I'm a longtime fan of card games. Not real cardboard card games, though. No. I've never really had a group of friends interested enough in those to get me interested. Once, when I was in junior high a friend of mine spent an afternoon trying to get me to understand how to play Magic: The Gathering. It didn't catch on with me. But over the past couple decades I've been easily sucked into video game card games. Big time.
Hearthstone was the biggest time-suck for me. When that game came out, I played it nightly on either my tablet or PC at the time. This went on for... well, years. I got into all the expansions and everything. So for me, most card games will be compared against Hearthstone.
So with that bouncing off point, I'll address Slay The Spire - a game that I've probably dumped somewhere in the range of 60 hours into over the past year. It's not really like Hearthstone at all. But what it DOES kind of remind me of is those single-player expansions for Hearthstone.
A single player card game seems kind of shallow in this day and age. But somehow, Slay The Spire makes it super compelling. Like other deck-builders, you pick a class which limits your pool of cards. But what makes it unique is a couple of things...
1. Slay The Spire's map is randomly generated. And so you must choose your route wisely. You'll want to battle grunts to gain cards. You'll want to battle elites to gain bigger perks. You'll want to get to shops to buy (or remove) cards, but you'll need enough money to do so when you get there. You MAY want to hit up ?'s depending on what you're looking for.
2. You build your deck in real time, and then it's gone forever when you're run is over. This makes the card game feel like a total roguelike. You can come up with an idea of how you want your deck to work, but you need to find those cards. Or more importantly, you need to ADAPT to the cards you do find.
All of this makes Slay The Spire feel different than your usual deck builder. There's no long game to think about here. Instead, you need to make wise decisions in the now, and you need to be flexible. It's a combination that really works.
I've actually beaten the game at least a half-dozen times. Always with the Silent. All my successful runs came from using a strategy I like to call "poison-shield." Basically, I stock up ONLY on cards that either (A) inflict poison, or (B) give me shield. If I get a chance to ditch a card, I get rid of standard attacks. Then it's all about putting up my shield, and inflicting as much poison as I can each round. It's death by a thousand cuts. And it's super satisfying when those multipliers start increasing and you're watching 100's of points of poison compound upon a boss.
For the past couple weeks I've been trying to beat the game as the Ironclad. I can make it to the last boss, but can never quite succeed. Here I've been trying to build up shield, and then dole out damage via strength buffs or inflicted damage based on shield strength. It's fun - not AS fun as the Silent. But fun.
The point is that what is superficially a simple single player experience, is actually pretty deep, and very addicting. I've unlocked all the cards for those first two classes, and have dabbled with the third (a robot, who I don't care for as much) and the fourth (a newly released ninja who switches between attack and defense buffs, and is kind of fun). On the surface, Slay The Spire seems like the kind of game I'd have played for maybe a dozen hours, beat once, and moved on from. But instead, it's something that continues to suck me back in.
Great game, this one.
UPDATE: Today is my last day of summer vacation, 2022. I've played Slay The Spire for 193 hours on Xbox. And I just beat The Heart. I feel like a champ. It's a rare achievement apparently with only 2-3% of players pulling it off. I've been trying like hell for weeks, myself.
The funny thing is I didn't even feel like I had a winning deck. I did it on Ascension I, and battled a fair amount of Elites in Acts 1 and 2. So that probably helped, because the relics I grabbed did help me out a bit. But it wasn't an ideal deck, nor ideal relics (those would all be poison and block in my book). I managed to slim down my deck quite a bit. I only grabbed really good blocks, and as much poison as I could. I had a couple of Caltrops and a Thorns relic. And somehow I managed to grab three copies of Noxious Fumes which was nice.
But I had no cards to multiply my poison. I had no way to conserve block between turns. I don't know, it just didn't feel like an ideal enough run. Certainly I've done runs with a better loadout. So I was in total shock when I approached the Heart with only like 30 health remaining and somehow watched his health tick down rapidly between turns. Maybe I got lucky, or maybe I've just put in so much time with this game that I could just play with a higher IQ. I don't know. But I felt like a total boss, and it was an awesome way to end my summer vacation.
Slay The Spire was released for consoles in 2019, and will go down as one of my favorite games of the 2010's, no doubt.