Poker Quest is the closest thing to Slay the Spire I have played since Slay the Spire, but with enough tweaks and variations to feel novel and special in its own way. @Mysterio can vouch for it too. Summonnng thee!
Cannot recommend highly enough that you avoid this game if you love Slay the Spire unless you are ready for a new addiction!
Writing as a 800+ hours Slay the Spire veteran and lover of many card battling deck building rogue-likes gamer.
If Slay the Spire and a-likes are your kind of game, this absolutely will be too. Of many deck building card battling rogue-likes, lets mention Griftlands, Across the Obelisk, Blood Card, Roguebook, Tainted Grail, Mahohenski, Etherlords as some examples, this one cleaves far closer than any of those to the core Slay the Spire formula and yet also manages to feel different enough not to just be a reskin.
This has the “one more fight” and “one more run attempt” hook absolutely nailed. Throughout a run, the challenge level is steadily increasing, and if have just the right level of skill and fortune, your power level will grow to match or exceed it.
Choose an archetype, which will determine a special power and starting equipment. Choose whether to play the ‘unlocks’ mode which lets you use points earned in all previous total runs to unlock some meta-benefits, such as starting with extra coins or food. Next, you have the very familiar branching trail structure with encounter nodes, letting you choose a path. Nodes present a combat, an elite combat, a shop, an upgrade option, a mini-game or some resources. Winning combats also grants resources, and you see exactly which before you choose the node.
This plays out over a 3-act structure, each act ending in an act-boss.
So far, so very, very familiar and similar to Slay.
What makes Poker Quest different from Slay?
In combat, instead of drawing and playing cards, you draw a set of poker cards and use those cards to activate one or more of your equipment. For example, you may have a sword that does direct damage and requires a matching pair. You might have a wand that applies poison and requires cards of value 6 or lower.
There is a very pleasing variety of equipment and you can typically have up to 8 pieces equipped at a time, albeit slots need to be unlocked via upgrading your “bag”.
Similar to Slay though, this lets you effectively set up a tableau that emphasises something in order to be effective. For example, direct damage, damage over time and damage mitigation.
You have constant on demand access to upgrades to enable you to draw more cards, have more equipment slots or see further ahead on the map. In another tweak from Slay, your map vision starts out limited to two nodes ahead, but you can expand this to 3+ via upgrades. Most all of your equipment can also be upgraded several times. This might, for example, take a sword which initially accepts just one card to a sword which can accept up to 3 cards, with a damage multiplier applied to the sum of the cards.
Another major difference to Slay is that part-way through each act you reach a settlement, which has some consistent and some randomised options, including dungeon fights, temples and inns for rewards, boons and resources / healing.
How much poker play is there?
Very little. I was worried about this, as I am not at all a fan of traditional card games like poker and blackjack. The only appearance of these games is in entirely optional and occasional mini-games, playable for prizes. When you play them, the full rules are one click away in game.
Skill vs Luck and difficulty
Like many similar games, when you are starting out the randomness elements i.e., card draw, may seem unfair and some combats may seem impossibly tough. Then you start to spot the synergies, what makes a good tableau, what node choices are better and so on. I am a middling-Ascension 20 Slay the Spire player, and I am yet to complete a full run of this game after about a dozen attempts on its default challenge level. There are also daily challenges with run variants, and additional challenge runs to take on.
Value for $$$
If the gameplay hooks you, this is a 100+ hours playtime game for sure. The production values are a little lower than Slay, with more simple art and common audio assets, but it plays slick, looks good enough, and feels like a fully developed game.