Slay the Spire released for PC earlier this year, and it quickly became one of the highest-rated games of 2019, standing toe-to-toe with blockbuster triple-A titles like Resident Evil 2 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Now Slay the Spire is making its way to consoles, with the game already available on PS4 and coming to Switch on June 6. And after spending considerable time with the game, we can say it's well-deserving of the praise it's earned.
Slay the Spire blends roguelike elements with a deck-building card game. Like other roguelikes, it uses permadeath to add extra weight to each encounter, and players are gradually given more tools to climb higher in each new run. Slay the Spire keeps players engaged through a steady string of unlocks that are earned by leveling up, so even when they lose, players are still earning new cards that may make subsequent runs a little easier.
Similarly to other deck-building video games like Hand of Fate, Slay the Spire lets players fully customize their deck. They can go with a minimalist approach, or they can stack their deck with as many cards as possible. Some players may want a combat-focused deck, whereas others will try to ensure victory through a strong defense. Building a deck filled with cards that complement each other is key to success, and there are really endless strategies players can employ in the game, which is part of the reason why it's so hard to put down. Each run feels fresh because battles can be tackled in so many different ways.
The cards themselves can change the way players play Slay the Spire, but the playable characters also mix things up. Players start with The Ironclad, who heals after combat and whose cards tend to favor a more brute force style of play. They then unlock The Silent, who has cards focused on poisoning the enemy, and finally, there's The Defect, who has the most interesting combat style by far.
The Defect is a unique character due to the orbs he can use in battle that not only make the fights more complex and involved, but far more interesting. The Defect has orbs that players can invoke that can deal damage to enemies or provide bonus armor, which can have a huge impact on what cards are played in any given turn. We found The Defect to be the most engaging Slay the Spire character, though The Ironclad and The Silent are plenty fun in their own right.
Besides engaging in battles, Slay the Spire also has players interacting with merchants, as well as stumbling on Unknown areas. The Unknown areas are usually accompanied by some short text and give players some kind of a choice. For example, there is one where the player may fall into some purple goo and lose some cash. They can then decide to go back for the money and lose HP, or just give up their gold to avoid taking damage. Stranger examples include a cursed book, as well as a room with food hanging from strings on the ceiling.
If there's one area where Slay the Spire stumbles somewhat is with these Unknown areas, as they become pretty repetitive before too long. There isn't enough variety with them, and it can be annoying running into the same ones run after run. It must also be noted that repetition can sometimes be a problem in combat as well, as there isn't a ton of enemy variety in the game either.
But while Slay the Spire can be repetitive, the game is still hard to put down, and it gives players plenty to do. After they've managed to complete the Standard mode with all of the characters, they can return to the game each day to battle for leaderboard supremacy in the Daily Climb. Players can also customize runs to their liking, and they can partake in Ascension versions of runs that make the game even more challenging.
As far as deck-building games go, we feel confident in saying that Slay the Spire is one of the best. Its combat is strategic and addicting like Blizzard's Hearthstone, and the roguelike elements create a satisfying gameplay loop that makes it hard to stop playing. The game has the "one more turn" factor going for it, where play sessions somehow turn into all-night affairs.
Having said that, the PS4 version may not be the best way to experience Slay the Spire. We did note some performance issues during our time with the game, where there was some slowdown during combat. This seemed to happen near the end of runs, and while not game-breaking, the chugging cards flying across the screen did hurt the pace of some late game battles.
Slay the Spire may have some slight performance issues in the transition from PC to console, but the game is still one of the best deck-building games out there. It's definitely one of the best titles published by Humble Bundle so far, and it deserves its spot among the top-rated games of 2019.
Slay the Spire is out now for PC and PS4. A Nintendo Switch version will launch on June 6. Game Rant reviewed the game on PS4.