This article is part of our new experimental series, Backlog Club, where we (Nintendo Life!) choose a game that might be on our list of “games we should play” and then we (NL + you!) spend the next month to play this game. It’s halfway through, the first part of two, where we stop for a minute to check out the game and how much we’re enjoying it.
For the month of April 2022, we’re playing Slay The Spire! Not to the end, necessarily, but we will try to give it a fair shot all the same.
I don’t believe in “slow and steady wins the race”. I think it’s a dumb sentiment, although there’s a nugget of truth in it: take time, and be careful, and you’ll get better results. I do not think so win a race. The fable of the tortoise and the hare only works because the hare is taking a nap! Hare deserved to win because he was much, much faster, and the nap had nothing to do with whether or not the tortoise was good at racing.
All of this preamble is to say that I had to re-examine my need for speed against roguelike deckbuilders, a genre that I really enjoyed. Slay The Spire – the pick for Backlog Club this week – is one of them, and it’s a damn good one. (Oh, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the Backlog Club introduction I wrote a few weeks ago. That’ll make sense in a moment.)
In roguelikes and deckbuilders, slow and steady might not win the race (i.e. a speedrunning tournament), but it sure will win the game.
My usual tactic is just to try and get this over with as quickly as possible.
In most strategy games, my usual tactic is just to get it over with as quickly as possible, fill my attack list with whatever does the most damage, and hope I only have to make a few moves. to kill my dead opponent. In RPGs, I usually pick up a rogue or DPS version, as these allow me to press the “attack” button until my enemies crumble in defeat. I’m not a strategist, most of the time; I’m just a spiked tank, happy to trade damage for damage as long as I emerge victorious.
And that just do not work in turn-based deckbuilder games like Slay The Spire. So I have to try something new, even if it’s not new to most people, and this tactic is something I like to call “actually caring about defense”. It’s this genius thing where I’m actually trying to to cancel attacks before they’re even done, instead of stacking damage as usual.
Slay The Spire isn’t about taking hits – with only 80 HP to your name, you can’t really afford it. Instead, you’ll need to use multiple strategies to survive, as survival is key to moving on to the next fight, and the next, and the next. You are the underdog.
Other video games, especially RPGs, tend to position you as the most powerful man alive, but Slay The Spire instead gives you The Ironclad as your starting fighter, a mid-range character whose deck is fairly balanced between attacking and blocking without any major issues. staggered strategies (other unlockable characters vary, but since we’re only a few weeks away from Slay The Spire, I’ll only focus on the newbie character). His tactics lean towards the tit-for-tat fighting style: Hit, block, hit, block, and so on. The challenge is to survive long enough to take down enemies with over 80 HP, as your attacks usually only do 6-15 damage in a single hit.
And surviving is slowing things down. Where I would normally hit hard and take so much damage back, I instead have to spend a large portion of my turns mitigating damage. I only have three “energy” per turn, and I can use them to strike, defend, or use various other unique cards that increase stats, decrease enemy stats, etc. It’s tempting to use all three energy points to use my cool damage cards, but slowly but surely, we succeed, so instead I use two of the energy points to defend, and the rest to attack, slowly reducing the enemy’s HP. Keyword: slowly.
Sometimes all you can do is do your best to block the damage, so you can get to the next room or the next day.
The thing about Slay The Spire so far is that it’s not a race at all. You don’t get bonus points for being quick or efficient. All you get is the reward for reaching the next room. But sometimes that’s all you need – the next room might heal you, buff you, make you stronger or more resilient in some way. You just need to survive.
And yes, I’m going to make an awkward analogy here, buckle up: I feel like Slay The Spire’s gentle insistence that you should probably take care of yourself before trying to kill monsters is a pretty useful lesson in general. It’s all that “put on your oxygen mask before you help others” sort of thing. When you’re in trouble – whether it’s having a bad day or fighting off a bunch of weird little goblins that keep cursing you to take more damage – sometimes all you can do is to do your best to block it, so you can go to the next room, or the next day.
Defending, protecting, and surviving seem a bit boring and passive, but they can be the difference between defeat and success, even if that success is skin of your teeth.
So that’s how I feel about Slay The Spire after a few weeks! I’m excited to try out the other characters – I just unlocked The Silent, and while I enjoy The Ironclad’s no-frills strategies, I’m interested in The Silent’s passive poison attacks. With The Ironclad, I managed to get to the second area boss, and he absolutely beat me up. Tips and tricks welcome!
And, of course, that’s only halfway there: check back at the end of the month for our full thoughts on Slay The Spire, and for the discussion portion of the
Reading Club Arrears Club!