When it comes to determining the value and quality of a game, I tend to look at the amount of time that I spent playing it. I never expected Slay the Spire to be the game I spent the most time on. Red Dead Redemption 2 took up around 60 hours and Breath of the Wild took nearly 100. Slay the Spire, an indie game costing a quarter of the price of those two titles, surpasses them both with well over 300 hours of playtime and counting, as I have no intention of putting this game down anytime soon. It is easily my favorite indie game and one of my favorite games of all time.
Slay the Spire is a deck builder rogue-like. There are four different sets you can choose to start your run with, each with their own unique play styles and builds. Each time you win a battle you choose a card to add to your deck. There are also relics you can collect, which grant you a buff that will last for the duration of your run, such as extra health regeneration when resting at a campsite or every dealing double damage every tenth attack you play. There are few things in gaming that I find more satisfying than building the perfect deck with the right relics to go along with it. All these different possibilities keep the game feeling fresh, with each run feeling like a unique mini adventure you can’t help but get invested in. I would often find myself cycling through the colors; I’d want to play at least one run with each color, and with each run usually taking around 30–45 minutes, I was easily sinking in massive amounts of playtime into this game. Defeating the final boss and winning a run is difficult, but you will get there eventually. The game has a simple yet effective way to keep you coming back even after beating it in it’s ascension levels. Each ascension level represents a minor de-buff that will be added at the start of your run. These de-buffs are cumulative and each time you beat the game on the highest available ascension level you unlock the next ascension level. There are twenty ascension levels for each of the four decks for you to beat, so this is not a game you will be able to complete anytime soon.
Many gamers will be unable to appreciate the beauty and elegance that is Slay the Spire, and I can certainly understand why. In Slay the Spire, and in deck building games in general, a lot is left up to chance, and for many gamers, the less they have to rely on RNJesus the better. There will be a lot of great runs with killer decks, ended because of a terrible first couple of hands. Some runs will give you the worst matchups you could possibly have for your deck. Sometimes you just won’t get the right cards to build your deck properly. Another time you might run into the worst string of mystery rooms imaginable. In all honesty, the win rate is very low for this game, there is a lot that can go wrong on a given run and you will more likely fail than succeed. I can see how these odds are tough to stomach when it isn’t your dexterity on the sticks that’s being tested, but rather the dexterity of your mind.
I would also like to take some time to criticize the fourth deck that was added into the game. Now it was a free add on that I’m glad to have, so this won’t have an effect on my final score, but I just have to say I don’t find it nearly as fun to play as the first three decks. Perhaps it’s just a more challenging deck, or the color doesn’t match my play style, but I’m failing to see the powerful and creative synergies that I discovered in the original three decks. I’ve put a lot of hours into the game, and I think it says something that so little of them have been with the newest deck.
I can recognize the flaws in Slay the Spire, how it might not be a game for everyone. But it is clearly a game for me. I still have six ascension levels to clear with red, five with green, nine with blue, and eighteen with purple. I don’t know if I’ll ever beat this game, but I won’t stop playing it anytime soon.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10