Slay the Spire

Review Slay the Spire (Switch)

Game: Slay the Spire
Genre: Deck-building card game / Roguelike strategy
System: Switch (also on PC and PS4)
Developer/ Publisher: MegaCrit | Humble Bundle
Age Rating:
EU: 7+| USA: Teen
: €24,99| £19.99| $24.99
Release Date: 6 June 2019

No review code was provided, bought the game myself.

I stumbled across Slay the Spire while looking for a card game to carry around on the Switch, preferably a deckbuilder.

Initially, Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamesh was a strong candidate, with its lovely visuals and cute robots. Meanwhile I was that worried Slay the Spire’s roguelike element would prove more frustrating than fun. But I was not wrong to bet on Spire; it excels in balancing between roguelike randomization and the player’s creative freedom.

Climbing the Spire

Unlike Steamworld Quest, which is an actually RPG (with card elements), Spire has pretty much no story and is a pure deck-builder card game.

There is a context, however: You are climbing a spire full of monsters, treasure, and surprises. Why are you climbing the Spire? Who are you, exactly? The game doesn’t say, and frankly, you won’t care once you get sucked into its addictive play.

Your upward journey is divided into three Acts. Enemies get progressively tougher, as do Boss fights at the end of each Act. It isn’t battles all the way, though. Some rooms in the Spire offer a chance to rest, shop, or get shiny relics.

What I like about Spire’s randomly generated map is getting to decide what route of rooms to follow. This provides balance between luck and player choice.

Fireplaces let you choose between restoring health and upgrading a card in your deck. Merchants sell cards, potions (one-time use), and relics (permanent abilities). They also provide a card-removal service—you might want to rid your deck of a harmful Curse card—for a hefty sum of gold. Treasure rooms offer a free relic. Elite Enemy rooms are tougher but more rewarding battles than regular Enemy rooms.

Finally, Unknown rooms could contain a surprise: any of the above, except Elite Enemies—or a random story event with choices. There’s a good variety of events: a tough choice between two bad outcomes; a lucky choice between good outcomes; or a randomly-generated outcome you will either love or hate.

Play the hand you’re dealt

You begin with a deck of 10 cards, mostly composed of basic Strike and Defend cards. The humble Defend card is more important than you might think, because healing doesn’t come by easily. And once you’re dead, you’re dead. The entire game is literally over, no save points—which is how roguelikes work.

During battles, you draw 5 cards each turn. If the draw pile runs out, your discard pile (of played or discarded cards) is simply reshuffled.

It costs Energy to play cards, and you have 3 Energy to spend per turn. Most cards cost between 0 to 3 Energy to play, but you’ll also take into account what enemies intend to do next.

Whittle your enemies’ health down to zero, and the battle ends with rewards. The most important reward is the ability to add one new card to your deck, from out of three random cards.

You may choose not to take a new card, if none of them suit your strategy and you don’t want to bloat your deck with unneeded cards. And here is the key to slaying the Spire: crafting your deck carefully with cards that work well together.

Back to the beginning

But don’t expect to recreate the same winning deck each time. The cards and relics that come your way aren’t always the same, so you’re forced to adapt to circumstances.

Spire maintains a great balance between roguelike randomization and player skill. There’s enough repetition of cards, relics, and enemy types that you gradually learn what makes a good deck and what doesn’t.

I enjoyed experimenting with different cards, so losing wasn’t frustrating. Replaying the game unlocks new cards for future playthroughs. And if you have to start all over, the game offers you a consolation prize: you can start with a new advantage, such as a different relic or a card upgrade.

When you’ve beat the game with one character, you should absolutely try playing with the other two characters. Warrior-like Ironclad deals brute damage; assassin-like Silent can poison enemies and draw lots of cards; cyborg-like Defect summons elemental orbs to assist him.

It’s almost like playing three different games, because these three characters have very different decks and unique abilities. After beating the game with Ironclad, I felt fresh excitement at “relearning” Spire with Silent and Defect.

It took me 15 tries to beat the game with Ironclad, 4 tries with Silent, and 9 tries with Defect. Each successful run averaged 1.5 hours.

At this time of writing, Spire’s developers are planning a fourth character—which means even more replayability!

The perfect pocket card game

Spire’s controls work very well on the Switch, making it the kind of game you’ll feel like playing in bed or while traveling.

For a game with a fair bit of text, the user interface is well-designed and uncluttered, allowing you to easily pull up an explanation about card abilities, enemy status, etc. So while the art and graphics don’t dazzle, its visuals are clean and never confusing. I also liked the soundtrack and didn’t tired of it over 27 hours of play.


Slay the Spire is a fantastic roguelike deck-builder. It offers creative freedom to craft your deck—more player freedom than I’ve experienced in any roguelike game.

Since you can experience the Spire differently with its three characters (in future: four characters), the replay value is high, making it worth more than $25.

I highly recommend Spire to card-game lovers and anyone who can enjoy learning from failure and experimenting with strategies. But I would caution gamers who have a low tolerance for losing again and again.

The verdict:

Two Thumbs Up Rating


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