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Slay The Spire – Early Access Preview

By: Andy Stetzinger

Online card games continue to carve out their own niche within the gaming community. MTG Online, Hearthstone, Gwent, and many others pit players against each other or AI opponents through a battle of damage and mitigation with cards and combinations that make up the gameplay. Add in some interesting storytelling, captivating characters, and the chance to win some extra loot, and you’ve got yourself a decent platform for an online card game.

Slay The Spire comes on strong as a mashup of popular game genres that manages to keep the player’s attention while providing some nostalgia and hints of things to come. You’re presented with a choice of paths to follow to climb a map to finally take on the big boss. Along the way, there are normal monsters and elite monsters to fight, as well as rest areas and unknown areas to explore.

When you fight, you are dealt 5 cards from your hand. Most cards either do damage or add armor to your character, while others create combination bonuses or effectively destroy the cards in your hand at the end of your turn, doing damage to your character. Rest areas give the player a choice to either heal themselves or upgrade an existing card they have, while unknown areas allow the player to battle it out for a chest containing loot. You can also gain potions to use during a fight that adds a level of randomness to what is happening against the AI opponent – by either weakening them, boosting your own health, strengthening your damage output, or others.

As a rising star on the Steam platform, Slay The Spire can easily consume all of your attention and whatever allotted time you’ve decided to give to it. When things don’t go your way, you get the opportunity to do things differently and climb up the spire again, perhaps picking a different path or making different decisions. The game masterfully captivates the player’s decision-making process and players are able to see the outcome of those decisions pretty quickly, usually, in the very next hand, they’re dealt.

Slay The Spire differs from many other deck building games, in that you’re not stuck with a weak or bad draw and you’re not building up a long-term strategy against your opponent. Each turn you’re dealt five new cards from your deck and have to quickly determine the best play strategy for that hand, keeping in mind that some of the potions you picked up may play a valuable part of your strategy.

During longer fights, you’re sure to see every card in your deck, including some of the less-than-desirable ones that weaken your position. As soon as you have brought the opponent’s health to 0, the match is won. If you’ve won the fight, you’ll be presented with the spoils of victory – although in some cases, the loot table may be completely empty. There is a long-term strategy that you will need to employ as you add and upgrade cards that will eventually make or break you in the final fight.

The “big boss” awaits the player at the top of the map, and making proper choices along the way to boost both character health and your deck is vitally important. The final boss’ health pool is considerably higher than anything else you’ve faced along the way, and the bosses tend to have some pretty interesting play styles. How you’ve built your deck along the way will determine the amount of success you have against the final boss, and in some cases, it felt that there was simply no way to beat them with the deck I had.

Slay The Spire

On the technical side, sound effects are mediocre at best and do leave a lot to be desired. There are some obvious sounds borrowed from other games, which should endear the player base a little quicker. The graphics are flat 2D, but for what they are, they are pleasing to the eye and not a distraction. The cards are easy to read and understand, and gameplay with the cards is very smooth.

The game allows the player to save their progress and pick up where they left off, which is a nice feature in this day and age. The opponents also display their next move in a box above them, which allows the player to play their hand accordingly. Knowing that in the next move your character will take 12 damage, you have the opportunity to possibly muster your defenses against the attack. This feature does make for some interesting decision making within the game.

Slay The Spire is still a relatively new game, and that fact shows up pretty often. I personally experienced empty loot tables, balance issues with some of the cards, and a couple of glitches here and there within the gameplay. All of which I’m sure the folks at MegaCrit are working on diligently for the next patch.

Slay The Spire is, all in all, an easy game to understand, and a fun game to play, and contains a simplistically captivating storyline that keeps the player engaged for hours at a time. Watching your hand dealt each turn and being able to decide what course of action to take is extremely rewarding, even if you’re just deciding how to best offset the damage your own hand is about to deal to you. I’m already thinking about my next climb and some choices I’ll make differently along the way.

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