A roguelike with a difference, Slay the Spire has been a fan favourite long before its official release. Does it live up to the hype now 1.0 is on the market?

Combining all your favourite parts of the roguelike genre with an addictive card-based format, Slay the Spire, from Mega Crit Games, is without a doubt one of the biggest successes to come out of the indie game scene in the past few months. But what makes it so unique, and why does it continue to be just as enjoyable after months of saturated gameplay?

What is Slay the Spire?

A rogue-like wrapped up in a comfortable card game blanket, Slay the Spire takes the premise of the boss rush and applies it to an exciting and strategy-heavy format. After an extended alpha and beta campaign on Steam, the game released in early 2019 to an excellent reception, and an already captive audience of fans who have been on the title’s journey since day one.

A compelling art style, an appealing versatility and plenty of variation are all elements that make Slay the Spire an enjoyable premise for many. Partly thanks to its overarching RNG-based system, it’s possible to play countless runs of the game without ever achieving exactly the same outcome.

But that’s not to say that there’s no strategy involved in this rogue-like; as with more classic card titles like Hearthstone and Gwent, there are certain synergies and paths you can choose that can make all the difference to whether you win or lose – and discovering those great combinations for yourself is all part of the fun.

Slay the Spire

How do you play Slay the Spire?

In conventional turn-based RPG style, Slay the Spire works on a simple card combat system. Each enemy you face presents a unique set of challenges and difficulties, and it’s up to you to figure out the right combination for dealing maximum damage without being on the receiving end of a punishment yourself.

This is achieved through a range of different card types, from offensive attack cards to defence and skill cards that can offer you added protection or weaken your enemy in turn. Of course, with so many cards to hand and different styles of gameplay to achieve, there’s more than just the basic attack or block system you might expect from more straightforward titles.

This is further ingrained when it comes to your choice of combatant for your playthrough – of which there are three to pick between. The offensive-heavy Ironclad, the poison and knife-focused Silent or the decidedly more mage-like Defect all bring their own unique play styles to the game; as well as their own custom deck of cards, with skills, abilities and attacks that all run along their particular theme.

Slay the Spire

What makes Slay the Spire unique?

Unlike many of the more recent indie releases that market themselves of more of an experience than a game, Slay the Spire stays firmly within the category of a replayable, long-term investment. If you’re more casual about your gameplay, the title is easy to pick up and put down, playing a game at a time without ever needing to put in any real commitment.

A more competitive audience, however, is where Slay the Spire shines. Built similarly to the highly successful daily runs made popular by Binding of Isaac, Mega Crit Games has definitely bought into the idea of the arcade-style leaderboard.

Complete with dozens of unique modifiers and different options for gameplay,  both the main game and competitive modes lend Slay the Spire well to those who enjoy connecting with a game wholeheartedly, and like being pushed to do better.

With all that said, the learning curve for new players to the game can be steep and slippery; generally, you shouldn’t expect to fight your way to the final boss on the first, third or even tenth try, unless the gods of fate shine down on you with some excellent relics and great synergised cards early on.

Thanks to the reliance on RNG for anything from enemy generation to the choice or cards and relics you’re offered, no one run is exactly like the next. This means that one playthrough could be a hard slog even to reach that first boss or best the first elite you come across, while other runs can feel like you’re flying through the ranks with barely a scratch.

Slay the Spire

Should you buy Slay the Spire?

If you’re a fan of rogue-likes, and card games are right up your alley, then the full release of Slay the Spire is worth investing in – and is likely to soon pay for itself with the countless hours of gameplay you can extract simply from beating the boss with each character.

But if you’re looking for a casual game that’s simple to play and easy to beat, you might find Slay the Spire a little on the challenging side, and for new players inexperienced in the brutality of the Spire, the first few hours can be a downright grind fest to get yourself into the rhythm of the game.

With a price of just £19.49 for the full 1.0 release, and more DLC promised in the future, it’s well worth introducing Slay the Spire to your Steam library as your latest indie acquisition.


Slay the Spire

Author's rating

Overall rating

The good
  • Interesting, challenging gameplay that keeps on surprising you
  • A variety of different characters and styles to play with to keep every run interesting
  • Daily challenges further add to the longevity and appeal of this title
The bad
  • Grindy and difficult gameplay that may be too challenging for some
  • Too little enemy variety can make some runs feel a little stale
  • Additional balance could be used in some decks to prevent players using the same combinations over and over
About author

Harriet Swartout-Phipson

Creative Digital Copywriter by day, Indie game fan by night. Give me a rogue-like, simulator or RPG to play and I'm happy.

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