There are two things that draw me to the roguelike genre. Firstly, these games are different every time you play. I love procedurally generated games because they generally have a longer life span than their counterparts in other genres. Secondly they’re hard and I don’t like overly-hard games (Dark Souls is not my idea of having a good time) that feel difficult for the sake of it. There is a very fine balance in a well-written roguelike where you know it’s bloody hard but you keep wanting more. This gives you a real sense of achievement as you progress because you know you’re getting better. There is also an element of luck in these games which gives you something else to blame for being atrocious. Both of these factors are present in Slay the Spire, a dungeon crawler from developer Mega Crit Games.
In Slay the Spire, you choose one of three characters (two of which are unlockable) to send into The Spire in the hopes of them not becoming food. The floors are procedurally generated and there’s a varied mix of things wanting to make you expire. We’ve seen this before; in fact it’s the basic chemistry behind a lot of games in this genre. There are a few things, however, that make this title stand out and these are the features that we’ll be looking at in a bit more depth.
The first thing to note is that this is a card based game. Everything your character does from attack to defense to their skills come from a deck of cards and each character has their own. The thing I like most about this is that you don’t start with the majority of the cards you’re capable of playing. You have your basic attack and defense cards, one or two abilities and very little else.
The more powerful skill cards are picked up by defeating the dungeon’s denizens. This means that you have no idea what mix you’ll get during your game and stops you falling into an over-used play style where you just spam the same skills repeatedly. You have to be smart as you go too. Each time you kill a beasty, you get a choice of three cards and you can only collect one. You have to always be thinking what your deck is doing and how you’re improving it; which is really clever.
Something else I love in Slay the Spire is the way artifacts (or relics as they’re known) are built. You get these items by defeating bosses and mini-bosses, finding chest rooms or from the store-holder. In a lot of games out there these items are either powerful but really hard to find or they’re good for about five minutes before something better comes along. Either way you’ll be picking up and using everything.
Meet the shopkeeper. Odd how these guys always show up in the most dangeous places …