Slay the Spire occupies an interesting position for me. Its owes a lot to Hearthstone in more ways than one: it has some UI similarities, the relative simplicity of card effects is more comparable to Hearthstone than to something like Magic, and Slay the Spire entered Early Access right around the time that the Hearthstone world was abuzz with the Dungeon Run mode, a similar roguelite mode about drafting cards and powering up your deck with passive effects. I noticed a trend among several Hearthstone streamers where they all got interested in Slay the Spire after burning out on Hearthstone a bit in the past few months. It strikes me as a "in the right place, at the right time" sort of thing that just as people were wrapping up Hearthstone's Dungeon Run mode and wishing for more content, this new game appeared to fill that vacuum. I've had a great time drafting different decks with it, and hope to see the game continue to improve in the future.
That being said, I have 2 major complaints after my time with the game so far.
- Due to the game's randomness, there are runs where even well into the 2nd area, my deck has no build-around-me rare or relic, so my deck-building is directionless and has no main synergy to take advantage of. Great runs often result form your finding a particularly good rare or relic in the first area which then shapes your deck building as you. In bad runs that ultimately fail, you either find this defining rare card or relic in the 3rd area when it's too late to shape your deck around it, or you just never find one at all. This problem can afflict many roguelikes, where sometimes all the random stuff you find just doesn't become greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe I found a sweet relic early in the run, but of all of the card choices I'm given, I find none of the uncommons or rares that actually capitalize on that relic, so it wastes away in my inventory, contributing almost nothing. Maybe every rare I find is just kind of generally good (maybe an Offering or Adrenaline which both draw cards and give you mana once per battle but are hardly a theme, etc.), so I'm never in a position to force my deck into a defensive style, or a poison style, or a discard style, or whatever the case may be. I just sit there, skipping a lot of mediocre commons, waiting for anything that is actually worth shaping my deck around, and sometimes it never comes. You can often survive to the end of the third area just with a well-drafted deck of decent cards and some careful play, but if your deck doesn't have some super disgusting combo effects between its cards and relics, usually the boss of the third and final area will just crush you.
- Speaking of the third and final boss, I think 2 of the game's 3 final bosses are needlessly punitive of certain deck styles. The bosses of the first 2 areas are a stiff challenge, but can be beaten by a variety of decks. They're strong enemies with good buffs and debuffs and some of them summon minions, but for the most part they don't shut down certain playstyles or respond to the types of effects in your deck. The 3 final bosses, however, more specifically counter certain deck styles, and since the bosses are randomized each run, you have no way of knowing whether your deck is just going to get hard countered until you complete the first 2 areas and can see which final boss you're up against. The Awakened One, for example, gains Strength every time you play a Power card; maybe you ended up with a deck style that only has 1-2 Powers that you can afford to just skip and not play, but often if you choose to play a defensive deck that is all about generating armour, you have to pick quite a few Powers and you can't really get your combo working very well when you end up giving so much free Strength to a boss that heals every turn and attacks every single turn with no breaks for a buff or debuff. Then there's the Time Eater, who gains Strength and ends your turn for every 12th card you play (this is tracked across multiple turns). An easy boss for the Ironclad to fight, but if you drafted a Silent deck whose core synergy is playing many 0-cost cards each turn, you basically autolose because you out of the 3 possible final bosses you randomly got the one that punishes your deck the most. The only not-bullshit final boss is Donu & Deca, who (like the bosses from the first two areas) are just generally strong enemies who constantly take turns buffing themselves and attacking, and can be conquered by a variety of decks as long as you're smart in building said decks.
I'm not sure there's a great way to solve the first problem, but boy is it frustrating when you're just aimlessly drafting cards with no real deck goal in mind because you didn't get a strong relic or rare somewhere in the first area. As for the second problem (2 of the 3 final bosses being whack), it also bothers me how unevenly this issue affects the classes. Frankly, the Ironclad can take on all 3 bosses pretty easily; Donu & Deca are doable, it's actually really rare that you can pull off a 0-cost card spam deck with Ironclad so the Time Eater isn't nearly as bad, and a lot of Ironclad powers are so specific that usually you can't draft very many of them meaning the Awakened One won't be so bad. With the Silent, Donu & Deca are doable, but that's where the fun times end; the Silent has multiple cards clearly themed around spamming 0-cost cards but then you get eaten alive by the Time Eater, and also the Silent has more generally good Powers (including some that cost 0 and just give you good card draw/card retention utility) but if you take them there's a good chance you get absolutely shit on by the Awakened One.
I'd love for them to go back and rework the Awakened One and the Time Eater, but with all of the weekly balance patches and changes from the devs, the final bosses have received only minor adjustments, so I'm not holding out hope for a major rework at this point. It's less than ideal, but I'm frustrated enough that I would even settle for the addition of more possible final bosses to the game, just so the odds of me rolling the final bosses that are cheap bullshit are slightly lowered.