You know what’s great? Slay the Spire. You know what’s better? Even more Slay the Spire! At least, that was my thought when I happened across a Steam page for a free expansion for the game called Downfall. It contains the work of several modders bundled together in a nice, easy to consume package. Amazingly, despite being a community made mod, Downfall is incredibly polished, featuring a new class, and a whole new game mode. In a lot of ways, it feels like the expansion that Slay the Spire always needed but never received, and it’d be well worth your time to check it out.
The first headline feature of Downfall is the aforementioned new playable class: the Hermit. He’s a gunslinger with a unique mechanic called Dead On. This is an additional effect on some cards that only triggers when they’re played from the middle of your hand. For example, if you have 5 cards and play the third, then it would trigger Dead On, provided the card has a Dead On bonus. Usually this allows a card to deal additional damage, but some cards boost your armor, or debuff the opposition. While a little odd, Dead On forces players to pay even closer attention to the order they play their hand, so they can leverage the full benefit of these cards. On numerous occasions I’d find myself trying to shimmy a Dead On card into position, which eventually led me to conclude it was a well suited addition to the gameplay experience.
Many of the Hermit’s cards also have drawbacks, which is their other main gimmick. There are an abundance of powerful 1 cost cards, but they’ll flood your deck with curses, or debuff the character. This was done to balance the strength of said cards, however, there’s no short supply of cool synergies that play off this penchant for self sabotage. One of my favourites was Fatal Desire and Grudge. The former allowed me to draw 2 more cards every turn, but put a curse into my hand. This would eventually flood my deck with curses, but Grudge’s damage scales with the number of curses in my deck. This meant after a few turns of having Fatal Desire active, Grudge would deal absolutely nuclear levels of damage. Perfect.
Despite the complex nature of its mechanics, the Hermit feels incredibly well crafted. If I didn’t know he was designed by the community, I would have thought he was an official character. The way his library of cards work together is just like the other classes, and Dead On feels right at home alongside other class specific mechanics. A lot of love went into creating this fellow, and everyone who brought him to life ought to feel immensely proud of themselves. It’s so rare that community content rivals what was created by the development team, but this is reason enough to play Downfall.
While the Hermit is fantastic, Downfall also features a completely new game mode, which is its namesake. In Downfall you play a remixed version of Slay the Spire as one of seven villainous classes. Instead of defeating the Spire, you’re defending it from the heroes of the standard mode. Just like the Hermit, the classes in Downfall are fan-made, though they’re based on familiar foes and make use of a lot of recycled artwork. Each is fleshed out with their own unique library of cards, and a class specific mechanic. Unfortunately, the level of quality on offer is a lot more variable here. Don’t get me wrong, none of the content is bad per se, but it lacks the same elegance of design displayed by the main game.
Of the menagerie of options in Downfall, my favourite is the one based on the Champion boss. This class features a stance shifting mechanic where you can empower your next attack, or counter-attack the first enemy that strikes you. The Champ also features numerous cards that have additional effects depending on which stance you’re in, and finisher cards that exit your stance while providing powerful buffs. It’s a little complicated, however, once you get your head around managing your stance, you can unleash some big chungus damage with hilarious wombo combos.
I also have a massive soft spot for the Gremlins, entirely because of how scrimblo they play. This class sees you playing as the 5 small Gremlins, each with their own unique ability. For example, the Fat Gremlin puts Weak on any target he attacks, while the Shield Gremlin gains armor any time you play a skill card. Swapping between your army of tiny scrungles is the only effective way to play this class, and informs a lot of your selection while drafting new cards. However, I often found that swapping to the Fat Gremlin was the most reliable way to win. What can I say: thicc boi is best boi.
I think it’s also worth noting how humourous some of the events are in Downfall. Because you’re playing as the bad guys, almost all of the events have been rejigged for that frame of reference. One of my favourite changes that came from this was the ability to kill annoying NPCs instead of having to adapt my run to account for their stupid bullshit. This also meant that helpful events became extremely unhelpful for the Downfall classes. The potion seller, and mask demon can both be fought as additional elite fights, and the shopkeeper will try to kill, and rob you every time you encounter him. This was a nice spin on things that really cements the idea that you’re playing as a villain.
Speaking of embracing your inner baddie, you’ll clash with the heroes of the base game during each of the boss fights, all of which are impressively well designed. Each features a deck tailored around a specific type of strategy, and their class mechanics have been remixed into interesting boss mechanics. For example, one version of the Ironclad has Barricade active from turn 1, so his armor never goes away. He then stacks armor for two turns before playing Body Slam: a card where damage scales with the user’s current armor. Seeing this altered perspective was fun, doubly so since it’s chock full of new takes on a variety of familiar mechanics.
Community made content can always be a mixed bag. In my experience, most of it feels like a bad imitation of the original and isn’t worth the time investment. Downfall is a rare exception. While the Downfall mode contains a bit too much complexity, it offers a fresh perspective on many of Slay the Spire’s established mechanics, while introducing some new ideas of its own. That aside, the Hermit alone is reason enough to give Downfall a try, as it feels like the secret fifth character we never got from MegaCrit. If you own Slay the Spire on PC I urge you to check out Downfall by either downloading the standalone mod, or by adding it via Mod the Spire. I promise Downfall is worth it.