notes: slay the spire

03 March 2018

Been playing Slay the Spire, fast mode on. Lets talk about why it’s addictive.

This is not a frustrating game. You think alot, you lose alot. You don’t feel like it’s the end of the world when you make a mistake. You’re curious to see whats up ahead. You’re curious to consider what deck you’re trying to build.

This is some of the finest tuning I’ve seen as far as the game variables go.

For a game where you shuffle a deck of actions, you really feel in control

The deck lets you draw 4 cards with 3 energy, depending on card costs this balances out reasonably well. You’ll also reshuffle the whole deck reasonably fast, after 3/4 turns.

When you manage to build a set of cards that work together, you can really feel the difference. It’s satisfying to finally get a run with the cards you wanted.

Most deck archetypes involve accumulating relevant cards. There are few decks that use a specific skill card as the linchpin of the whole strategy, so you don’t have to wait for a singular rare card for the rest of your deck to become effective. That would be… uncomfortable, and frustrating if you die early while your deck is weak.

For a game with randomly generated paths, you still feel in control

In the normal game mode, there are not many unknown areas. And rest areas and merchants are reasonably distributed, so that they don’t occur too often, OR not enough.

There are special modes which let you not see it. They provide a nice change of pace but you won’t get addicted to them.

Bad runs are still fun

You don’t just abandon runs. There is the temptation in games like Crypt of the Necrodancer or Binding of Issac to reset the game until you spawn next to a convenient item. Slay the Spire’s rewards are consistently frequent, you can pick between 1 of 3 cards to add at the end of every battle. Or you can skip adding cards.

Every battle rewards a new card pickup. You’re always being offered cards, but the only issue is picking cards you really need. Again, you’re comfortably in control.

Some strong variations are selectable at the start of a run

After the first time you reach the boss of the first area, a creature meets you at the start of the run offering various bonuses.

Greater bonuses have downsides attached, which can easily affect the kind of deck you can sustainably build before you reach the final boss.

Fights don't have random elements. Enemies always vaguely broadcast their next move

You’ve got a decent amount of information to figure out the best way to play your cards. You don’t get frustrated when you lose since you can simply go again. You don’t really kick yourself too hard about not having the perfect synergy with your cards.

Oh, that’s definitely the biggest thing:

Its easy to accept you won't have the optimal set of cards

It doesn’t feel like unfair, simply that every run is imperfect. The odds of having a perfect run are nigh impossible.

There’s no limit on the amount of rarer cards a deck can have. BUT the game will end before you could ever fill a deck with them.

You could try a very specific deck of cards that end up cycling attacks infinitely. But the odds are so low you understand it’s not worth the gamble.

So you’re just balancing out attack and defense, while finding some strategy to ramp up your damage without making your deck too bloated. The card synergy is key. A bloated deck won’t give you your key cards on time and will eventually cost you too much health.

Also because the final boss is not always the same, you’re going to have to hope your deck can deal with different issues (enemy buffs, minions/solo, huge damage bursts).