Sunday, January 24, 2021

Tech: Slay the Spire review

Slay the Spire wasn't the first roguelike deck-building dungeon crawler, but it's certainly the mack daddy of them all. I initially wasn't interested in the game due to its primitive, Newgrounds Flash-era graphics, but I eventually gave it a try and have been sucked in for 60 hours now:

As someone who's played Magic: The Gathering since the "Ice Age" block, the mechanics of Slay the Spire are pretty familiar - each turn, you draw a hand of attack, skill, and power cards to face off against a foe. You and your enemies can deal both direct damage to each other as well as various buffs and debuffs (the most insidious of which come in the form of additional cards that both thin out your deck and harm you when drawn). As you win battles, you gain cards, which are used to build out your deck and survive fights that get increasingly tough.

The real star here is the game design, which more than any other deckbuilder I've seen, embraces the engine-building and exception-based design that made Magic famous. Between the four character classes (each with their own set of unique cards) and dozens of items, you can sometimes craft unstoppable combinations that allow you to draw and play as many cards as you want, deal infinite damage, or other similarly game breaking effects...if you get lucky. On the other hand, the roguelike difficulty and inherently random nature of a card-based battler mean that sometimes survival requires analyzing a critical turn like a Duelist puzzle column. Either way, it's a lot of fun, and one of the best turn-based games I've played in quite some time.

Rating: 92/100


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