Slay the Spire review: A brilliant mash-up of genres
Mega Crit's mash-up of deck-building and dungeon crawling is a treat you have to experience for yourself.
We’ve seen a lot of genre mash-ups over the past few years, with titles combining elements from various hit games to create a unique experience. Sometimes these experiences are exactly what you’d want out of a mash-up, giving you a great way to enjoy the best of multiple game types all in one package. Slay the Spire is exactly what you’d expect from a game that combines deck-building with dungeon-crawling, and while it might appear to be simple on the surface, the amount of depth that you’ll find as you dive deeper below the surface is almost breath taking.
Dungeon-Crawler at Heart
At its core, Slay the Spire is a brilliant but simple dungeon-crawler combined with some rogue-like elements to really give it that extra oomph. Players explore a map of various “floors”, all of which contain things like enemies, treasure, merchants and resting spots. While you never see the halls that you wander, there’s still plenty of variation within the environments, which helps to make progress feel real as you fight your way through each act.
There isn’t really any kind of well-thought out story here, as the game acts much like a rogue-like, engrossing the player in run after run as they try to complete all of the different acts and defeat the final boss at the end. Still, though, the world feels authentic as you battle the enemies within it, and it’s the quirkiness of the graphics and the overall visual feel that help to paint a vivid picture of the Spire.
The battles are really where the game starts to shine. Each interaction takes place over the course of several turns, where players will have three Energy—which act as the Action Points in Slay the Spire. These points are then used to play a series of cards from a deck, which you can flesh out as you explore more each Act’s various floors. It’s an interesting combination that makes for a simple battle system that holds a lot of depth if you want to master it, something you’ll need to do if you hope to make it through each Act and defeat each of the bosses that await at the end.
As you fight through each floor, you'll need to learn the ins and outs of the decks that you use. Each character—there are three total—start with an assortment of different cards like Attacks, Skills and Defense moves. You can flesh out these decks by purchasing new cards, getting rid of duplicate cards you don’t need, and so on. While it might seem like a simple enough system, the entire idea is more complex than it first seems, as learning the ideal variables for each deck will take time and investment, but it’s something that is worth diving into if you really want to learn how everything works and master it.
You can expand your deck and change up the way battles play out by adding or even removing cards from your deck. This allows you to more easily control which cards become available to play each turn, which is something you’ll need to become good at doing if you want to take on the tougher enemies. Decks will need to be a good combination of Defense, Attacks and Skills, all of which play a vital part in how far you’ll make it through the Spire. While this complexity is something that many players will love and enjoy, it might be a bit much for some players who are looking for a more laid-back experience. Unfortunately, there isn't a real happy medium between the simplicity of the game and it's more complex roots, which is something that should be taken into account before you get too invested.
Life after Life
While the complexity of the game will take a while to master, you don’t have to worry about growing bored. The rogue-like formula here makes each new run feel unique by changing up how the map is laid out. This keeps the game feeling fresh with each playthrough, as you’ll face off against new enemies and even witness different events each time you play through an act.
Each act is made up of a single map, which often will feature several different paths for you to follow. This allows you to pick and choose the direction you want to go, as each path will offer different “floors” which can include battles, options to speak with the merchant, resting points, and other various events that can give you buffs or even hurt you if you choose to follow through with them.
The uniqueness of each run is what makes Slay the Spire such a joy to play, as each battle feels different no matter how many hours you’ve put into the game. Everything about your playthrough can change drastically with each new map, including the mini bosses you encounter, and even the final boss at the end of each act. It’s a really good system that works in tandem with the deck-building to make each run different, giving you all the reason that you need to continue playing no matter how many times you find yourself having to restart.
There is a lot to like about Slay the Spire and Mega Crit have done a fantastic job of blending deck-building with the replayability of a rogue-like. It’s this unique mash-up that really helps to bring the game world to life, and while there isn’t much story or lore to be found throughout, the world feels alive enough to keep you engrossed and playing through it again and again, no matter how many times you die or manage to beat the final boss.
On the surface, Mega Crit's weird blend of rogue-like and card game might seem like a simple dungeon-crawler with some deck-building mechanics thrown in. But, as you dive deeper beneath the surface, and really start to flesh out the complexities tied into each deck, you’ll find an entirely new world of mechanics to learn and master as you try your best to survive each encounter and eventually slay the Spire.
Slay the Spire is available on for the PC, Mac and will be available on the Nintendo Switch later this year.
Slay the Spire
- Simple to pick up, but holds a ton of complexity beneath the surface.
- Unlimited replayability thanks to the rogue-like nature of the dungeons and the unique card-based battle system.
- Beautiful aesthetic that's easy on the eyes and helps bring the characters and world to life.
- The overall complexity might be a bit much for some players.
Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Slay the Spire review: A brilliant mash-up of genres