Slay the Spire

Image result for Slay the spire
Cards shown in hand represent moves the player takes.


Slay the Spire is an action deck-building roguelike game in which you climb The Spire, traversing three acts with many unique enemies, bosses, and encounters. The levels are procedurally-generated and the gameplay is turn-based. Your actions are represented as cards, and you go about building a deck of cards to progress through the game.

Gameplay Trailer:

The Elemental Tetrad: Aesthetics, Story, Mechanics, Technology

Slay the Spire is made very functionally, with the main focus being on the mechanics. The story is sparse, and technology adequate for being a 2D game. The aesthetics are very well done, through simple hand-painted design, the intent, function and purpose of each individual item in the game are conveyed smoothly. The mechanical nature of the game is incentivised making the experience thorough, strategically and careful. The design suits this purpose, and if there was an added focus on the other areas, it will detract from what makes the experience of playing Slay the Spire fun.

The lens of Moments

What I’ll argue is Slay the Spire’s greatest strength is providing the player with moments in the game where they feel like they “broke” the game. By building up your deck of cards, it’s possible for the cards you choose to synergize with other cards. For example, if you have a card the deals 1 damage, five times to an enemy. And you have another card that grants 2 strength to your character (Strength grants your character additional damage per attack). Now instead of dealing 5 damage, you will be dealing 15 damage, just with this simple combination. But if your entire deck is a web of interconnected synergies, you will overpower all the enemies in the game. This definitely provides a sense of accomplishment at how clever or powerful you are for figuring out how to get to this point. It’s what makes the game so rewarding.

The lens of Obstacle

But I’ll argue that the strength of Slay the Spire also entirely lies in the risk or obstacle involved in the game. Enemies you face as you progress higher and higher up the Spire get increasingly difficult. Without proper planning, Slay the Spire is a difficult game. The greediness of the player is also often the main fail state, as there are plenty of risk vs reward events implemented in the game, be that choosing a route to tougher enemies for better rewards or upgrading a card instead of healing.

Furthermore, another obstacle the player will encounter is the randomness of the game. No two games are the same, as levels are generated, enemies, card rewards, events are all random. This makes it hard to plan any strategy from the start. Yet, both these obstacles push the lens of Moments as they feel earned when they are achieved.

The lens of Transparency

This is an important lens in this game (The designers have said that the game almost failed without their new user interface implementation). All enemy intents are revealed to the player before they do their action. This further reinforces the tactical nature of the game as you can account for the enemies’ actions. Planning ahead of the enemy is what makes the gameplay loop of planning and execution so engaging.

The lens of Elegance

I believe that Slay the Spire is an excellently designed game. Each element feeds the other elements, making the experience cohesive and engaging. There are no superfluous elements, and the ones that exist are simple, yet complex due to the synergies with the other elements. Every card combination is balanced, yet still feels unexpected to the player. The risk/reward progression of the game is top-notch. Consequently, it’s clear why this game pushed the deck-building genre into new heights and will no doubt go as the classic.

Analysis of eliza

Short Description of eliza:

eliza is a visual novel released by indie publisher Zachtronics in 2019. It is a game with a story to tell. One that is reminiscent of TV show “Black Mirror”. Set 20 minutes into the future, Evelyn works as a human stand-in (aka ‘proxy’) for the titular Artificial Intelligence ‘eliza’ to provide counselling services for clients who do not wish to go for psychiatric help. Players interact with different people in this world, listen to their stories and see what eliza is to different people.

Website link:

Analysis of Game:

The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad


The story of eliza is one that is thought-provoking. Serving as a social commentary on the technocratic solutions to human problems such as mental wellness and moral dilemmas associated with it. It is also a story of the disenfranchised people who live in such a world with very relatable problems.  Everyone you meet is fighting a battle most know nothing about, and as eliza, you listen.


eliza is a beautifully illustrated visual novel. It has a minimal but functional interface that is unobtrusive to the story. Each location is evocative of the atmosphere it desires, from the clean and futuristic Queen-Ann eliza counselling center to the hip sideview depiction of the coffeeshop the main character frequents. Combined with the music, each scene sets the tone for the events that follow. Even the Augmented Reality display eliza proxies wear with the technical analysis and client vitals conveys the feel of it being at the forefront of technology. A lot of care has also been put into the depiction of Evelyn’s phone which serve as a window to the happenings of her world, making it like a unique location unto itself.


eliza is available on Steam for Windows, macOS, Linux and is also released on the Nintendo Switch. It does not require much hardware support which is nice to widen the access of audience to the story.


Players follow Evelyn’s life and listen to dialog with other characters and get a glimpse into her world. Sometimes players are given choices to dialog and the ending is dependent on player choice. While no ending is ever locked due to player choice in the middle of the game, the ending which players feel most satisfied with depends on their choices earlier on.

 Lens #73: The Lens of the Story Machine

eliza is a well crafted story. It follows a Strings of Pearls method, a mostly linear sequence of chapters that do not deviate much. However the player’s choices may open up different side interactions which lead back to the overarching narrative. While it may come across that player choice might not matter, the choices do generate different stories for the player as how they view their relationship with different character changes which may cause different choices to result in players perceiving different endings as the “true ending”.

Lens #01: The Lens of Emotion

As a proxy for eliza, the player is privy to the outpourings of several characters in the game. Most notably are those who have very relatable issues. A down on their luck artist, Maya for example, is a repeat customer the player sees often. Over the course of multiple sessions, you get to know her struggles against an apathetic art world stacked against her, how it feels like its not about art but a popularity contest and culminates in her wondering if she should let go of her long held dream. This is one of many stories the players would hear and their anguish is heart-rending to hear. In contrast even acting as the eliza proxy does takes it toll. It can be quite emotionally draining to listen to all the problems these characters may have. Sometimes it can be boring.

Lens #72: The Lens of Projection

In eliza, a good portion of the player’s interaction with the world is through Evelyn’s phone. With a streamlined user interface, players can read her mail, her chats and various other apps which all add to the world building and help the players feel like they are part of it. Much like how it is very natural to use a phone messaging application to talk to people rather than a talk in person, at times it feels as if using Evelyn’s phone to message people feels more like I am talking to the person than seeing them as a character on the screen. The game even lampshades this with an article detailing that while regular users of eliza speak to a human proxy for the human touch, the mental wellness programs targeted to aid students take the form of a chat application because that is what kids these days are more comfortable with.

Lens #80: The lens of Help

“I just want to help people.” As an eliza proxy, the players get to listen to the troubles of so many people. eliza was originally made to ensure everyone could have ready access to some mental counselling. Not everyone has a support network of friends, not everyone has the financial capacity for psychiatrict help or knows they can. In this story, it goes two fold, Evelyn as an eliza proxy could choose to follow the script eliza gives her or deviate and provide what she thinks is the right counsel to customers. As a top computer scientist, Evelyn could choose to work to advance the eliza AI to potentially help many people at once, or take the other path to help people one at a time. The game portrays that there is no clear answer to any of these questions and supports all decisions the players choose.

Analysis of The Gardens Between

Short description of The Gardens Between:

The Gardens Between is an adventure-puzzle game that takes players through a story about a pair of friends, Arina and Frendt, and their precious moments spent together. At each level, we get to see a significant memory from their past.

The gameplay is minimalistic, with simple controls. Players can only choose to move forwards and backwards in time and interact with certain items in the environment using the spacebar. Nonetheless, the puzzles have a certain level of difficulty in them and only get more difficult with each passing level.

Website link:

Analysis of game:

Mechanics: As the game has very little controls, the mechanics behind it are simple and the developers have executed it well. Players only have one clearly defined goal, which is to clear each level by lighting up the gate. The only thing I got frustrated about was one level where we had to track which of the many cubes bouncing all over the map carried our lantern. As the camera cannot be moved by the player themselves, there are many times where the cubes are blocked by the environment and when they re-emerge, they have switched places. I later found out that if we pause at the right moment, we can just see which ones have switched just before they are out of view and predict their movement when they re-emerge. In hindsight, that might have been intentionally done by the developers to make the game more challenging and to encourage us to think of different ways to solve the level.

Story: The story in the game is like a puzzle in its own right. It is pre-scripted but there is neither narration nor dialogue between the two characters so players have to figure it out on their own. I, personally, found it rather enjoyable to guess the plot with each passing memory that the game presents us with.

Aesthetics: The game is visually stunning and won the 2018 IGF awards for Excellence in Visual Art because of that. I think the art style of the game inspires a feeling of wonder and delight to anyone that first lay their eyes on it. That adds to the effect of feeling like we are transported into a dream-like world every time we play it.

Technology: As the controls are simple and the game is not too graphically demanding, it is highly accessible, available on all major platforms and even on phones.

Lens #2: The Lens of Surprise: The game definitely has interesting surprises. As the player is given very little control over the characters themselves, a large part of the gameplay relies on pausing at the right time and changing the environment to proceed. The way one can change the environment varies every level and there is an element of surprise at every level. For example, in one of the levels, we had to power some lightbulbs. That particular level truly stumped me, I kept going back in time, and then forwards again just trying to see if I’ve missed something. In the end, I solved it accidentally by rewinding time, back to where the characters were trying to cross a bridge and wait there for a droplet of water to land between two open electricity pipes. I had not even thought that that droplet of water had any significance and all these puzzles really make me pay a lot more attention to the environment.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge: Like most puzzle games, the game gets increasingly more challenging as one progresses. Keeping in mind that the difficulty of a game is subjective, I think that the game is quite balanced (it is not too difficult that it makes me want to give up and search for the answer online and also not too easy that it makes me bored) and I like the linearity of the difficulty progression. There are no dramatic difficulty spikes, the levels build up in difficulty in a very gradual manner.

Lens #64: The Lens of Projection: The portrayal of the characters is realistic; they emerge into the dream-like world full of wonder and bewilderment which echoes the player’s feelings. They are fuelled by curiosity and constantly fiddle with random objects that are on their path, which is something that I feel players can relate to when they are thrust into a world like that. However, as the story is pre-scripted and there is only one way to solve every level, there is little players can actually do to manipulate and change the outcomes so it feels like one is watching the story from an outsider’s point of view. To add on, as the story is not immediately clear, it keeps the player guessing what each level represents. Because of that, I find it difficult to project my imaginations into the game.

Lens #77: The Lens of Character Traits: The characters in the game have personalities that are very distinct from each other. As there is no dialogue in the game, these personality traits are only shown through actions alone. When the characters move they do not always keep the same pace, the two characters get distracted by various things in the environment, they run when they are excited, they move much slower when they are walking over a precarious bridge, etc. all these make the characters feel more human. I particularly like how easy it is to tell their character traits like how Arina almost always leads the way but will often wait for Frendt when he gets distracted or too scared to move forward.  It makes it easy to associate Ariana as the brave one, while Frendt as the curious one which making them more impressionable to me.