The Game Tutor Grades Slay the Spire

Now truth be told Slay the Spire was never a game that I intended to review on this site. I never request a review copy and I didn't really find the game at all up to it was released on the Switch a while ago. I picked it up on a recommendation from a friend and all I can say is that Slay the Spire is one of the main reasons why I have barely played anything else in the last month and a half.

In its most basic form Slay the Spire is a rogue-like deck-building game which sees you advance through a branching path of rooms full of fights shops and events leading up to battles with bosses and a final secret boss once you have fulfilled a number of different requirements. In reality, however, Slay the Spire is one of the most compelling games that I have played a very long time but the weirdest thing about it is I find it very difficult to actually explain what about it makes it so unbelievably addictive and compelling.

Now Slay the Spire is been out in early access on PC for a really long time and developer Mega Games have obviously spent this time balancing it to the point where there is a very fine line between success and failure. when I first started playing the game I originally felt that the permanent upgrades that you gain as you progress were not of any significant value but in reality the knowledge and practice that you have of the mechanics, the enemies, the bosses and the way the game works is actually the thing allows you to progress further and further as you slowly get better albeit helped by a few key cards and relics.

Currently, there are three characters to pick from the Ironclad, the Silent or the Defect now each of these characters has their own distinct play-style and affect the way that you have to manage the game. The Ironclad is a lot about attacking straight on using his own self-healing ability to allow you to play a more riskier style of combat. the Silent uses either poison or shivs to slowly eat away at the enemies health and the Defect (possibly the more complex of the 3) sees you using an orb charging system to cast spells automatically at the end of turns and at other times if you have the right card synergy. Now the game itself does not alter when you play as a different character but the way that you must approach the game does differ enough that the extra characters add longevity and I do hope the rumours of a fourth character being added further down the line are true.

regardless of who you choose the start the game with a fairly weak set of cards and as you progress beating monsters, unlocking treasure chests and encountering events you slowly unlock better and better cards. Now the card that you choose is a key mechanic of the game-play and when I first started playing the game I would always choose what I understood to be the most powerful card of the three. But as you progress and your skill improves you realise that card synergy is more important than power and actually sometimes the best card to take is none at all. Now there are a few very powerful cards Such as Echo for which makes the first card you play each turn for the rest of that fight being played twice and Apotheosis that essentially upgrades every single card in your deck for the rest of the fight.

As well as cards a key mechanic in the game are relics. Relics are permanent upgrades that provide a passive bonus for the rest of the run. each character starts with one relic and these generally work around the flavour of that character. The Ironclad starts with a relic that gives him Plus 6 health at the end of combat, the Defect starts with the ability to channel one lightning orb and the Silent drawers to additional cards. As you progress through the game however there are a number of different powerful Relics that you can find along the way and if you plan to match the synergy of your deck you can end up with some very powerful card relic combinations.

As you progress through the game it gets ever increasingly more difficult which is hopefully mitigated by your increasingly stronger deck but this does not always work out as is the case with any kind of rogue-like where there is an element of RNG. When everything does fall into place however the game is extremely satisfying and Incredibly enjoyable to make it through a run.

After you have finished the game with the main characters you unlock ascension mode which allows you to play through the game with various modifiers that make it more difficult for you.

There are a number of very reliable strategies that at work with most characters the main one being to stack an incredible amount of Defence and then use what few offensive cards you have to slowly whittle down The enemies’ health. This is an effective strategy against almost all creatures apart from the odd one or two that snowball all there air attack or defence as the fight continues.

apart from the main game, there is also a daily run which sees you tackle the game with some very significant modifiers that are not possible in the main game such as starting with a deck of 30 rare cards or having a mixed deck from different characters. It is therefore quite disappointing that the online leader-board found in the PC version is not available in the Switch release as of recording and I really hope they add this in a future update.

There have been some issues with game-play and stability in the Switch version and the game does definitely slow down in places the most noticeable being against the first major boss where the game freezes whenever his torch lights. I equally found myself playing in handheld mode on several occasions where the control stopped responding and I had to move a card around with the touch screen in order to get them to respond again. These are light annoyances but something I would definitely like to see improved in a future update.

Overall however slay the Spire is one of the most addictive and compelling rogue-likes I have ever played and it is a perfect deck-building game. A mix of compelling characters, interesting decks and a very well balanced system make this an outstanding game that I cannot recommend enough. This game will definitely be featuring in our game of the year list.