Games are great at stimulating emotions in us. Excitement, terror, joy, anger and the rest of the Inside Out cast (except Bing Bong). Slay The Spire is tremendously good at making me feel satisfaction.
While the description of 'deck building roguelike' may sound it came from a random indie game genre generator, it is a match made in heaven. Each game of Slay The Spire has you start at the bottom of the titular tower and massacre your way up. The various creatures along your route meeting their demise at the business end of a deck of cards.
Starting off you'll have a pretty basic deck available to you with rudimentary attack and defence cards and you'll face the Slay The Spire equivalent of Goombas, easy kills to ease you in to the mechanics of the game. But as you progress you get to choose from additional cards to add to your deck, either from enemies (presumably you rifled through their pockets to find them) or from shops, chests or events on your way up.
The more cards you have, the more complex your actions can become. Sure you can keep using your basic cards, but you'll die pretty sharpish as the enemies start hitting harder and layer in their own complexities with status effects and buffs. Each card takes a different energy cost to play, naturally some cards alter either how much energy you have or how much cards will cost. The deeper you go, the more options are open to you to tailor the game and your deck to a style that suits you. Finding a combination of cards that far exceeds the sum of their parts is immensely satisfying.
Because it's a roguelike, you start each run with a basic deck but each attempt adds experience to unlock new cards that you could add to your deck and change your strategies entirely. On top of this there are four different characters that you can play with, giving different deck types entirely. Each offers a different play style and if you struggle to reach the top of the Spire with one, trying another may just find the perfect hand for you to play.
Every game of Slay The Spider lays out a path to the top in front of you with branching paths and labels indicating what you will come across along the way. Planning a route, aiming for crucial life giving bonfires, or to take down elite enemies for better rewards is essential for a successful run. Perhaps you'll want to hit as many random events as you can, quirky little interludes where characters can help or hinder you. Maybe you'll go after treasure chests or hope to earn enough gold before a shop so you can sweeten your deck with the cards on offer.
At the start and along the way, you'll gain Relics, objects with permanent effects that can powerfully affect your game. The sheer quantity of them and their random nature means no two runs of the game will ever be the same. They can be bought in shops if you have enough cash and are ignored at your peril.
Card games rely on random chance by their nature and Slay The Spire contains many randomised elements. You might not get the cards you want, you might get a disappointing relic, that enemy could be frustrating in its tactics. But the game always gives you options, there's always a route to take, a strategy to employ, new techniques to apply and learn from. When the cards fall in just the right way and a beautiful combination fells a seemingly impossible foe, that's satisfaction.
Written by John Edwards
Banner created by Paul L. Russell