Slay the Spire

After numerous recommendations and a good price point, I finally picked this one up.  StS is in essence a rogue like card game.  It’s still in Early Access, so there are certainly some new things to come along.  It’s a solid game.

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One of 3 classes

Merging of genres is always tough.  It’s really hard to get the best of both worlds, since at some point you need to compromise.  Deck building games are about a combination of control and randomness, where player skill is more about knowing which card to play when (and which to add to the deck as well).  Rogues are often luck based, but the best one have an underlying incremental approach where not only do you get better (smarter) but the characters themselves improve.  StS gets really close to both.

I will throw in that I generally enjoy rogue-likes.  Faster than Light (FTL) is at the top of my all-time games.  I much prefer short playtimes, where a game over is both earned and recovered from in relatively short order.

Mechanics are simple enough.  3 classes, with similar starting decks.  Ironclad is about outright damage, Silent is about passive cards, Defect is a mage like class with a more complex set up.  You have a set number of action points per turn, play cards that value up to that.  You always attack first.  Different event types and maps where you get to select progress.  Collect more cards for your deck, or collect relics which provide various permanent boosts for your character.

I’m somewhat drawn to the Silent and prefer a Shiv deck.  That build requires specific cards to be successful in terms of damage.  But Silent damage is burst based, and you need to survive until it’s time.  That requires a lot of block cards, which cause deck bloat.  Which I think is the defining mechanic of StS… in nearly all cases it’s about judicious use of defensive cards since healing is so sparse.  Getting to the final boss of a level (there are 4 levels) with only a small bit of health is a quick way to a game over.  Some enemies are just not going to treat you well.

Balancing your needs, making sure you only have cards that will get played, and picking relics (from bosses) that provide a tangible benefit with minimal downside is key.  It gets more and more complex as you move forward.  That’s a lot of fun.

What’s less fun is the inherent nature of rogues and card games where randomness can undo a lot of hard work.  Losing to RNG is part of life, but it’s especially painful after an hour of investment.  Seeing a run fail because of a bad deck pull, or an event that curses you, or just a bad run of enemies is frustrating.  Dying in a rogue like should provide you some larger benefit aside from the game knowledge.  Playing for 90 minutes, getting a set of bad draws, and losing to RNG makes me stop wanting to play.

Each class has 5 unlocks that are achieved through a points-based system.  Do things, get points, unlock things.  These things are additional card types and additional relics.  This causes RNG to spread wider, meaning generally less chances to get the card/relic you want.  It’s pool bloat I guess.   You could be on a path for a specific deck and then be presented with cards that have no value – multiple times.  I’ve found that the runs become harder the more things get unlocked.  That is a weird feeling.  Especially when the starting state never changes.

I’m not quite sure what would help in this situation.  Maybe when you skip a potion/card/relic you get half the value in gold?  Maybe a starting relic that gives more max HP?  Maybe more reward choices every 5 battles or so?  Save states where you start on floor 2/3?  Playing someone else’s hand in a losing scenario?

Not to say that the game isn’t good.  It really is.  Well worth every penny and you’d get hours of gameplay out of it.  I’ve got enough now that I’ll wait until the next content patch.

3 thoughts on “Slay the Spire

  1. You can skip any rewards you don’t want. I learned long ago to keep my decks smaller and focused so I can get the good stuff to happen regularly. You really do need to unlock everything as there are better rewards. Silent is my favorite too, but a Poison based. There are cards you can improve that “triple poison”. So hit a boss with 12 poison, triple it to 36, triple it to 108.. then just survive for 2 rounds. Cards that add poison with every non-blocked hit, cards that add poison to every enemy at the start of every round, relics that have the unused portion of the poison jump to another enemy when the enemy with that poison dies. It can be a TON of fun that way.

    There are a ton of fun ways to build decks. And as you run higher you get options to start off differnetly as well. Change your starting relic, start with higher HP, etc.

    The Defect is a whole different game with the orbs and I like him too, but the silent is my favorite. As mentioned in my game of the year post, I have over 100 hours in that game – but I do embrace the randomness – even though it is heartbreaking if you are near the end and get a bad luck streak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve run a few poison runs – Catalyst is really quite something. The issue is the whole “stay alive for 2 rounds” part. And that it is really quite bad at AE battles.

      I’ve had small decks and do see the benefits. But then you’re card fishing, on top of crossing your fingers for a deck-aligned relic.

      I just don’t like rogue-likes that do not improve your starting condition. It just adds more randomness.

      Like

  2. Silent has the best deck for building up defense due to some of the powers you get, and the general nature of passively stacking poison. The ideal deck is a very small one, with basically nothing but defense cards and powers, along with a few poison cards/relics. On a good run, that can be built fairly quickly, and then after that you just go elite hunting for more relics and hit the shops to pick up colorless cards that fit or the shop relics, while hopefully upgrading every card in said small deck at rest stops.

    Defect gets really, really fun when fully unlocked, as the final few unlocks are all around boosting/expending orb powers, and a full orb cycling Defect is a monster.

    Ironclad is, especially at Ascension levels, the hardest class to win with. If you get the card that removes losing block, and the card that doubles your block, you win. If you don’t get those, it can be very tricky to stay alive vs enemies you can’t blow up quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

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