Slay the Spire Preview

Combining the best aspects of deck building and roguelikes, Slay the Spire is an intriguing entry in the libraries of both genres. With weekly updates and patches, indie developer outfit Mega Crit uses Steam Early Access to further mold their game into something more robust and more fun with each passing week.

Slay the Spire Preview

Introduction

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.​​​​​​

Slay the Spire Preview. Upgrading enhances the effects of cards.

Gameplay

The game is a mixture of dungeon crawler, roguelike, and deck builder. As one of two characters, the knightlike Ironclad and assassin-themed Silent, you climb the titular Spire. To do so, you have to choose your path, fight monsters, and work your way up floor by floor. You fight enemies with a deck of cards, which represent your combat abilities. In combat you have 3 "energy" per turn, and each card uses up a certain amount of energy. Relics and certain cards can give you more energy to use more cards in a given turn. At the beginning of a given run up the spire, your deck will always be the same dozen or so basic attack/defense cards with a couple more thrown in depending on your selected character.

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.

Slay the Spire Preview
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.

Slay the Spire. Random events are some of the most fun and unexpected moments in the game.

Unknown floors are random events that occur when you move into the giant question marks on the map, and they are some of the most fun events in the Spire. These events range from minigames, to multiple-choice buffs for your cards, risk vs. reward decisions, and of course loot. It is because of these little events that I recommend jumping into the game blind, because knowing exactly what will happen in thse floors sort of kills the surprise. Regardless, depending on the choices you make on these floors, you can gain cards, relics, and gold, or you can find injuries, curses, and misery. Every run will have different Unknown events placed on different places with different rewards and penalties. Even if you make the same decision on the same event, the potential outcomes can still differ.

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.

Slay the Spire. Dazed is a status effect these things throw into your deck, ruining your day.
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.

Story

As the Ironclad and the Silent, your job is to scale the Spire and defeat the monsters and madmen within. You don't know exactly why you're doing it, or why so much of it feels so familiar, but you do know that the Spire is pure evil and needs to be destroyed. As far as stories go, it's compelling enough to get the job done, and as you encounter new Mystery events and complete runs through the Spire, the mystery deepens, hinting at something shared between all players of Slay the Spire.

Slay the Spire Preview. In this run, I had the Shovel relic, which lets you dig for a relic at a campsite.

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.

Slay the Spire Preview. I read the book, personally.

Conclusion

A fantastic example of genre mixing, the game combines aspects of  roguelikes, dungeon crawlers, turn-based combat, and deck-building to excellent effect. In addition, the folks at Mega Crit have been consistently providing the game with weekly updates and patches to fix bugs and let the community know what they are up to. Though the card draw RNG might mess with you every now and then, starting a fresh run always feels rewarding because you will always work towards unlocking new cards. If you're a fan of any of the aforementioned genres, then Slay the Spire definitely worth a look.
PROS CONS
+ 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
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x