Deck-building can prove intimidating. Trying to determine synergies and strategies when starting out is a tall task, and pairing that with a roguelike–where failure in battle will send you back to the start of another randomized dungeon–might seem downright overwhelming. Yet thanks to a setup that encourages experimentation and is rewarding to play even when you’re failing, Slay the Spire marries roguelikes and deckbuilders beautifully–and it’s easy to see why it’s helped to popularize this burgeoning mix of genres.
Slay the Spire sees you take part in a series of battles, amassing a collection of cards that dictate your every action in combat: There are cards that launch attacks, allow you to defend yourself, buff you, or nerf enemies. Most cards in and of themselves are relatively simple, consisting of a straightforward action and an associated cost. Battles see you ascend the titular spire and acquire new cards, relics, and single-use potions, and you’ll need to weigh the various routes as you go, opting in or out of mini-bosses that promise great rewards but threaten to bring your run to a halt. Whether you make it to the end or not, you’ll then start all over again, only to face another randomized set of encounters with a fresh loadout.
The structure is familiar, and it’s easy to assume that your early runs (which can last up to two hours or so) show you all that Slay the Spire has to offer. Making progress permanently unlocks additional, more complex cards that you can encounter and integrate into your deck during future runs, which expands your range of choices, but it’s in the relics system that the game reveals its true depth.