Why I Love: Slay the Spire

Minimizing Randomness:
(This is an archived post from 2020, May 11)
It is that time of the day again.  It is that time of the feeling again.  We’re back at ULTRA to talk about why we love video games.  Looking at as much of the good as we can and as little as the bad.  We do not deny the bad, but especially now, we should be positive. 

AN ANNOUNCEMENT: I’d like to do the entire list of ULTRA.  We’ll be starting at the very bottom, and making our way to the top.  I will be skipping ones I’ve done previously (with a remark to let you know we passed it). Remember that every game on this list has made it to the Top 12 Games list, so they’re all delicious.  This also means we might do a number twice because something has been moved down a number because I inserted a game, so if that happens you know what occurred in the numbering.  However, also keep in mind this is all my opinion, and I am sorry if your game doesn’t make it to the list.  Okay.  Here we go!

At #131, we have Slay the Spire.  Slay the Spire is a turn-based, roguelite, deck-building RPG.  The graphics are soft and endearing.  It’s a fantasy world where you must climb a mysterious spire and fight monsters.  It has four characters each with their own types of cards and very different playstyles. The roguelite genre makes it different every time you play.

Most deck-building games can be frustrating because of the computer AI being unusually lucky, but Slay the Spire counters that with something I don’t often see.  You can usually see what your enemies are going to do the next turn, so you can plan your attacks.  This makes replaying, because this is a roguelite and you will die, very rewarding.   Your understanding of the enemy gives you a huge advantage because you know what their strategies will be and you can be ready the next time.  Their moves are not always the same for many of the enemies, but a general strategy.  The same EXACT thing every time wouldn’t be very good for a roguelite.

After every match, you get loot and sometimes cards.  These can be potions to buff you for a turn, an extra card for a later fight, or being able to run from a fight.  

Card games are difficult to balance, because they often contain randomness and luck.  Cards in games like Hearthstone are usually based on luck.  This results in kind of a gambler’s high when you win, rather than the happiness you get from winning because you achieved something.

Slay the Spire minimizes this in many ways.  One was already stated, where you are generally given an idea of what your opponent or opponents are going to do next.  The second is with the small starting deck.  This means that the cards you choose to add to your deck are mostly the ones you want.  There are even a few opportunities to take out cards as well.  When you run out of cards in your deck in battle, all the used cards are shuffled back in and you start over.  This combined with the fact that you can choose to not accept any new cards after battles means that you can minimize situations where your deck gets too stuffed with cards you had to put in your deck.  

The third thing that Slay the Spire does to minimize randomness is choosing the risk.  Before you start the floor of a dungeon, you can see a map with all the different forking paths of where you can go and the events on those paths.  For example, path one has a monster, a monster, a rest site, and then an event.  Meanwhile, there could be a path with a monster, a monster, a rest site, and an elite monster.  You choose your risk and reward.  With my stats now, can I take the risk of fighting an elite monster and getting good loot?  Usually the higher the risk, the greater the loot.  After every battle, you see the map again, so choosing a different fork in the road by the time you get there is also an option.

One last thing is if you die but you made it rather far, your next run will be given a small boost of your choice.  Sometimes that is max HP, an extra card, or other things.  This way your previous run wasn’t all for naught.

Slay the Spire minimizes the output randomness, randomness AFTER a choice by the player, by laying this out before you and giving you a chance to decide what you want with what you’re given.  However, there is still output randomness.  It’s still a card game.  There are still times where it really feels like luck, and that kind of disruption is not exactly joy-inducing.

With all the minimization, Slay the Spire ends up being a really addictive card game.  I have had runs where I feel like I won because I managed my deck and chosen paths wisely.  There were moments where I almost died, but then I was saved by the fact that I denied taking a card to reduce unnecessary draw.  There were also times where I chose a path where I knew that the chances of me living was very low, and so it didn’t feel like I was “unlucky.”  I took the risk and the consequences with it.  I feel like most card-games should include things about minimizing the output randomness you receive in the future, and Slay the Spire comes built with features for that.  This game is really fun.  I personally set it to quick mode so all the actions are done faster.  You still get to see the animations, but it’s sped up.  
This game definitely got me hooked.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes roguelites.

Thanks for reading!  Hopefully I will be posting these more often to get through this large list. We’ll see you again soon on ULTRA!