Review – Slay the Spire

Originally released on Steam Early Access in 2017 and followed by a full launch earlier this year, Slay the Spire is a game I knew very little about. That is until I saw the incredibly high scores it received, surpassing the average scores from other fantastic games from 2019 like Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5 and Anno 1800. Where did this game come from? How come I had never heard of it before? What kind of rock was I living under? Fast forward to late May when the game is now available for PS4, with a Switch release slated for later on this year.

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Aww, they’re so cute! AND THEY’LL DIE!!!

Slay the Spire is an indie roguelike. Wait! Don’t go away! I swear this one is different from the ten thousand other indie roguelikes that are released daily. This game is a blend of completely different gaming styles, being part old-school text-based RPG, part deck-builder, and part dungeon crawler. Your mission is to climb a randomly generated tower, defeating enemies along the way with the deck of cards you have at your disposal, occasionally meeting shopkeepers and finding treasure chests containing interesting loot, as well as some text-based RPG scenarios.

It doesn’t sound very interesting at first glance, does it? Well, I wasn’t exactly impressed in my first couple of battles. I was looking at a game that reminded me a lot of the underwhelming Paper Mario: Color Splash due to its deck-building based RPG combat mechanics, as well as Java-esque graphics with simplistic animations…

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You’ll usually die at these boss battles. You won’t be alone.

Then I started winning battles and collecting more cards. I started managing to perform combos with my cards. I started getting more relics, which act as passive boosts such as being allowed to use one more attack per turn or receive a defensive buff whenever I got hit by an attack. I began to kill more enemies while taking less damage, knowing when to attack and when to properly defend myself. Since I was taking less damage, I was able to avoid getting healed at bonfires, instead focusing on upgrading my cards to even more destructive levels. I started choosing harder paths and not fearing an eventual encounter with an elite mob, because I knew killing them would result in getting an extra relic, and because I knew that would result in more epic battle tunes being blasted in the background. Without even realizing, it was already eight in the morning and my dog was asking for her breakfast. I had spent the entire night playing Slay the Spire and was still craving for more.

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I hate these plants. You’ll hate them too.

I don’t remember ever playing a roguelike as addictive as Slay the Spire. It perfectly knows how to make you want to play it for “just another run”, as it constantly rewards you with new characters and decks, as well as extra active buffs whenever you start a new run, even though you’ll most likely never manage to actually beat the damn game. It features an incredibly steep difficulty curve, but weirdly enough, I didn’t care about that. I would usually die either at the second main boss or at an elite battle in the third act of the game, but that didn’t discourage me. Even though there are lots of RPG-based factors in play, you can learn from your mistakes and you’ll always have a better run afterwards. Slay the Spire also features some daily challenges to spice things up and provide even more replayability, as if that was even necessary.

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This most rewarding moment of all rewarding moments.

I had high hopes for Slay the Spire¬†and it turned out to be even better than I was expecting. It might look like a simple card-based browser game at first glance, but you’ll quickly realize you’ve been playing it for nearly eight hours without even noticing. Its gameplay and looting system are the perfect fit for a roguelike. Even though I had tons of fun playing this game on a PS4, I can’t even imagine how much better the game will be when on a handheld like the Switch. The DEA will have to ban the game for being as addictive as a hard drug.

 

Graphics: 6.0

The game does feature some interesting character designs, but the overall graphics are just too simple. The game often looks like a browser title. A really good-looking browser game, but the point still stands.

Gameplay: 10

It initially looks like just another turn-based RPG battle system with card game elements, but you’ll quickly learn how to do combos and special tricks with your cards. It’s not difficult to master the game’s mechanics, but it’s still very rewarding to do so.

Sound: 7.5

It starts off calmly and unimpressively, but once you start getting into some bigger fights, the soundtrack gets a lot more epic.

Fun Factor: 10

Slay the Spire‘s intuitive card gameplay, rewarding perk system, challenging battles, and roguelike structure are the perfect combination for a game you won’t be able to stop playing.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Slay the Spire is available now on PS4 and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Slay the Spire was provided by the publisher.