Backlog Club: Slay The Spire Part One – Be More Tortoise

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This article is part of our new experimental Backlog Club series, in which we (Nintendo Life!) pick a game that’s likely to be on our “games we should play” list, and then (NL + you!) spend the next one month playing this game. This is half time, the first of two parts where we pause for a minute to catch up on the game and how much we are enjoying it.

In April 2022 we play Slay The Spire! Not necessarily to the end, but we’ll still try to give him a fair hit.

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I don’t believe in “slow and steady wins the race”. I think it’s a silly feeling, even if there’s a grain of truth in it: take your time and be careful and you’ll get better results. I just don’t believe it wins a race. The fable of the tortoise and the hare only works because the hare is taking a nap! The rabbit deserved the win because it was much, much faster, and the nap had nothing to do with whether the tortoise was a good racer or not.

All of this preamble is to say that I had to reconsider my need for speed in the face of roguelike deck builders, a genre I’m very much in love with. Slay The Spire – this week’s pick for Backlog Club – is one of them, and a damn good one it is. (Oh, and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out the Backlog Club introduction I wrote a few weeks ago. It’ll make some sense.)

In roguelikes and deck builders, slow and steady might not win the race (ie, a speedrunning tournament), but it certainly wins the game.

My usual tactic is just trying to get things over with as quickly as possible

In most strategy games, my usual tactic is to get things over with as quickly as possible, fill up my attack list with whatever deals the most damage, and hope it only takes me a few moves to do mine kill enemies dead. In RPGs, I usually pick a rogue or DPS build because it lets me bang on the attack button until my enemies keel over in defeat. Most of the time I’m not a strategist; I’m just a spiky tank, content to trade damage for damage as long as I emerge victorious.

And that it does not work in turn-based deck building games like Slay The Spire. So I have to try something new, even if it’s not new to most people, and I like to call this tactic “really looking after the defense”. It’s this genius thing that I’m actually trying to do cancel attacks before they even fire, instead of tanking the damage as usual.

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Slay The Spire isn’t about taking hits – you can’t really afford that with only 80 HP to your name. Instead, you’ll need to use multiple strategies to survive, because survival is the key to making it to the next fight and the next and the next. You are the outsider.

Other video games, particularly RPGs, tend to position you as the world’s strongest hitter, 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 being too big his fancy strategies (the other unlockable characters vary this, but since we’ve only been in Slay The Spire a few weeks I’ll just focus on the beginner character). His tactics are based on the tear fighting style: hit, block, hit, block and so on. The challenge is to survive long enough to knock down the enemies with 80+ HP as your attacks usually only deal 6-15 damage at a time.

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And surviving means taking things slowly. Where I would normally hit hard and take just as much damage, I instead have to spend a large chunk of my turns mitigating damage. I only have three “Energies” per turn and can use them to hit, defend, or use various other unique cards that increase stats, decrease enemy stats, and so on. It’s tempting to use all three energy points to use my cool damage cards, but slow and steady wins the race, so instead I use two of the energy points to defend and the remaining one to attack, slowly draining the opponent’s HP. Keyword: slow.

Sometimes all you can do is do your best to block damage so you can make it to the next room or the next day

What’s special about Slay The Spire so far is that it’s not a race at all. You don’t get bonus points for being fast or efficient. All you get is the reward for making it to 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 have to survive.

And yes, I’m going to make a clumsy analogy here, buckle up: I have a feeling that Slay The Spire’s gentle insistence that you should probably take care of yourself before trying to kill monsters is generally a pretty good one useful lesson. It’s that whole “Put on your oxygen mask before you help anyone” thing. When you’re in trouble — whether it’s because you’re having a bad day or you’re fighting a bunch of weird little goblins who keep cursing you to make you take more damage — sometimes all you can do is block it on best so you can make it to the next room or day.

Defending, protecting, and surviving feels a little boring and passive, but they can mean the difference between defeat and success—even if that success is only superficial.

So this is how I feel about Slay The Spire after a few weeks! I’m looking forward to trying out the other characters – I’ve just unlocked The Silent, and while I like The Ironclad’s no-nonsense strategies, I’m interested in The Silent’s poison passive attacks. With The Ironclad I managed to get to the second area boss and he totally beat me up. Tips and tricks welcome!

And that’s only half the story, of course: come back at the end of the month for our full thoughts on Slay The Spire and the discussion section of the book club Backlog Club! Backlog Club: Slay The Spire Part One – Be More Tortoise

Fry Electronics Team

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