Slay the Spire Review

Slay the Spire Review

A wonderfully-crafted deckbuilder.

Release Date
January 23, 2019
Mega Crit

If years ago you were to have told me that one of my favorite games of 2018 was a deckbuilding roguelike that was in early access, I would have been shocked. Yet, Slay the Spire came along and simply surpassed all of my expectations, serving as a shining example of how Steam’s Early Access program can be used to great effectiveness. It is the kind of game that should be celebrated not only for its quality, but for delivering on a promise that is all too often forgotten in early access titles.

The gameplay loop of Slay the Spire is straightforward. You select one of the heroes and are immediately faced with a decision. Standing in front of a massive whale-like creature, you choose a potential upgrade to your starting deck and/or items, and then select a path to battle through on the game’s encounter map. Each pathway is unique with variance in where the rest, merchant, and enemy locations are, but ultimately, each step along your path is to prepare for when you face off against a formidable boss before you able to progress to the next act. Min-maxing each step in your journey is essential, as getting the right cards at the right time will make the difference between success or failure. Moreover, relics offer you unique powers or modifiers that can be used to improve your chances of success. The most powerful relics, boss relics found after defeating the boss of each act, can be instrumental to the success of your run. Getting the right relic that compliments your deckbuild will leave you jumping for joy, and confident in your ability to take on the next act’s bolstered opposition.

This is one of the cards that makes (or breaks!) a run.

While on the topic of deckbuilding, one of the strongest elements of Slay the Spire’s design is its cards. Mega Crit has done a fantastic job designing a range of cards in which each card can potentially have a legitimate role in a particular deckbuilding strategy. For instance, my favorite hero is the Ironclad, and I prefer to go with a very defensive deckbuild that prioritizes blocking and damage mitigation over everything else. I keep my deck tight, upgrade my cards whenever possible, and build up as much block as I can using cards like Barricade (block is not removed at the start of your turn) and Entrench (double your block) to keep the number rising, preventing enemies from damaging me. Then, I hit them with Body Slam (deal damage equal to your current block), rinse, and repeat. The start of any run for me key, because I’m digging for the right cards to make my deck viable, and over time, you too will begin to identify a playstyle that you connect with, and will seek the cards you need from chance and merchants.

Slay the Spire Review cards
Finding the right cards at the right time will make all the difference. The rarer the card, the stronger the synergy.

Whether you have played Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, or any other card game, you will immediately come to appreciate the level of polish and craft to be found in Slay the Spire. Every element of the game appears lovingly crafted, and each mechanic thoughtfully implemented in order to ensure both balance and enjoyment to play. While the graphic design is certainly utilitarian, it does its job effectively to convey the information you need to compete and hopefully succeed. The core mechanics around the deckbuilding and its cards are solid, and you will find yourself thinking about new potential combinations while driving, showering, and throughout the day. Its a game that keeps you thinking, and the variance in playstyle found between the various heroes does a lot to keep each run feeling fresh.

Slay the Spire Review - Battle
When you finally get to one of the bosses, you’d better be prepared! They hit HARD.

Whether you consider yourself a fan of roguelikes, cardgames, or both, Slay the Spire is one of those games that takes two genres and mixes them up so effectively that anyone can come to love it. Its replayable nature and well-crafted card design makes it a game that will encourage you to come back again and again to experiment with new card combinations, while shattering your heart when a promising run falls short at the hands of a diabolical boss or an ill-timed card draw. It’s a game that will make you think, make you cheer, and make you consider every possible strategy as you fight for your life. This is early access done right (seriously, just take a look at the weekly update history!), and I can’t wait to see what Mega Crit has in store for Slay the Spire’s future.

Slay the Spire Review
Review Summary
Slay the Spire is a wonderful game that emphasizes what is possible when Early Access is used well. It is a game that will challenge you while bringing you back again and again. It is a must-play for all cardgame fans out there.
The Good
Incredibly replayable.
Excellent card and core design.
Challenging yet rarely unfair.
The Bad
Visual and audio design could use some more flair.

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