Game Analysis: Slay the spire

Slay the spire is a rouge-like card game, with heavy focus on random generation, strategy and synergy.

Rouge-likes such as slay the spire are increasing in popularity, such as those of Spelunky, Binding of Isaac and Darkest Dungeon. Rouge-likes test the player on their game knowledge such as the ability to predict enemy movements, synergy between items etc. Rouge-likes are amazing in the sense that (almost) no two games are similar – your encounter is randomized and so are your rewards. RPGs reward players by strengthening their main character with systems such as skill trees or levels. However, slay the spire takes a different approach of rewarding players by unlocking more cards and even characters, adding on to their potential arsenal. This increases the replayability of the game and motivates players to see more content as they spend more time on the game. We see something similar in another rouge-likes such as One step from Eden and Binding of Isaac

One key feature of the combat in slay the spire is cards. Cards are crucial in fighting encounters. Cards present a potentially deep strategy in general such as those we see in trading card games and board games that we are usually exposed to, but i’ll just name a few. Cards present randomness: having more copies of the same card increases the chance of you getting the card when you really need it. At the same time, having more cards in your deck makes it harder for you to draw other cards that you might have fewer copies of. Another concept of card games is synergy. In this game, cards synergies with each other, as well as the collectible relics you get along the way. An example of a synergy could be having a relic that deals more damage as you play more cards and having cards that generate draws and lower energy costs, allowing you to essentially deal more damage while lowering the resource costs.

Slay the Spire review – an electrifying sense of chaos | Games | The  Guardian
Types of cards you expect to see in slay the Spire.

Lens 2: The lens of essential experience

I believe that all rougelikes, just like Slay the Spire, aim to give the player a unique experience every time they play the game. Despite having the same rules, mechanics, enemies and themes, it never gets boring as no 2 encounters are the same.

Essentially, it is the same rules, themes, enemies and elements, but the cycle of repetition is broken with its unique encounters every time a new game is made.

Lens 4: The lens of surprise

Some rooms in the dungeon are unknown to the player. Possible outcomes such as a random marketplace, events and taking gambles to improve or worsen the player’s core stats are hidden from the player. The player may choose to enter the rooms or pick a different route.

Furthermore, enemy encounters and their respective rewards are not shown to the player prior to the encounter. It is up to the player to take the risk to either fight against a stronger encounter for a better reward, or weaker encounters for standard rewards. Also, rewards are randomised and players are given a choice to choose one that fits their current run or playstyle. Players might also be surprised to see rewards and enemies not encountered before on previous runs.

Lens 8: The lens of problem solving

As a rougelike that plays out like an RPG, Slay the Spire plays out very differently in terms of how it presents enemy actions to the player. In some RPGs, enemies have some sort of “windup” to pre-amp the player when the enemies are about to make a certain move. This is more common in games such as Dark Souls and some MMORPGs, where figuring out the actions of the boss through animations are core gameplay elements. In slay the spire, you essentially can see what action each and every enemy will definitely be performing after your turn, allowing you to play the cards you currently have in your hand to the best of their advantage.

Lens 27: Time

An average game of slay the spire will not go over 1 hour. The game ends when you defeat the final boss and you unlock the next difficulty of the game. This way, it puts a final stop to any systems you have probably abused through synergies. Also, it will not make the game too repetitive from letting the player abuse the same synergies for the entire game.

Also, time can refer to number of turns in this game. Some enemies get stronger as you spend more time during that encounter, forcing the player to be more aggressive and think of how to fit their current cards and relic to overcome the encounter.

Outscaling the Time Eater : slaythespire
One aspect time is used in this game: Number of turns. This boss “Time Eater” will do massive damage if it is not defeated fast enough.

Lens 36: Chance

As with the elements of all rougelikes, all encounters are based on chance. Chance dictates the cards you will get, rooms and enemies you will encounter, what the market sells and the cards you draw from the deck. Of course, chance is something that is up to the player to manipulate to some extent. Players can fight with a thick deck, allowing them to have more tools in their arsenal to fight different kinds of enemies, however, players may not be able to draw the cards that they want at the appropriate time (That may be mitigated by draw engines but that’s another topic for discussion). Players with a thinner deck can expect to draw the same cards. However, that can be a good if the player’s strategy uses the same cards to abuse a particular synergy.

In summary, Slay the spire is game with many mechanics that blend well together. Many different elements allow the players to comeback from a bad run. Conversely, it can also worsen a player’s run if they do not take note of these other elements. Through randomly generated runs, players can expect to see the same enemies, same cards and same relics while having a different experience every time.


All in all, slay the spire presents itself as an unknown labyrinth of characters, bosses, hidden synergies and cards that players will see as they progress through the game. I would highly recommend this to any person who is a fan of card games and rougelikes in general.

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