Updated: Feb 12, 2020
A little something about: “Slay The Spire”
Hey, it’s the RPG Craftsman again! I’ve made some more tabletop gaming PDFs in the past –
Wait. Wait, has it actually been six months? Crap.
Defining The Game
Requires Defining My Terms
So what the hell is Slay the Spire? How do you slay a spire? What is a spire? In reverse order, I shall answer these questions.
A spire is a type of architectural structure that tapers to a point at the top. You know how medieval castle towers sometimes had those super-tall roofs? Those are spires.
In this game, Slay the Spire, you slay a spire by stabbing it in the Corrupt Heart until it bleeds out. It’s eldritch architecture, don’t question it.
Slay the Spire is a deck-building, roguelike, RPG-like game wherein you climb the Spire, going through Floors to defeat boss monsters and hopefully stab the Corrupt Heart until it bleeds out.
Deck-building games are games wherein you have a deck of cards that do different things to help you win battles and deal with problems. Usually, your deck is fixed, but you can sometimes add cards to, and sometimes remove cards from, your deck. It’s a careful balancing act: do you want lots of powerful cards, or do you want a streamlined deck so you always have access to what you need?
A roguelike game is a game based on Rogue, a game where one of the major features was: If your character dies, he’s perma-dead. Start over with a new character. There are also rogue-lite games, which is more StS’s speed, as you only have a few characters you can play – you do have to start over each time one dies, though. Equally importantly, though, is that roguelikes generate their maps in a procedural algorithm – meaning that no game is ever quite the same!
RPG-like games are games where you have increasing statistics and/or abilities, but wherein levels and experience points are not gained. The Legend of Zelda series is a good example, as Link is constantly gaining new Heart Containers, better equipment, magical abilities and weapons, and so on, but he never “levels up” like you would in any Final Fantasy title.
Mechanics of Play
So, if Slay the Spire is all of these things, what makes it unique? Several things.
Cards come in three types: Attack, Skill, and Power. Attack cards deal damage; Skill cards give temporary, situational, or potential benefits; and Powers give major benefits and disappear from the deck until your next encounter. Some Attack and Skill cards also disappear when used, known as the Exhaust mechanic. Some cards are Exhausted if they’re not used, which is the Ethereal mechanic. Sometimes you can recall Exhausted or Ethereal cards. Cards cost Energy to use, and the characters all start with 3 Energy at the start of play.
There are three characters: the Ironclad, a knight with demonic blood and power filling his body to cut through any wall; the Silent, an assassin-woman whose poisons can kill quickly and whose defenses are nigh impenetrable; and the Defect, whose orbs of magical power allow it to zap and flambé foes, shield itself with ice, and power its systems with plasma. You start with only the Ironclad available, and you unlock more characters as you play. Each time you move up a floor, your HP from the previous floor remains the same; you have to block, heal, rest, and move your way up strategically.
And you’ve got a LOT of
floors to climb…
Each character has 99 gold and a set number of hit points to start; each starts with a Deck made of 4 or 5 Defend Skills, 4 or 5 Strike Attacks, and 1 or 2 additional cards based on their theme; and a character-based Relic that gives it another major benefit. On the way, you can acquire new cards for your Deck, including Common Grey cards, Uncommon Blue cards, and Rare Gold cards. You can also remove cards via some events and via the shop (where you can also buy potions, relics, and more cards).
Relics are magical items that do not go into the deck; instead, they go up near the top of the screen, and give passive benefits, rather than active benefits. The Ironclad has the Burning Blood relic, that restores up to 6 HP after a battle; after enough time playing him, you might unlock the ability to acquire Black Blood, which replaces Burning Blood and heals 10 HP instead. The Potion Belt allows you to carry two additional potions at a time (normally only 3 potion slots are available to you).
Potions are one-use items that give specialized benefits. The Fairy in a Bottle revives you at 10% HP, clearly a reference to the Legend of Zelda series. The Smoke Bomb lets you escape a battle without rewards at any time (except for one very specific battle that’s a REAL pain in the ass).
Cards can be Upgraded once – one card for the Ironclad can be upgraded multiple times, but that’s a special case, unfortunately. Upgrading might up damage or block value, give additional benefits, remove Exhaust or Ethereal, reduce Energy Cost, and more.
Each of the three Sections of the Spire – Exordium, the City, and the Beyond – has a few similar features. Each of their first Floors are always a normal enemy; each of their central Floors has a chest with a Relic in it; and the penultimate Floors are always a Rest Site, right before a Boss to fight. After each boss, you automatically earn at least 90 gold, a choice between three Rare cards, and a choice between three Boss-Only Relics. There are three potential Bosses for each Section of the Spire, and three potential bosses per section.
After beating each of the three Bosses, you confront a giant Heart…but something goes wrong, and you lose, for no apparent reason. And when you start again…
SHIT WHAT IS THAT WHALE
WITH ALL THE EYES oh is this
Neow thing friendly? Okay.
From this point forward, be ye warned: Spoilers ahead! If you want to skip, press Ctrl-F and type “Spoilers End Here.”
To Fight a Heart
So, the game is pretty plot-light. On the way, you pick up hints that Neow is responsible for the Spire
and its evil, and that the giant whale thing wants to put it right. That’s why she, he, it, whatever is empowering you – and binding you here, without your memories.
Neow isn’t exactly the nicest immortal wizardly cetacean.
If you want to truly fight the Heart, you must first win with each of the three characters, then play again with any character. You’ve been given a hint after each win…something about jeweled keys. So now you have to win once again, but with three conditions:
The Red Key: You may earn the Red Key at any Rest Spot.
The Green Key: One of the Elite Enemies appears on the map with a flame behind it. Kill them to earn the Green Key.
The Blue Key: Every time you open a chest, until you acquire the Blue Key, you must choose between earning a Relic or the Blue Key.
If you get all three Keys before you slay the Boss in the Beyond, you get a different ending – and the game continues for one last hurrah. You get a Rest Spot, a Shop, an Elite, and one last Boss, all in that order. The Elite is always the same, as is the Boss; the former is two foes that surround you (making the Smoke Bomb potion useless until you slay one! What’s the point at that point?), and the latter is the Corrupt Heart.
The Corrupt Heart is an asshole. You can only deal 300 damage to it between each time its turn starts, and every time you play a card, you take 1 damage; Block protects you, and it only takes effect after the card’s effect, but that ability is nasty.
If you do kill the Corrupt Heart, you get a nice little comic of your character’s victory, the credits, and an ominous message from Neow…
Spoilers End Here.
Full Steam Ahead!
So how good is Slay the Spire? Well, this is my page for it on my Steam client.
HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE HOW DOES A HUMAN WASTE SO MUCH TIME ON ONE GAME?!
So yeah, it’s amazing. Jesus Christ it’s amazing. Most of that time was playtesting it during its Early Access period, but it was time well-spent.
However, I do have criticisms. Certain abilities and effects are not included that absolutely should have been. We have an Uncommon “Colorless” card (one that you must purchase from the shop) that heals HP in the middle of battle, why not a Rare one that gives Regen? Why was there only one card that could be Upgraded multiple times? Why not some more healing options?
Overall, though, I can’t help but love this game. Slay the Spire is available for $25 USD on Steam; I think this is a little expensive, even considering the beautiful art, epic music, and great fun of trying to rip apart the Heart and, well, slay the Spire. If you’re on a budget, if you can, buy it for $20; it’s worth that much. If you can spare the extra $5, go for it. If you can spend 5 more, get the OST.
RPG Craftsman, signing off!