Slay the Spire review: Shot through the Corrupt Heart

Mega Crit Games
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A dynamic roguelite deck-building game, Slay the Spire combines RPG tactical strategy with randomized encounters to create a devilishly addictive challenge.

Title: Slay the Spire
Developer: Mega Crit Games
Publisher: Mega Crit Games
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), Nintendo Switch (2019)
Release Date: January 23, 2019

Early Access games are always a bit of hit and miss when it comes to their development progress. For starters, fans paying money long before the game is complete feel obligated to have their input impact the state of the game’s standing, even if balance changes they suggest might not be for the better. Toeing the line between listening to feedback and knowing more as developers than the players is key to fine-tuning the final product.

Slay the Spire has tinkered, slowly added content by piecemeal, and strengthened the pillars of its gameplay to produce one of the most addictive games I’ve played in years.

Slay the Spire is a roguelite game where you choose one of three characters to climb a tall spire, tasked with striking the corrupted heart at the very top. Creatures, monsters, ne’er-do-wells and roguish enemies are littered throughout your path, and the only way to take them out is to take your character’s starter deck of actions and build it up as you progress throughout the 50 floors.

Each character’s deck starts with basic strike and defend cards, as well as character-specific cards. As you face enemies, you are dealt five (or more, or less) cards to use at your disposal before the enemy gets to act, where they can attack you, debuff you or bolster their own effects. Each enemy encounter counts as a floor completed, with gold and one of three random cards (your choice) are guaranteed rewards for each combat, and a potion sometimes drops, as well.

The three Slay the Spire characters are separated by their unique-colored decks (only their sets of cards can be found with the exception of all-character colorless cards), meaning they each have their own play styles. The Ironclad is a buff-based, attack or defense-heavy character that regenerates 6 HP after each combat. The Silent uses buffs, poisons and debuffs, as well as card draw-heavy synergies. The Defect uses orbs that have both passive and active effects, as well as a variety of self-serving Power cards.

Slay The Spire gameplay route
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If it feels like a lot to take in, it’s because it speaks to the depth of the experience. Slay the Spire is about adapting to an ever-changing challenge, as the path to the end is different every single time. Certain cards rewarded from enemies might not appear once during a run, meaning you might have to build a new synergy on the fly.

Finding out how to solve the “puzzle” of the spire is what makes playing it so enthralling and addictive…

For example, you might find yourself as The Silent in one run picking up poison-based attack cards, only for the best cards not show up at all in the second run. In that second run, you might find yourself building a shiv-based deck where you can do a lot of damage with zero-energy cards, with one card or relic optimizing the deck’s effectiveness to propel you towards the end.

Finding out how to solve the “puzzle” of the spire is what makes playing it so enthralling and addictive, as you encounter new problems to solve each time. It’s when you get the keys that unlock a run’s greatness that will fill you with adrenaline, especially as you come to learn that death still can creep up in an instant when misplaying your resources.

Slay the Spire Shop
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Slay the Spire is all about risk, reward and random chance. Question marks on the map can be random events, chests containing relics, another monster encounter or shops; an opportunity to spend your accumulated gold. Rest sites are key to either regaining health, unlocking secrets of the spire, upgrading a card to its advanced state or a myriad of other effects gained by relics.

In fact, relics are just as integral to building your Slay the Spire run as the cards, since there are dozens upon dozens of them that add bonus effects. Some can bolster your synergies (relics that improve defense upon discards, improving discard decks), others can improve your stats (add max HP); there are even some that replace your starting relic.

The random events on the map are the most swingy parts of risk and reward. Not only are there dozens of possibilities including events that are completely positive or completely negative, but the bonuses might require you to change up your game entirely. I’m talking about losing 30% of your health and turning into a vampire, replacing strikes with bites that regenerate a small bit of health, as well as getting sent into an arena to fight elite monsters against your will.

Slay the Spire Wheel Spin
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While there are so many variables when it comes to building your character’s deck and “stat sheet” (essentially, relic effects), the least adaptable part of Slay the Spire is its roster of enemies, elites and bosses. Though the selection is random, the pools from which they’re drawn is rather shallow, as there are way too many variables in the game’s meta to account for when it comes to balance. There are just three boss types and elite types each per act that can appear.

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It’s a minor disappointment, however, because of the adaptability of the ever-changing metagame. There are “strategies” and “synergies” you can build towards, but you never know if the options you seek for will come to your or even be available. As you take down these act bosses, reap your rewards, regain your health and carry forward, newer challenges unlock with new levels of “Ascension,” adding difficulty modifiers one after another.

To further add to the game’s replayability, there are daily runs complete with leaderboards that allow you to play a certain character with special bonuses and restrictions. The seed is the same for all, but the daily runs take some weird liberties such as tripling each card you add to the deck or creating one linear path.

Slay the Spire Random Event
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I hope to have explained enough about Slay the Spire’s intricate gameplay systems, as I cannot help but gush over its complexity. Everything about the climb immerses you in its grime, putting you in the footsteps of a world where the dregs of society hope to keep you down with them. The music, while simple, crescendos to exhilarating heights and sets a pensive, inquisitive flutter when experiencing random events.

Slay the Spire is one of the greatest deck-building games available.

Though the flow of gameplay remains a constant throughout, players should expect 40-60 minutes of adventure on a successful run, and even longer if you find out how to unlock the true ending. However, victory is not guaranteed as, like any good roguelite, the cards might not be in your favor. The difficulty is punishing for the unlucky and rewarding for the thoughtful and adaptable.

The pain of defeat is temporary, but the glory of victory is lasting. With mod support, millions of variables, ongoing content being added after launch and a perfect balance of variance and tactics, Slay the Spire is one of the greatest deck-building games available.

A fantastically gripping experience, Slay the Spire grabs you in with its ever-changing deck-building mechanics and presents you with a complex challenge to solve. Its core dynamic gameplay loop begs for experimentation and discovery, leading to thousands of possibilities to achieve victory and promising hundreds of hours of awesome, thrilling gameplay.. Mega Crit Games. . Slay the Spire. 9.5

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.