More like Rise of the Deckbuilder, right? Slay the Spire has opened the doors for games like Nowhere Prophet, Monster Train, Fights in Tight Spaces and Signs of the Sojourner, making it a cracking time to be a deckbuilding card game on the Xbox. But while we’re seeing plenty of pretenders to Spire’s throne, none are as thoroughly adorable as Rise of the Slime.
We had the opportunity to interview Maris Bunkovskis, the brain that spawned the slime, and he had plenty to say about why you should make room for his game when it launches on May 20th.
Please introduce yourself. Are we right to say that you created Rise of the Slime, from scratch, as a one-person team?
Hey there, I’m Bunkovsky (Maris Bunkovskis), and I’m the creator, artist and developer of Rise of the Slime. Yep, it is right to say that I created it from scratch, as a one-person team which was a slightly mad decision, but it turned out quite well, I think.
With one sidestep though – I have to give credit to my friend Arletta Supe for composing the soundtrack for the game which is great and a huge help as I am not great with the music side of creation.
How would you describe Rise of the Slime?
I like to describe Rise of the Slime as being a cute roguelite deckbuilder, with a focus on positioning and interacting within the game world.
What sets Rise of the Slime apart from Slay the Spire, Monster Train and other prominent deckbuilders?
The part that sets Rise of the Slime apart from other games in the genre is its easy-going mood and its use of environmental interactions (such as being able to move around the map during combat) while simultaneously watching out for enemy plots. You can smoothly transition in and out of the combat within the location, find things hidden in scenes that might help you in a fight, or open up spatial rifts that take you in mystery rooms.
Plus, not a lot of games have slime on a stick who has a bright future ahead of them.
And what do you think it is about deckbuilders that is seeing the genre capturing the attention of so many players and publishers at the moment?
I think it’s the unpredictability of how your next turn might turn out and the constant change to the available actions that gives people enjoyment in these kinds of games. Like with many roguelikes and roguelites – deckbuilders have the same great feeling of making choices, building up your runs from zero and living with the consequences or just going on an absurd domination streak – players can choose how they want to play and the game doesn’t punish you because of that.
Plus, the massive success of games like Slay the Spire is one of the undeniable reasons why people started paying so much attention to the genre. They just nailed the right feeling and brought so much joy to those who got to play it. We are seeing more and more variations on the formula that will lead us to some new game concepts and hot and unexpected games in the future.
Turning the characters into lollipop-stick puppets is adorable. Where did the idea come from? We want a set for our family!
Thank you! I’m happy that you think the lil’ stick creatures are cute! Now I’m sad that I can’t send over a set of them in real life, but I encourage trying to make your own stick figures during a family evening, it’s quite fun!
The idea for visuals came from series of happy accidents; I had been experimenting with slime-themed prototypes before Rise of the Slime, and when I decided to focus on card mechanics I wanted to make the game feel a little bit like a physical tabletop-ish thing, so going with a mutation of a puppet theater scene where all the other units are set up in the world that might be controlled by some hidden creature behind the scenes seemed like a nice angle to take, and it seems like people enjoyed the look of it.
Using positional play, with slime-backflips, pushes and quick-steps sounds really interesting. How do these impact player strategies?
The positioning plays quite an important role during the gameplay – all creatures can gain certain bonuses or debuffs for entering tiles and moving around (get burnt by fire, get drenched in green acid goo) and there are certain environmental objects like Totems that give advantages to the units located closest to them, so you want to get closer to them and keep the enemies away from the ones that make them stronger, or at one point you can find yourself in big trouble. Your position also impacts the cards that you can play, and certain core mutations get triggered by moving around or being able to hold your position during the fight.
Oooor you can just zip behind an enemy and smack them in the backside with a big greatsword, for a huge damage boost with a backstab.
Probably the biggest surprise is the side-scrolling action sections between the battles, as you dodge spears and other obstacles. What do they bring to Rise of the Slime?
Those sections try to break up the combat gameplay while introducing some uncommon scenes and locations during the gameplay – some variety in pacing is nice to have and i hope those locations will surprise some players in a positive way. And if you get lucky and get more pleasant rooms filled with some vegetables you can spend your time enjoying a little bit of gardening or looting chests and finding treasure.
How does Rise of the Slime keep you coming back for more?
It relies on players’ immeasurable love for slimes and the appeal of stick-persons 😀
Although Rise of the Slime is not a truly infinite game, it’s easy to spend a lot of time in it because of the fairly relaxing mood and decent amount of positive and negative core mutations that change your run experience. Some mutations transform the way you play in more drastic ways, such as turning your HP into your Mana pool, and forcing you to sacrifice your health to play cards.
And after a couple of lost runs (or winning runs), the game world starts giving you different starting zones, introducing new enemies and new decks. For example you might be starting your run in the Swamplands or Molten Forest instead of the Caves.
If you start thinking the default run setup is too easy or hard for you you can also start more intense runs where enemies are more powerful or play the long run that is easier and takes you through more rooms.
For a newcomer to the scene, what insight can you provide into the cards, and what tactics should we be looking to utilise?
Take your time and experiment. Losing a fight during the run is not a bad thing as after you die you go to a cemetery where you can spend the cash you got during your run to upgrade your stats for the next run to make things easier for yourself. Completing more rooms and losing will give you access to new decks and rooms. On easier modes you also get checkpoints after mini-boss battles, so you don’t have to restart your whole run.
If you are looking for cheesing strategies – grab the Acid Pet from the pet selection room when starting your new run, it is really helpful.
Rise of the Slime started on Early Access and a demo was also released. How did player feedback guide you to where you are now?
I spent quite a lot of time dissecting videos and streams that were available, hunting out bugs that popped up and were hard to hunt down when you are testing the game solo.
The interactions also helped to see what parts of the game are more exciting for people and which parts are less exciting.
Some of the locations in the game are also modified after some interactions with people who tried the game – engravings in the slab of honour and cards like the Plague also come out of those interactions. Multiple nerfs to more powerful mechanics also came from those interactions; people sure like to break the game in some ways I did not expect, but it’s made the game better in the long run.
What has it been like working with publishers Playstack? Mortal Shell, their last game, couldn’t be further from Rise of the Slime.
It has been a good time! The people at Playstack that I have been working with are really friendly and great with getting things done. I love that it’s easy to talk and crack some jokes with them while bringing people some entertainment and being able to feed myself.
Mortal Shell is an awesome game and definitely on a grander level than Rise of the Slime, but I didn’t develop that. As a player, when I first saw it I instantly loved the mood and vibe for it – as a long time enjoyer of a Dark Souls type of aesthetic it brought a spark of joy to my eyes; people should definitely check it out if you have not tried it yet!
Rise of the Slime on the other hand is like that lil’ goofy kid that covers for the lack of grandness by bringing in a lil’ bit of cuteness. And I think it makes sense to have larger and smaller games for people to choose from – offering a variety of experiences brings more people joy, and bringing people joy is what great publishers do.
After launch, what’s next for Rise of the Slime?
Patch. And me lurking around in random streamer chats to see them breaking the game.
After the launch, I would love to keep expanding the world and universe of Rise of the Slime. The game depends a bit on the scale of reception, but I have some stories cooking and plans that hopefully will see the light of the day a bit later down the road.
And finally, what is it about slimes that we as gamers love so much?
They are squishy and cute. Fragile lil’ creatures, but with limitless potential for stories.
We’ve been playing round after round of Rise of the Slime, in anticipation of its launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC come May 20th. Expect a review soon, once we’ve rummaged a little more in its gelatinous innards.
Huge thanks to Maris Bunkovskis (make sure you’re following on Twitter!) and Playstack for giving us more insight into the game.