I'm hooked. Straight hooked. Slay The Spire is an incredible game.
I've been doing this sort of deep dive into high-rated Metacritic games that I've overlooked lately. And I know - you can go on and on about the flaws in Metacritic's system; the foolishness of trying to quantify a game's worth; the problems that are inherent in the gaming industry's reliance on SCORES. But when I'm browsing Metacritic and find a game like Slay The Spire - a game that I managed to grab a cheap copy of and then lose oh so many hours to... well, that's worth something.
Now, I've been a pretty longtime fan of video game card games. There's no secret there. I spent several hundred hours over a series of years playing Hearthstone. Though I was never really that great at it. I'd argue that Pokemon TCG on GBC is one of the BEST Pokemon games ever released. Card Fighters Clash is by far the best Neo Geo Pocket Color games. My point is, I'm no stranger to the genre. Heck, I've even dabbled in other, lesser card games.
The last card game I got really into was Lightseekers - a freebie on Switch that had the interesting catch that you could buy actual real word paper cards, and then add them to your digital copy of the game. It was a neat hook. And it was a competitive game. My apprehension with Slay The Spire is that it's a single player card game, and I don't know. That feels antiquated in 2021. But apparently not the case, because I LOVE this game.
Let me tell you what makes this game interesting: it's a roguelike. That is, there's no massive deck building here. Every run, you start with a small and weak deck. It's your job to build (and cull) a deck based on drops. So unlike other games where you're constantly trying to create this master deck that's perfect, in this one you're doing it in real time - you're building the best and most streamlined deck you can, based on what's offered to you. It's a brilliant hook.
There's four characters (deck types) to choose from, and I've dabbled with the three that are unlocked at the start. So far I'm sticking with the Ironclad, and I've actually just now got a handle on how he works best for me. I've made it to the boss of Act 3, which to my understanding is the boss right before the final boss. So I feel like I'm making excellent progress, and that a win is actually in sight.
This is a game that's so good that I find myself thinking about it while driving. Like, hmm, have I tried THIS yet? I should try to get such and such a card and hope that I can then use it with this other card. That's the sign of a good game. And I feel like if I can finally get a win, I'll still want to keep playing with other characters. Because this game is just so brilliant.
It took me 30 hours to beat Slay The Spire. This was spread out over WEEKS of squeezing in gaming time when I could. It's been kind of a rough month. But I'll tell you this: I adored every moment of playing this game.
I had gotten close to beating it with the Ironclad. I felt like his health regeneration relic made him "easy mode," but that wasn't the case. I finally hit a wall, and switched over to playing with the Silent. And that just changed everything.
With the Silent I worked out a strategy that really worked for me. My goal was to take only cards and relics that accomplished two things: (1) gave me block, and (2) gave me poison. From there, I'd constantly be throwing up barriers and adding more and more poison to enemies. It was thrilling to watch that poison effect compound. Each round I'd watch as poison would strip away 2 HP, 7 HP, 15 HP, 36 HP and so on. It was awesome.
Most of my runs ended the same... I'd breeze through the first act, struggle through the second, and then get killed at the second boss (floor 33).
And then I had this one glorious run where it felt like everything went my way with my poison-block strategy. I breezed through Act 1, getting in as many battles as I could to reap the rewards. In Act 2, I juggled battles with shops and ?'s and campfires as needed. And then in Act 3, I found the "safest" path I could to the end boss, only to find that I was so prepared with a deck full of poison and blocks. The boss barely caused me any concern and I watched those sweet, sweet credits roll.
This game rules, hard. It bumped its way up to my 7th most played Switch game, trailing Splatoon 2. That's major compliments right there.