Scale the tower and defeat the corrupted heart in card-based roguelike Slay the Spire.
I am not the biggest fan of deck builders — I don’t like designing decks around strategies because I am not good at planning ahead. Slay the Spire, however, has you building your deck on the go, starting with a character specific handful of cards and then topping it up and crafting it with new moves, skills, powers and curses
Slay the Spire is a pretty simple game. You pick one of three characters (once you have unlocked them all) and are then met with the first decision. This decision changes each time you play, but it normally gives you at least two options, which can increase your max health, give you more starting gold, give you potions or give you rare relics. Some of these positives are balanced with a negative, like taking away some of your health or cash.
Once you have decided how you are starting, you’ll be presented with a map. There are four starting points which branch up, intertwine show various stops along the way. A small legend tells you what these different stops mean, but they are primarily merchants, enemies, mini-bosses, rest points and mystery markers. Once you have picked a path, you’ll go into battle.
Battle, you see, is the meat of the game. In battle, you are given a few of your cards to play against one or more enemies. These enemies are randomised, so each time you play the game, it is extremely different. You’ll need to use energy to play cards, of which you start with three. Using up your energy will end your turn, allowing the enemy to take a go. You can attack, play power cards which are in play for the rest of this area, use potions or start building up a defense for their attack. Defenses rarely stick around (unless you have the appropriate power cards) so using your energy just enough to block your health from taking damage is a key you’ll need to learn to balance.
After you take your turn, your enemy will have a go. You can get a hint into what they are doing from the symbols above their heads, which even tell the amount of damage they are currently hitting for. Unless you get a specific relic (permanent change to your run) which removes that information. Once you have destroyed your enemy, you’re given some gold, sometimes a potion and a choice of one of three cards to add to your deck.
Merchants sell cards, potions and relics. Mystery points sometimes have you battling monsters but more often give you an event and some more decisions to make that may reward or harm you, or both. Larger bosses give you a relic at the end of the fight, so sometimes it’s worth the damage that you’ll take. You see, you do not always regain health after each battle — mainly needing rest stops to regain health (or upgrade cards in your deck) so you will need to be mindful of how much you use.
But the real fun in Slay the Spire is simply how different each run is. At the start, the questions already make your character a little bit different. The paths you choose also add something new, plus the monsters and relics you run into are different. Once you have completed your run (died. Once you have died) you will be given points that then add up and unlock more cards, more relics, more characters and just… more. There is so much content in Slay the Spire that I am still running into new things that I have yet to come across before. The characters are also wildly different, as the second character I unlocked didn’t just have a different look, different lifepool and different coloration to the cards — but also a unique playstyle where you could set her deck up to be mostly free cards that did little damage. This was super interested and very much unlike the first character I had. With three characters total, there really is something for everyone.
Slay the Spire is one of those games that takes hours upon hours of playing to see merely half of what there is to offer, especially as you get further in the game, gain more points and unlock more items. You’ll get familiar with the base cards and know roughly how you want to build your deck, then suddenly a new relic will tempt you or you’ll find a new boss that summons minions. You might make it to a new chapter in a new world, with completely new enemies. The game itself has an unbelievable amount of content. And that’s why I keep coming back for another run each evening. There are daily challenges as well, to continue this theme of more content. Slay the Spire is currently my go-to evening game and I really don’t see that changing anytime soon.