Slay the Spire is an incredible little rogue-like that’s been in early access since November. Only recently have my friends dragged me (kicking and screaming) into the world of PC gaming, which is why I didn’t discover this gem until now; but it had such an effect on me that I felt compelled to give it a glowing review (which I meant to write well over a week ago, but found myself obsessing over the game so much that I didn’t have the time.)

The aim of the game is to reach the top of the Spire. You choose a character; either the Ironclad or the Silent; and with them traverse 50 floors, across 3 acts. During each act you make your way across a map where you’re given options to fight normal enemies, mini bosses (elites), go to a merchant, a rest site, or have a mystery encounter. Completing these encounters could earn you cards, relics, potions or money. When you reach the end of an act you fight a big old boss, and if your skills are honed and RNG has been kind to you, you eventually Slay the Spire.

The game is a deck-builder – something I thought would bore me to tears – but to my surprise, the turn-based combat got me hooked. It’s all about smart forward-thinking; collecting cards you know will synergise to give you a one-up against whatever you encounter. It’s a lot of fun playing around with different builds too. You want to poison a bird-man to death? You got it! You want to use skills and curses to sacrifice your own health to deal mega damage to a giant slime thing? Done! How about collecting cards that build up your defence so high you begin to maniacally laugh as a huge donut hits you with a blow that should’ve killed you, but really only scratched your armour? All of this and more. There’s so much variety to how you can wreck your enemies (and incidentally, yourself).

An important mechanic of the game is collecting relics. These are mostly helpful tools that add various modifiers to your gameplay. Some might heal you a certain amount when you get into combat, some help you obtain more relics, and some require you obtain curses in return of helping you in some way in combat. Slay the Spire is all about weighing up risks compared to the rewards they give. Sure, having a relic that gives you one strength for every curse in your deck sounds ok, but if suddenly you roll a hand of cards that are all detrimental and don’t allow you to attack at all anyway, you’ll be kicking yourself. While there is a lot of planning involved in how to make a successful build, the game can rely heavily on RNG, and in that respect it can be uncontrollable how your game goes if you don’t happen to get the right cards or relics right at the beginning. At the same time, if you find yourself low on hit points, perhaps going down a route to fight an elite enemy isn’t the best idea.

Now, I couldn’t go through this entire review without mentioning the art. Slay the Spire has such a simple but pretty style. The designs for some of the monsters are weird, scary, and kind of funny. A mixture of what you’d expect from typical RPG enemies but with their own twist. There’s also a ton of references to other RPGs and games, my favourite of which being a card titled ‘Die, Die, Die’ with an image of the Silent with their arms crossed over their chest…

If I had to fault the game in any way, it’s simply that it’s not long enough. The game is in early access and there’s more the devs are working on; in the most recent update, they’ve changed the ‘start a new game’ screen to have a new daily challenge mode, and another mode that’s currently locked. As well as this, there’s still a whole new character to be revealed, and for that I’m very excited. But what would be nice is if the game continued on from the third act. My fastest completion of Slay the Spire so far is just under an hour, and it would be great to have a bit more time to polish up my deck to something I was super confident and happy with. I can understand how the short length can be considered a good thing; if you’re the sort of person that can complete something, feel content, and walk away from it, then it’s an enjoyable short experience. I however, am not one of those people, and often find myself yelling “Again! Again! Again!” immediately starting a new playthrough, acting a lot like a child who’s just been on a roller coaster for the first time.

Indie games like this are so important because they really stress the idea that single player games are still so much fun to play; and you can tell that the developers had fun making it too. There’s so many intricate little touches and random encounters that really add to the experience. One of my favourites is an occurrence in which you can come across some little flame spirits dancing around a fire. You’re given the option to throw a card from your deck into the flames – a good opportunity to get rid of a card you might not need. If you give them a rare card they might heal some of your health; give them a curse however, and they’ll give you a little glowing poop relic. It doesn’t actually do anything, but it cracked me up the first time I got it and I noticed at the end of my game I’d been deducted 1 point because, ‘poopy’. I really admire the attention to detail that gives Slay the Spire so much personality.

Charming visuals, addictive gameplay and wonderful character to boot; Slay the Spire is undoubtedly my favourite rogue-like. Considering the game is still in early access it feels very polished already, and I can’t wait to see what the developers have in store for it.

Slay the Spire - Early Access Review
9Overall Score