Slay the Spire is a turn-based rogue-like with a card battle system. It was developed by Mega Crit. It is available on Steam and Humble Bundle. The humble bundle link is a referral, if you purchase the game through it I get a small commission. This game was reviewed by Joseph Pugh.
Slay the Spire is a challenging and highly replayable rogue-like. You play as one of three characters attempting to scale a 51 level spire. Each floor has an encounter for you to interact with, whether that’s battling a creature, dealing with a random event or visiting a merchant. Each stage of the spire has a challenging boss battle. If you die, you start over from the beginning. But Its rare for any two playthroughs to feel alike.
At the start of the game, you select between one of three characters, the Ironclad, the Silent and the Defect. Each one has a distinct playstyle, and even within each character, you can tailor them to your liking by selecting the cards that go to your deck.
The Ironclad is a warrior who heals a bit after each combat. He has a lot of cards that raise his strength, heals himself and inflicts heavy damage while crippling the enemy.
The Silent is a rogue type who has a lot of manipulation type cards and can inflict poisons on her foes.
The Defect is a wizard type character who uses various orbs to inflict damage or buff itself.
Every character has a starting deck of cards, and you will add to this deck as you play. Each one also has a set of unlockable cards and relics that can appear in future runs once you unlock them.
The map is procedurally generated and functions in a manner similar to FTL, you choose your own routes and devise a plan on the kind of encounters you want to experience as you travel up the spire. At the end of each map is a boss, defeating a boss fully heals your HP, grants you a rare relic and you move on to the next stage.
On the map, you will encounter battles, sometimes with elites monsters, which are minibosses that grant you relics if you defeat them. Random encounters where you are faced with a small story and choice. Merchants where you can buy new cards and potions, and campfires where you choose between healing yourself or upgrading a card.
Every choice you make carries a sense of risk or reward, after each fight, you earn some gold and select between one and three random cards to add to your deck. Do you fight as much as possible to obtain more cards? Or conserve your HP. Do you take on the elites for relics? Or avoid them? You feel the weight of every choice you make in Slay the Spire.
Battles are turn-based and function on a card battle system. You and your enemies take turns making moves. But you and your enemies do not play by the same rules. Often times you’re outnumbered or outclassed. Each enemy only gets one action per turn, where you get a limited amount of energy to play cards.
You can always see your enemies intent; what they are planning to do. Whether that be to attack, defend or cast some kind of buff or debuff. You don’t know the precise effects of their actions, but you are informed of the basics.
The player draws a number of cards each turn, and each one has an energy cost to play. You can play as many cards as your energy allows. These cards allow you to attack, block and do a wide variety of effects. There is a ton of combos you can pull off, but you have to constantly be aware of your enemy. Regaining HP is difficult and each floor of the spire aims to wear you down, rather than kill you outright. So you have to balance between negating as much damage as possible and taking out your enemies.
When you win a battle, you choose a card to add to your deck. This choice is very important because it is how you tailor your deck to your own strategy. It’s very much a deck building game as you ascend each floor.
You also receive some gold that you can spend at merchants and maybe a potion. You can use potions for free during a fight, and they deal damage, grant you block and other various buffs and debuffs.
Elites and chests also drop relics, these are one of the most important items in the game as they provide permanent buffs for your current run. It is one more decision you have to factor into your planning. Slay the Spire is very much a game for thinkers. While RNG also plays a large part, you have to weigh in on every decision, in and out of combat. A single mistake could cost you the run.
In addition to its normal mode, Slay the Spire also offers a custom mode, where you can customize every aspect of your run. And a daily challenge mode which puts you in a playthrough with various modifiers and tasks you against other players scores on the leader board. These challenges change day to day.
If you ever manage to have a successful run, you unlock ascension levels for that character, each one makes your next run with that character even harder. There is 20 of them, so to truly master the spire, you have your work cut out for you.
Each mechanic of the game is finely tuned. The way the cards and enemies interact is incredibly well done. Mechanics such as curses that infect your deck with useless cards is both well executed and unique. The amount of weight each of your choices carries is a far cry from many other games. Slay the Spire has some respect for the player’s intelligence and has some faith in your abilities. It doesn’t hold your hand, but it isn’t unfair in its design either.
Your mistakes are yours to own. The game provides you with every snippet of information you need to weigh your options without being intrusive. In combat its always obvious what is happening. Its addicting, fun and very replayable.
But Slay the Spire is also very much a card and board game more so than anything else, the aesthetic and animations are there to enhance the experience, but its important to note that if you don’t like card or board games, Slay the Spire isn’t going to be redeeming to you, just because its a video game.
The artwork itself is fantastic, but the animations are very barebones, they are a visual aid for the games mechanics and nothing more. The enemies you encounter, including bosses, are semi-random, so you never know what you’re going to face. But the variety does eventually peter out and you will learn what strategies each one employs.
Since each enemy works differently, and your relics and cards choices tend to be different each run. The game retains its challenge even when the patterns become predictable. But after a large number of hours, you will find yourself rolling your eyes at some of the normal mobs.
If you ever somehow get bored of the game, Slay the Spire recently added workshop support and talented modders are adding new goodies as we speak.
Slay the Spires card game mechanics and roguelike design are nearly flawless, and the amount of choice and strategy you are able to employ is a ton of fun. The weight of your choices are heavy, and mistakes will cost you. The asymmetrical combat design between you and the enemies is incredibly well done. The sound and visuals are great, but the animations are lackluster.
The amount of content between cards, relics, potions, events, and enemies is staggering and the replay value is through the roof. I believe Slay the Spire has some of the tightest mechanics of any game I’ve played, where everything just works and pieces of its design fit together perfectly. I can’t recommend the game enough for card game or roguelike fans.
A key was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by MegaCrit. Interested in card games? Check out my review of Evolution!
- Great artwork
- Stellar card game mechanics
- Huge variety of cards, relics, potions, and enemies
- Very strategical with many weighted choices.
- A ton of replay value.
- Three very different characters to play
- Freeform map progression
- Lackluster animations
- Enemies become predictable after several hours.