable decks is satisfying||– RNG can force frequent restarts|
|+ True risk versus reward systems|
|+ Weekly developer updates and news|