For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing a little game called Royal Booty Quest. Is it a good game? No, not really. It’s got really shoddy visuals, a UI that breaks easily, no sound, and missing text values all over the place.
The only reason I’ve been sticking with it is because it's a clone of Slay the Spire, a deckbuilding roguelike that generated some strong buzz when it hit early access late last year. In it, you pick a hero to enter a dungeon to fight enemies in card-based combat. As you get further into the dungeon, you get opportunities to finely hone your deck as the enemies around you get stronger and try to survive. If you die, you start all over again.
This isn’t an entirely original premise for a game (for example, Meteorfall isn’t all that different from Slay the Spire), but Royal Booty Quest is specifically built to be a copy of Slay the Spire that you can play on mobile. In fact, the developer is actively promoting the game on Twitter with the #slaythespire hashtag and the video above described the game as "Slay the Spire with Cleavage."
The idea of the shameless clone isn’t new, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but in my time with Royal Booty Quest I had a thought on this issue that I haven’t had till now: What if shameless clone games aren’t always as bad as we say they are?
Up until playing Royal Booty Quest, I was a full-on clone-hater. When the Threes!/2048 kerfuffle happened, I was so firmly on the Threes! train that I wouldn’t even entertain the thought that apparently some people prefered 2048 to the original game. To be fair, I still feel that way, but I’m also glad that Royal Booty Quest exists as a clone of Slay the Spire.
You may think I’m just a weird contrarian at this point. How could I possibly hold these two views that seem in direct opposition to each other? The answer is simple, but important: Royal Booty Quest is a useful clone, where something like 2048 isn’t.
Royal Booty Quest is a free, janky version of Slay the Spire that’s available on a different platform than the game it’s copying. Because of these factors, the game itself offers utility without seeming like it’ll impact Slay the Spire’s sales too much. It offers the same core experience on a completely different platform, but not in a way that really feels like it could take the place of the real thing. Instead, Royal Booty Quest offers a free way to assess whether Slay the Spire would be something you’d like to spend money on.
If I learn that Royal Booty Quest is majorly affecting Slay the Spire’s sales numbers, or the game itself gets polished up into a much more playable game, I’m not sure I’ll continue to stand by the game as a “useful clone.” For now though, it seems like a great, free way to test out whether you’re into Slay the Spire’s brand of roguelike card battling before deciding to buy it.