In the last couple of years there are only two games that I've put over a hundred hours into. One of them is an obscure DS title that I speedrun and the other is Slay the Spire, in indie deckbuilder roguelite that just doesn't hold up to this much play. Yet I can't stop.
The idea behind Slay the Spire is simple enough. You have a deck of cards and you use it to fight your way up the spire, encountering random events and adding cards to your deck as you go. It has the standard roguelite randomised progression with permadeath and three character classes with their own card pools and play style.
Playing on Ascension model gives Slay the Spire new challenges, adding restrictions and altering the enemy AI in steady amounts each time you beat the game and climb to a higher ascension. It's essentially a New Game plus mode for a roguelite. In the 150 hours that I've invested in the game, I have managed to get all three characters to at least the 10th Ascension.
Literally everything that Slay the Spire does checks a box that suits my tastes. The roguelite aspects give it a tight gameplay loop with significant replayability. The deckbuilder scratches my board gaming urges. The limited choices and increasing challenge presented by the game's Ascensions scratch my urge to play hard games.
Yet playing Slay the Spire is like eating corn chips. I'll show no self-control in eating an entire bag before being left completely unsatisfied and a bit greasy.
Slay the Spire, a roguelike where you try to deckbuild your way out of brutal dungeons, went into Early Access on Steam last November and has since been slowly winning over unsuspecting players who go into it with low expectations. I am one of those recent converts.
I want Slay the Spire to be a better game than it is.
The artwork is charming but rough around the edges. The cards and relics feel repetitive, often leaving me feel forced into certain styles of play to make it through the game. The balance never seems right. Some enemies are too powerful without the right tools yet are easily vanquished when you have what you need.
Sometimes my runs fail because of variance. The right cards didn't come up at the right time so the enemy I was facing quashed me. A bad draw can have you taking damage that will steadily stack up over a run, forcing you to spend valuable bonfires healing instead of upgrading your cards.
Sometimes my runs fail due to sloppiness. Slay the Spire is a game that asks more mental focus than it deserves, especially at high levels.
Often I'll dive right back into playing again, determined to do better, to get further, to succeed where I previously failed. It's no longer a matter of enjoyment and I don't really know why I keep playing.
Slay the Spire is so close to being good at what it does. It's compelling and addictive but falls short when it comes to substance.