Have you played… Slay The Spire?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Still very much a going concern around these parts, but screw it, I’ve not yet written about Slay The Spire, a game that has consumed most of my waking thoughts these past couple of months, so here we go.

A few years ago, I got all hot and bothered about a game called Dream Quest, a card game/roguelite mash-up with art that veered between appalling and charmingly naive depending on what side of bed you got out of. I think it had some mobile success but didn’t make a dent on PC, which was a terrible shame (and almost certainly was because of the art). I hoped and prayed for a sequel, or a snazzier remake, but it never came.

Slay The Spire doesn’t quite the fill the gap – particularly, its between-fight travel mode is a lot less interesting, and it has only two characters/classes to play as, as oppose to DQ’s dozen-odd.

With DQ, I had a greater sense of why I was playing, there was so much more to gain access to, with each new run permanently adding new cards to your potential hand, whereas most of what you can get from Spire you have from the start. (There are unlocks but they make for gentle remixing, whereas DQ’s new cards could revolutionise your next playthrough.

But DQ was like a long country ramble as darkness gradually fell and the shadows grew longer and more threatening, whereas Spire is like a steely sprint through a warzone. I thrill to its purity and its urgency, a grand accomplishment for a turn-based game.
I can’t stop playing, by which I don’t mean simply “I like to play this game often” but rather that when I do play it, it takes little short of the threat of violence to pull me away from it. I can’t leave a run unfinished (whatever its eventual outcome) because it feels so urgent, because the sum total of cards in my hand and the strategies in my head or so specific for this moment right now. In the same way that adding or removing one card can totally upset a brilliant balance, so too does dragging me away when I am in the middle of things, with these long-term plans for what my hand will be once I face down the Time-Eater or whoever.

I miss Dream Quest, the simultaneous gentleness and complexity of it compared to the unblinking leanness of Slay The Spire. But it’s Spire that I just cannot stop turning to, that gives me a sense I am mastering rather than simply exploring something.

14 Comments

  1. MiniMatt says:

    Was it Brendan who did an “intro to genre X” series a while back?

    I’d read the stuffing out of an “intro to PC card games” article because the mere mention of them turns my nope-ometer up to 11 yet huge numbers of people who seem otherwise perfectly sane appear to really get something from them.

    • wackazoa says:

      *Snark warning*

      So what youre saying is that some people enjoy playing games that others might not? Interesting…

      • AndreasBM says:

        It seems more like he’s saying he wonders at how much others get out of these games, and that he would like to be able to join them.

  2. thischarmingman says:

    God yes, I’ve played it. Finally caved a few weeks back, after being reluctant to jump in on EA, now closing in on 100 hours played. I like that there’s not a million things to unlock, but I’m looking forward to more cards and class(es).

  3. dontnormally says:

    Fun fact: Slay the Spire is actually heavily inspired by Dream Quest which was made by the same guy who went on to make the Dungeon Run mode for the latest Hearthstone expansion!

    actually reads

    Oh hey, a writer that mentioned Dream Quest in a Slay the Spire article!

    > I hoped and prayed for a sequel, or a snazzier remake, but it never came.

    Dungeon Run (which is free as in no-buying-packs-required, and amazing) in Hearthstone is as close as you’re going to get since the fellah now works at Blizzard.

    Dream Quest really is an amazing game.

    • Riaktion says:

      There a totally free, non-deck building game in Hearthstone?

      • Martel says:

        Dungeon runs, which are in the solo quest section. It’s really light compared to these dedicated games, but it’s entertaining enough and works on mobile devices too.

        • Faldrath says:

          Huh, I had no idea this was free. Thank you very much! It might be a good diversion while I wait for StS to leave Early Access (played 31 hours, then decided to wait so as to not burn myself out).

        • Riaktion says:

          Ok dokey! I’ll probably check that out then. Thanks

  4. Riaktion says:

    Just waiting for that final release.

  5. OmNomNom says:

    Its a great game but I do find it has lost a lot of appeal after beating it a few times with each char. I’d love it if there were many more characters.

  6. Tony M says:

    Have you played Monster Slayers? It’s a more polished (art wise) version of Dream Quest. Don’t be put off by the cartoon presentation, it’s a great game

    • malkav11 says:

      I can’t imagine anyone who’s managed to look past DreamQuest’s art (shudder) having a problem with Monster Slayers’ art.

  7. Cederic says:

    “Have you played”.. a game that hasn’t been released yet?

    No. No, I haven’t. Of course I bloody haven’t. Stop asking such stupid questions.