App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Slay the Spire is one of those games that seemed perfect for mobile as soon as it launched back in 2017. As a roguelite deck-builder, it has simple controls, a slow pace, and a deep-yet-accessible set of cards, systems, and unlocks, all of which combine to make for an ideal for on-the-go gaming experience. Now that the game has finally made the jump to the App Store, Slay the Spire is a very easy sell, even considering the fact that this mobile version leaves quite a bit to be desired.
I won't spend too much time describing Slay the Spire, as the game has been out for years and it has already garnered tons of attention. In fact, the game seems like the clear inspiration for a lot of games that Slay the Spire is now competing with on mobile. Meteorfall, Pirates Outlaws, and Royal Booty Quest all have varying amounts of Slay the Spire DNA in that they are dungeon-crawlers where you craft a deck of cards that determines your combat options against sets of increasingly difficult enemies.
Your ultimate goal in Slay the Spire is to make it through three "acts" or dungeons and defeat a final boss and post a high score. To get there, you need to make sure you're constantly pruning your deck, upgrading cards, and gathering powerful relics and potions to give yourself every competitive advantage possible as your combat encounters get ever more challenging.
Slay the Spire's brand of roguelite deck-building is remarkably appealing because of the game's balance. Where many other titles tend to ask players to theorycraft optimal decks to succeed, Slay the Spire's myriad systems provide for a huge possibility space where players really feel like they can play each class in a number of different ways that are all viable to reach the final boss. Few games can pull this off while still providing some sense of challenge, but Slay the Spire makes it seem easy.
On top of this, Slay the Spire also does a fantastic job of creating replay value, mostly through implementing a smart set of modes that all feel satisfying in their own way. Most notably, the game has a progression system where you unlock new cards and relics as you play standard mode, but you aren't restricted from using only unlocked cards in the daily challenge mode. This gives players that want a progression loop exactly what they want, while also giving everyone competing for spots on the leaderboards equal footing.
As great as Slay the Spire is, it really deserves a better mobile port than this. The touch controls are overly clunky, to the point that it's extremely easy to accidentally play cards when trying to inspect them. You can even easily play cards you didn't intend to select in the first place. The cards also sit a little too low on the screen, which I don't think is the cause for these control issues, though this layout definitely forces you to manipulate cards more than you'd otherwise have to.
These problems don't render Slay the Spire unplayable by any means. With a little practice, they become easy enough to work around. It's just wild that you have to do this. Hearthstone and other card games have figured out flawless card game controls on mobile years ago, so it's a bit baffling to see such mediocre execution on a modern title. This, the lack of iCloud support, and some easy-to-replicate crash bugs definitely dog this port and can hamper your enjoyment of it.
The bottom line
Slay the Spire is such a good game that even a poor port can't put me off of it. I'm not sure I've played a card game that allows for so much improvisation while still feeling challenging and rewarding. Hopefully, it will become a better experience over time with some key updates, but--even in its current form--I plan to happily put many, many more hours into it.