Slay the Spire. There, I said it. It’s nearly impossible to talk about Neoverse (or any roguelike deck builder) without mentioning the cream of the crop. Seriously, go ahead and filter through the discussion surrounding Neoverse online and you’ll find that nearly every mention of the game is accompanied by a mention of Slay the Spire. There’s a good reason for this. Neoverse is essentially a reskin of Slay the Spire with added sex appeal. Is this a bad thing? It sort of depends at where you’re looking from. In a way, Neoverse is actually fairly successful as far as clones go. It’s fundamentally as playable as Slay the Spire, and to some subset of the population, could be even more entertaining due to its small deviations.
Neoverse runs in a fairly typical manner. You start with a deck of cards that have certain abilities. The goal is to move through a dungeon, fighting monsters of increasing power while improving your own deck in tandem. Your cards run the gamut from attack cards, defense cards, and status effect cards. The key, in Neoverse, is to maximize the effectiveness your deck. That’s where the enjoyment springs from in deck builders. You are going to experience moments where you play a card and immediately notice a better alternative. Eventually, you’ll get into a rhythm and begin to roll through the dungeon. I can personally get a feel for a successful (or unsuccessful) run about halfway through. This is because there is a fair amount of RNG baked into deck builders. If you are lucky enough to get a certain card or skill upgrade in Neoverse, it can change the entire playthrough.
Since comparisons are inevitable, it’s worth looking at where Neoverse deviates from Slay the Spire. To begin with, Neoverse has a fairly integral combo mechanic (called “Battle Tech”). If you play cards in a certain order (e.g., attack, defense, attack, attack), you will get a buff to your next attack. This is a nice addition, but in my early runs of the game, this feature was so important that I could not possibly afford to stray from the suggested combo. Your first couple of runs through the game will ultimately be dictated by this mechanic. The critical hit reward is simply too useful to pass up.
Another way in which Neoverse separates itself is the lack of defense decay. The armor gained from a defense card will persist until it is destroyed by any enemy. It will not decay in between turns. This ultimately makes defensive decks not just viable but super effective. Unless you run into the rare encounter where a monster has the ability to remove all your armor, you can make yourself virtually untouchable. Not just that, but it is not imperative to separate your deck between either offense and defense, since an offensive build can still remain relatively protected due to this persistent armor mechanic. This mechanic was one of my main gripes while playing Neoverse. It gives the player too much power. It’s an obvious point to exploit while crafting certain builds.
A skill tree replaces relics in Neoverse. You earn skill points through encounters and by completing missions. Missions in Neoverse are a set of parameters to be fulfilled in battle. For example, if you complete a battle without taking damage, it may earn you extra skill points. The problem is that the skill tree is populated purely by positive buffs with essentially no drawbacks. Luckily, the skill tree you are presented with is random through each playthrough, so you cannot follow the exact same build as your last run. But for the most part, the randomly generated buffs are overpowered. I began to employ a strategy of just accruing as many skills as possible. If you follow this strategy, you become so laden with passive effects that it makes it difficult to lose.
Here’s one more balancing issue that arises from missions: they aren’t automatically redeemed and they aren’t specific to a single encounter. Let me explain. If I take a fight and the mission I’m given is to “deal more than 20 damage in a single turn.” I now have this as a mission permanently until I fulfill that requirement. This means that if I happen to complete that requirement 5 encounters down the road, I’m still rewarded. Also, once I complete that mission, I can redeem the reward at a time of my choosing. So, if that same reward happens to heal me for 30% of my health, I can wait to use it until I need it most. If the reward is to evolve one of my cards, I can save it until I get a card that is worth evolving. This mechanic is also far too forgiving.
The store operates in basically the same manner as Slay the Spire, except that it can be accessed at any time, and refreshed multiple times in a single visit. It’s worth noting that you can also purchase skill points for relatively cheap while visiting the shop, so that you could feasibly fill out an entire skill tree within a single run. The cards offered in the shop are usually fairly affordable and the ones that are discounted are almost laughably cheap. If you are lucky enough to find a card on sale that is essential to your build, you’re set. You can also buy items (up to 3) that have instantaneous effects in battle that are similar to the ones in Slay the Spire.
If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy Neoverse, I actually did. It’s a clone, sure, but it’s a well made clone of an already great game. Beyond some balancing issues, there really isn’t much wrong with Neoverse. It’s just that the successful aspects of Neoverse (and there are plenty) have already been discussed ad nauseam when Slay the Spire released; they aren’t worth mentioning. As it is, Neoverse stands as a solid alternative with a bit of balancing issues and a different art style. It’s simple as that.