Get ready for the deckbuilding roguelike of your dreams
One of my favorite parts of my job is when I get to gush about the games I love, and no one can do anything to stop me. Slay the Spire is one of those cases.
Throughout the two-plus years we’ve been in quarantine, I’ve gone through phases where games absolutely consume my life. First it was Hades, and after clocking nearly 400 hours in that game, I finally decided to retire it. I have brief stints with both Stardew Valley and Breath of the Wild, which were both replays of comfort games, so they don’t fully count. The next game that consumed my every waking hour, though, was Slay the Spire, which just so happens to be one of April’s free PlayStation Plus games, and I need everyone to know how freaking amazing it is.
Here’s a crash course: Slay the Spire is a deckbuilding roguelike, which is such a fun combination of genres it makes me wish there were more of them out there. The main premise is that there’s this giant vertical spire you have to climb to the top of, floor by floor, encountering enemies, friends, and other surprises along the way.
It’s kind of similar to FTL: Faster than Light in that you can see a map of the entire area between encounters, so you can plan your route accordingly. It’s also like FTL because there are tons of random encounters that can really hurt you or help you depending on what you get. You slowly accumulate cards as you climb higher, and with any luck, build your deck full of super-powerful combos.
You can play one of three classes: the Ironclad, a tanky fighter-type that uses blood magic in a high-risk, high-reward type of build, the Silent, which plays like a traditional rogue character with shivs and poison damage, and the Defect, which is a robot character that summons orbs with different abilities in combat (that last one is hard to explain succinctly, but it’s one of the most creative combat mechanics I’ve seen in a game like this, and makes him my favorite class to play by far). There is also a fourth class that unlocks after you’ve played for a while, the Watcher, a monk-style character who enters stances of Calm and Wrath in extra high-risk, high-reward gameplay. She can be fun, but it’s harder to get further with her due to how difficult she can be to play.
What really makes Slay the Spire stand out for me, though, are the relics. They’re random objects that you can acquire that have powerful abilities, and they’re far and away my favorite part of the game. Their powers range from giving extra gold or healing to making you deal more damage to helping you draw more cards per turn. The more you collect in a run, the more likely you are to get crazy overpowered, and those runs make for an insanely fun time.
You get out what you put in
It’s one of those games that gets more fun the more you play it. Getting to know the decks super well is a huge advantage, because you’re able to craft the perfect build from the get-go. You also unlock new cards, relics, and potions as you go, most of which are specific to the class you’re playing, which means if you plan around them, they can break your build in the best way.
If you get tired of grinding in the main campaign, there’s also a daily challenge mode where you take a run with special modifiers and compete online against other players for the highest score. I found this to be a really fun challenge, and a great way to switch it up after normal runs started to a get a bit stale. While I also like to play in hours-long marathon sessions, you start fresh with each run, meaning it’s perfect to play in little chunks too, if you prefer that.
While Slay the Spire was originally released on the PC, I will say that it makes for an excellent Switch game. Sometimes control schemes don’t translate well when a game is ported, but I personally like the Switch controls better. Plus, it even plays well on the touchscreen if you’re playing handheld. It’s also a great option to play if, like me, you like listening to podcasts when you game every so often.
What are you waiting for? Just go play it
For having a pretty straightforward premise, I think Slay the Spire does an amazing job of balancing each element just so to make it a finely-tuned, incredibly well designed game.
Of all the games I’ve obsessed over, it probably has the least amount of content overall, and yet I’ve still managed to sink 250 hours in and I’m still not tired of it. The game has a cult following, but Slay the Spire deserves to be up there with some of the best indies just based on the quality of its gameplay design alone. I’m also hoping that we can persuade the devs to make a sequel, or at least some DLC, and the more people join the bandwagon, the better the chance is of that happening.
If you’re looking for a new title to sink your teeth into this month, you’ve gotta grab Slay the Spire if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription. If you don’t, you should totally just buy this game anyway, because if you ask me, it’s totally worth the hype.