I'm crazily late to this game! I remember reading about Slay the Spire when it was first released into Early Access in 2017 and later fully released in 2019. Most of the reviews were really quite glowing about this card-based rogue-lite. In fact, it might have been the game that kicked off a quite a number of clones in the genre!
Developed by MegaCrit and published by the ever awesome Humble Bundle, Slay the Spire is a pretty low-fi but incredibly addictive deck builder that just screams one more run every time that you succumb to the waves of enemies that your hero is trying to wade though.
I really thought that I should give this a go after playing a similar game in the form of Neoverse, so here are my little thoughts about this game!
Ummm... this is a rogue-lite which has you storming some tower I guess. There really isn't too much of a story to follow here... I'm not sure why you are storming up the castle and battling the various enemies and bosses, but you are! You will die... and try again, and then fail and level up and try again! Really, they dispensed with the story guff for this game in favour of pure mechanics!
Either that, or there is some significance to this beached whale that I have completely missed!
You have a total of 4 different characters to choose from, with different decks and play styles. At the beginning, only the single warrior type character is unlocked, but you will soon unlocked the next two in short order. The fourth is only unlocked after you have managed to complete the tower with one of the other characters.
I really enjoyed the different playstyles of the characters. The later unlocks definitely get you to start juggling stances to get the best out of them, they are more powerful characters, but require that little bit more attention rather than the directness of the initial warrior character.
Every enemy and boss encounter is a real test of tactics as you try to deploy your cards in both defence and attack, and powering up as well!. Getting the balance right is quite tricky, as you aren't automatically healed after each encounter. Taking out the enemy with as little damage as possible is the name of the game, however, the enemies also start to get stronger through the fights... meaning that taking them out quickly might just be worth taking that extra hit!
Every enemy type also has a unique playstyle and counter. There is no one tactic fits all solution here, and if you try that, you will quickly get frustrated!
Thankfully, every monster encounter (when defeated) will drop some nice loot in the form of gold, items/artifacts and cards. Cards are the life-blood of your game, and you will need some pretty decent ones to take on those bosses.
The battles play out by drawing random cards from your deck each turn. So, you will want to minimise filler cards, and get some powerful combos out there. However, you are limited by the amount of mana each turn... so, every turn is a risk-reward balance between immediate goals and future power based on what sort of cards you have drawn. It's a bit tricky to start with, but once you get the hang of it, it is really quite intuitive. Until you pick up a new shiny card that throws everything out of balance again!
You can also top up your deck, items and artifacts via any of the shops that pop up on the map. You get to spend your hard earned and blood stained gold in an effort to give yourself that little extra edge in the next fight!
The real genius of the game comes when traversing the map and it's many branches. In addition to the fights and shops, there are text based decisions where you have some pretty tough choices to make which will affect your balance of power in your deck. Do you take a curse in exchange for a nifty perk or artifact?
The rest points are also a real dilemma point as they are the only spot where you can reliably heal... or upgrade a card. Again, the choice between survival now... or survival later!
... and the heart of any Rogue-lite. The fail condition. As you are defeated by the Spire, you will gain XP towards unlocking new class cards for future runs. Some powerful ones, others with nasty trade-offs. All with a new way of balancing your deck...
Visuals, Sound and Performance
Okay, let's not kid ourselves... the visuals are pretty low-key. This ran easily on my XPS 15 with no hitches... I was even able to run it with the integrated graphics without needing to kick in the dGPU. So, I suspect that this will run on pretty much anything!
Soundscape was a bit uneventful... quite forgettable. It sits there in the background, and I'm afraid that I didn't really notice it most of the time.
This is a great casual game for PC! Something for the moments when you have a few minutes to kill, and perhaps not such a great computer to play on. The ease of adding up mana/damage/defence and the getting the balance between the tactical battles vs the strategic run is something that isn't too taxing but quite pleasant for those who like that sort of thing!
Of course, I do wonder how much longevity you would get out of it... I have completed the Spire and unlocked the last character, but I don't really see that much point in playing too much more. I don't seem to see any other additional content aside from the full character deck unlocks for each character.
However, I do think it would be the sort of game that would be great for my kids. A bit of tactics, game theory and arithmetic on the fly in a pretty cool game that would run on their low-powered laptop!
DELL XPS15 (9560)
RAM: 16 GB
GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050
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