I have the attention span of a flea. Granted that when you place a delicious flesh vessel, blood coursing through its veins, in front of a tick they could spend their entire lives clinging on and suckling that good iron juice. Yet if you had to place, say, a videogame in front of a tick it would probably twitch its strange little back hairs and jump away in an act of sheer exasperation signalling that you’ve once again managed to let it down. Why would you give a tick a videogame, you idiot? What kind of twisted Cronenbergian reality do you hail from where fleas have the mental capacity to interact with such a form of art? Everyone knows they’re far more fond of magazines.
And now that my trademarked bizarre introduction has been cleared out of the way, I can tell you all about Slay the Spire. See, I was making the connection that I battle to find videogames that hold my attention for an exceptionally long time. Perhaps it’s a symptom of having to play them for my job, never really being able to sink into a game after the review because there’s something else that needs playing. Yet I unequivocally believe Slay the Spire will be the exception to that rule. Slay the Spire is the game that I’ll return to weekly, if not daily. It’s furiously addictive, beautifully streamlined and just so much damn fun.
Slay the Spire came out on PC at the beginning of this year and just received its port onto Switch, which is what I’ve been playing on, and I think it would be a challenge to find a game better suited for the hybrid console. Slay the Spire is a rogue-like card game where you’ll have the chance to play as three unique characters and try to scale the titular Spire. Every floor holds either challenges or treasures with the Spire shifting and changing with every run to offer new experiences thanks to how each run is procedurally generated. After every victory, you’ll be able to add a new card to your measly starter deck and as you progress, build a mighty collection of skills and attacks to vanquish your foes.
There’s obviously far more to it than that, but I think it would be better to experience all that this game offers yourself because it lays a veritable buffet of content out on a table cloth that although simple on the eye is an effective decoration as any. What I mean to say that despite the simplistic visuals and animations of Slay the Spire, the game offers up so much more that it’s not even worth complaining about. Three unique characters, each with unlockable cards, daily challenges, literal hundreds of cards and relics and curses to discover and experiment with and, as if the developer weren’t satisfied with their delectable 3-course meal already, a custom mode that lets you design and build your own runs to really test yourself. Please, I’m so full! I can barely fit another slice in my mouth!
But I can’t stop.
The secret to Slay the Spire is how deep its mechanics really are. While there are certainly elements of RNG involved, as can be seen in every rogue-like, Slay the Spire allows you to channel that RNG more efficiently. There are so many decisions to make when playing through just a standard run. Health buff to start or common relic? Should I cut a card to optimise drawing my key cards or add that one that does just enough damage to potentially swing the fight in a particularly difficult boss fight? Losing a run never feels like a failure but rather an opportunity to try something different. I found myself jotting down notes of particularly good synergies and card combos to keep an eye out for, always learning and adapting to the challenges the Spire was going to throw at me.
And that ticks my boxes for what I think makes a great rogue-like experience. It’s fast, clever and never feels like you’re being hindered with every death but rather taking only a step back and massive leap forward. It’s clear that the devs of Slay the Spire have put countless hours into just balancing the core gameplay. The potential strategies for successfully scaling the torturous tower are nigh uncountable with the variety of three totally different playstyles always expanding outward with every new unlocked set of cards. The three times I’ve managed to make it to the top of the Spire (I’m not a smart man, I’ve misplayed a good amount) were with the same class using vastly different decks and tactics and neither was less challenging than any other run. The game is always giving you the tools you could use but never tells you how to best use them, that’s all up to you.
And I enjoyed that greatly. Getting better at Slay the Spire isn’t about hoping you’ll get that one card that worked so well last time, it’s about rolling with the punches. It’s about careful consideration, analysis and playing with the hand dealt to you, in the most literal way possible. Honestly, with the surge of popularity in the challenging rogue-like genre, it’s becoming harder and harder to find those titles that really stand out from the competition. Slay the Spire pushes others of it’s kind to the floor and strides in front of them proudly, never yelling its own graces but rather sitting confidently on a foundation that is constantly re-playable, fresh and enormously addictive. It’s difficult for me to recommend a game for the Nintendo Switch more than Slay the Spire.
Last Updated: June 10, 2019