As our Senior Editor David Poole can attest to, I LOVE Slay the Spire! I’ve contributed to not one, or two, but three different articles about this game. After sinking nearly 200 hours into the PS4 version of the game, I jumped at the opportunity to review the iOS version that surprise-dropped on June 13th (the Android version is in development, but with no announced release date).
For the uninitiated, Slay the Spire is a deck-building game with rogue elements. In other words, every time you die, you lose your progress, cards, relics, etc. However, the more you play the game, you do unlock permanent relic and card unlocks that are then put into the pool. Initially, the goal is to make it through the gauntlet of three increasingly difficult and different acts. At the end of each act you fight a boss that will determine if you have built a strong enough deck, maintained enough health to survive, and shown enough mental fortitude to move on.
Starting with the Ironclad, whose starting relic heals for 6 HP at the end of each battle, players will know brute strength. Second is the Silent, whose strength lies in more card draws, low energy costs, and devastating poison attacks. Third in line is the Defect, who is the most complex and hardest character to master. The Defect has the ability to channel four different orbs that each have a unique function. Lightning deals damage, Frost provides block, Dark stockpiles damage to be dealt later, and Plasma provides extra energy. This leads to a slow starting but strong finishing character. The last character is the Watcher, who was a post-launch addition. The Watcher’s strong suit is shifting stances that provide more damage and energy, but in a high-risk high-reward form. Each of these classes provide a unique approach to combat and collectively provide a ton of variety for the player.
And the enemies, oh the enemies. Although more forgiving in the earlier areas of the game and at the standard difficulty, they can and will punish carelessness. In general, Slay the Spire demands foresight every step of the way. Act too aggressively without finishing the enemy and they will meet fire with fire. Act too passively and the enemy will chip away at your HP while maintaining theirs. Take too many cards and you’ll get hit with bad draws. To summarize: every decision needs to be deliberate, logical, and have the future in mind. But is all this effort worth it?
The ability to play Slay the Spire on the go and/or in small bursts is the main selling point. 30 minute lunch break at work? Start a new run and maybe get through Act 2. Not quite ready to get out of bed in the morning? Wake up mentally by figuring out if you can withstand the Gremlin Nob’s hard hits, before you are ready to physically wake up.
All the while, you are playing the most current and updated version of the game. So no waiting for updated card art, in-game balancing and other tweaks, or for the Watcher to drop. Speaking of the Watcher, in this release, you don’t have to beat the game with all three base characters to unlock her anymore. This was a big plus for me, since she’s my favorite character. Another plus is the visuals. They are nice and crisp, just like the PC and console versions.
Even on an iPhone 8 Plus, the screen is too small. Cards are hard to read, relics and potions are hard to see, and it’s difficult to decide which lane you want to take due to the harder to read map. The touch screen is either too sensitive or not sensitive enough a lot of times, which frustratingly leads to misplayed actions. And in its current launch build, there are a few bugs. These will probably be addressed in future updates, but sound cutting out when my phone’s alarm went off and the “first three enemies have 1 HP” being voided when I exited and then resumed gameplay were noticeable errors. Possibly a bug or a feature missing from the console and PC versions is the ability to see the upgraded version of a card before you select it.
Even though the iOS version of Slay the Spire isn’t the golden standard, it’s still a fantastic game. For addicts of the game, this is a great way to feed the beast in small doses. However, it looks and plays like Slay the Spire: Lite and has some bugs that MegaCrit needs to address. Newcomers would likely be better off playing on PC or consoles, but this is a great and convenient alternative.