Slay The Spire Review

Slay the Spire is a dungeon-crawler / Deck-Building card game. Battles are turn based, and are performed by using the cards in your deck to defeat your foes. After each battle, you climb a floor, with the end goal of reaching the top of the Spire to fight for your freedom.

When starting a run, the first thing that you will do is choose a starting bonus. These bonuses can vary from gaining items or cards, or gaining maximum HP for example. After this, you are presented with the map. On the map, you are given the information regarding what you’ll be up against, which gives you the information you need to pre-plan your journey up the spire. I generally choose paths that have a lot of opportunities for me to gain extra items and bonuses, so I’ll choose pathways that give me these options, but oftentimes you’ll encounter a rough fight and end up low on HP, so I’ll also look for alternate routes that avoid danger if such a need arises.

The question mark icons denote events, which are the most varied, containing boons, or detriments, trade-offs between good and bad effects, and even just enemy encounters. Very rarely you can find treasure outright, but when entering an event room, you need to be prepared for the worst, or at least willing to take a gamble.
The regular enemy rooms provide money and extra cards for your deck once defeated, and the elite enemies also provide artifacts, which provide permanent power-ups for the duration of the run.
Shops provide an opportunity to spend hard-earned gold on cards, items, and potions to help get through a run, and finally, there are rest sites which provide an opportunity to upgrade cards or restore HP.

Energy management is extremely important to a successful run
Energy management is extremely important to a successful run

Even though you may have a plan regarding how you want to play, as you aren’t able to choose the exact items and cards that you will receive, sometimes the relics or cards you need to make a particular build might not come up, forcing you to adapt and rethink your strategy.

You start the game with a prebuilt deck, and then throughout the climb up the spire, you can modify the deck by collecting more cards, or removing some from the deck. When a battle starts, the player’s full deck is ‘shuffled’ and combat begins. During combat, the player always goes first, and draws cards. To play a card, you can click a card and then click a target, or drag the card to the target. Every card has an energy cost, and this will be deducted from the player’s total, which, by default, starts at 3. During your turn, you may also play potions, which provide a range of effects, such as damaging the enemy, or applying a buff to the player. Once you play your cards, you can end your turn, discard the rest of your hand, and the enemies will act. One great aspect of Slay the Spire is that the enemy’s next turn is shown to the player, as such, on any given turn, you can tell not only if the opponent is going to attack you, but also how hard they’re going to hit, allowing you to take your turn accordingly.

Fighting an elite enemy
Fighting an elite enemy

During combat there are three different types of cards you can play.

  • Attack cards, which generally do damage to an enemy, but may have some additional effects
  • Skill cards, which have a range of different effects, but the most common skill cards you’ll be playing are block cards, which negate damage.
  • Power cards, which provide a passive bonus for the rest of the combat.

When all of your cards are played, the discard pile will be shuffled into a new draw deck, and combat continues until either the enemy or the player is out of HP. Once combat is over, you will receive money and an extra card, and there is a chance of a potion dropping. With all rewards, it is possible to skip taking them if you want to keep your deck small, for example.

When beating a boss or an Elite enemy, they are also guaranteed to drop an item called an artifact. For the most part, artifacts provide permanent bonuses to your character that can really change how the game plays. For example, one artifact might give you bonus energy allowing you to play extra cards each turn, but enemies start with extra strength, allowing them to do extra damage.

Relics can be found in chests
Relics can be found in chests

Each run in Slay The Spire is going to play a little differently. As I mentioned earlier, even if you want to play a specific way, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get the exact cards and artifacts that you want. This variation that Slay the Spire provides is one of the main reasons that the game is so addictive. Although you might not expect a deck building game to have much replay value, Slay The Spire is an extremely punishing game, but at the same time, if you happen to get great cards and artifacts, your character can become a murder weapon, and you feel unstoppable. I’ve personally tried to replay a successful run, only to not get the cards that I was looking for, and discover an entirely new powerful way to play.

I haven’t even mentioned that there are 3 characters in the game. Each character plays in their own unique way, and it’s surprising to see a game that is balanced so carefully for multiple characters, and then Slay The Spire takes it one step further, allowing for a range of builds to actually work on each.

The Ironclad on the character select screen
The Ironclad on the character select screen

Despite luck playing a factor in the combat and exploration, Slay The Spire rarely feels unfair to the point where you get frustrated. Admittedly, I find that when I get close to beating a run through the spire, feeling like I’ve got a strong build and yet I still lose, there IS a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Somehow, though, the urge to play again prevails, and I find myself doing it all over again.

Slay The Spire is an absolute gem to play. Even if you’re not normally into card games, or if the visuals of the game put you off, there is still a lot to love, as the gameplay is spot-on, I can’t put it down.

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