I had heard a lot about Slay the Spire before I started this review. It launched with great success on PC in 2017. Everyone talked about it and some of my favourite gaming buzz words were being thrown around. Words like Roguelike, procedural, strategy and tactical. All the streamers were raving about it and my twitter was full of people playing this game that no-one had heard of and they were all loving it. Fast forward a few years and we finally have it on PlayStation.
Slay the Spire has no story to speak of really. You must make your way up randomly generated floors which include enemies, bosses, mini-bosses, shops and a massive plethora of random occurrences to navigate through. Each time you die you start from scratch and start all over, hopefully learning from your mistakes as you go. Where the game shines is its deck building, it’s tactical combat and the fact that every run is different. Like many games I love, you never quite know what’s going to happen each time you fire it up.
You have 3 characters to choose from, all with various card sets, relics and starting stats. Each character has a different playstyle and must be used slightly differently. You can play the standard gameplay experience or do the daily climb. Everyone who has played a roguelike in recent years will know what to expect in the daily climb. It’s a predetermined run that all players compete against each other and your scores are shown together on a leaderboard. You also have some added rules to mix it up a bit too. This mode is fun and lets you know how you are doing against the rest of the player base.
The great thing about Slay the Spires dungeons is that they are mapped out for you and you get to choose your own path to take. You can look ahead and plan your run accordingly. You can look at the paths and see, using icons on the map, what you will be facing off against. Need a rest, head for a campfire, want to buy some new cards of relics, head for a merchant. It’s all very well designed and makes you feel that you are slightly in control of all the randomness occurring around you.
Some of the occurrences in these maps are really well done, you have question mark spaces which are always a gamble to undertake. They usually end up being a nice ‘choose your own adventure’ style choice which will either help or hinder your run in some way. Again, this all adds to the random nature of your runs and make each run you do unique. Sometimes they have really helped me, sometimes I had wished I went a different route. It’s all good fun and adds to the lure of this great game.
There are many other things that this game has to increase make sure every run is unique. Each battle rewards you with a choice of cards to select and later on in the game some of the cards are upgraded too into their more powerful counterparts. Your choices have weight and every choice could be the difference between life and death. Also scattered through the game are relics, these powerful items give you passive boosts to your battles. Again you must choose wisely, buy wisely and make sure everything you add to your collection compliments your current build and playstyle.
The combat nodes on the map take you into a turn-based, card driven battle. Anyone who has played a card battler will slide straight in easily, it’s all very simple to learn and it’s all explained very well. In fact, that’s another glorious thing about this game, at any moment you can highlight an object and all the information is explained to you. The buffs, debuffs, stats and cards can all be selected and the information is all presented to you in a simple manner. It’s such a great piece of design work that takes any of the nonsense out of the game, I cannot explain how much of a help this is in a game of this type.
The other thing that really impressed me about the battle system was the ‘live’ stats feature. A lot of times in games like this it’s hard to capture the actual information you require from the battle. For example, normally you would be doing an attack of 18 but due to certain other factors you attack and it ends up doing 10 damage. Slay the Spire changes the stats in real time taking into account all the factors in play at that time. It’s brilliant. If your card says 6 damage, it will do 6 damage. This means you can plan better and use strategy more effectively to win your battles. Its such a breath of fresh air.
Another great battle feature is that your enemies next move is shown above them before you take your turn. This is an exceptional feature, it gives you room to manoeuvre, strategically plan and hopefully mitigate their attacks. You can play defensive cards to take their damage down and then attack accordingly. There is a lot of room for tactical play and the combat system is very deep, I really enjoyed learning all its little nuances. All these little details really add up to make this game a great strategic battler with lots of options, random factors and make each run different and entertaining.
Graphically the game is quite basic but very pleasing on the eye. Everything is really clean looking, bright, bold and animated very well. It’s all hand drawn and pleasing on the eye. The characters, monsters and backgrounds are all varied, crisp and very well designed. The UI and it’s various elements are all made very well, making sure the information you need is accessible and easily readable. Even though the graphics are basic, I really liked them and they complimented the game admirably.
The sounds in this game are also very well made. Great battle music compliments it’s nice art style and gameplay perfectly. There is no voice acting to judge as most of the game is text-based but all the sound effects and music are charming. The sound design does its job of keeping you immersed in the game and they are never jarring or ill-fitting of what is happening in the game at the time. They accentuate the parts of the game when necessary and fit the highs and lows as they happen.
Slay the Spire performed flawlessly. I had zero issues at all. No bugs, game breaking issues or graphical issues to report whatsoever. You are left to enjoy this magical game without worrying about the game performance, no one likes to be out off by game issues and this game is extremely well made and near performs to perfection.
I love games that are different every time I play, games like Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy, games where you never know what going to happen. Slay the Spire fits into this category too but is much different to the aforementioned titles. The way this game handles its stats, it’s UI and enemy attacks really open up the strategy and tactical nuances of the combat system. It’s easy to learn but has a massive amount of depth if you wish to pursue it.
Everything is explained and presented to the player so choices can be made with all the information required. A lot of the ambiguity and sometimes messiness of card games and deck building have been alleviated by this games great design. It’s a joy to play and I will be playing it for many years to come, it has massive replayability and every time you play you will get a unique experience. If you like roguelikes, card battlers and don’t mind a bit of randomness then what you waiting for? Go and climb the spire, slay come monsters and build your way to victory.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*