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Rogue-like Deckbuilder Inscryption Thrills and Chills

Inscryption Preview: Wait, a Deckbuilder AND an Escape Room Game?

 

Deckbuilders. They’re my weakness. I can’t get enough of them. You can thank Slay the Spire for my ever-growing addiction to this genre. So the opportunity to give the demo of Devolver Digital and Daniel Mullins Games’ Inscryption a try, how could I possibly say no? Throw in the fact that the theme of the game is deliciously dark and eerie, I practically jumped at the chance.

 

The Creepy Deckbuilder We Need

 

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Inscryption’s creepiness factor starts off delightfully high right from the very start. A mysterious stranger speaks to you, guiding you through the basics of the game. It’s not obvious at first, but it eventually becomes apparent that you’re stuck inside a cabin with this menacing entity. Oh, and did I mention you can only see their dimly glowing eyes peering out at you from the gloom? I’m not entirely sure what the story revolves around yet, but that little bit I got a peek of was more than enough to pique my interest.

Gameplay in Inscryption is intriguing and addicting almost from the get go. You’re given a small deck of cards to start with, containing a variety of animals. Each card has an attack value, a health value, a cost to play, and some even have a special ability. At the start of your turn, you have two options: draw a card from your dick, or pick up a squirrel from your side-deck (which seems to have an infinite supply of squirrel cards). Squirrels don’t have any attack power, and only have one health point, but they have an important role. The cards from your main deck require a blood sacrifice in order to be played, and one of the best ways to do so is to sacrifice a squirrel card you’ve placed on the table.

 

Only Costs a Little Blood. And Maybe a Few Teeth

 

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The only limit on the number of cards you can play in a given turn is how many cards you have in your hand, and whether or not you can pay the cost to lay your cards down. You can also sacrifice a card the same turn you place it down, which can help you get stronger cards down in a pinch. Once you’ve made your decisions, you hit an oldey-timey hotel bell and it ends your turn. The creepy stranger now gets to take his (their?) turn, playing their own cards (though they don’t seem to have to pay the same cost that you do). Cards that are opposing one another in a line will be attacked at the end of any given turn, and it will deplete life points until that card is destroyed. Once destroyed, if there is no card in that space, attacks will target the player or the stranger’s life directly. Doing so causes weights to be added to a scale on the table. Once one side of the scale is tilted entirely in their opponent’s direction, they win.

In addition to cards, you’ll also occasionally find items that can be used on your turn with various effects. Some of them are simple, such as a pair of scissors that will cut up one of your opponent’s cards on the field, or an hourglass that will skip their turn. Some of them are wonderfully gruesome – a bottle of goat’s blood that will give you three blood to play a powerful card, a bottle of squirrel blood that will automatically add an extra squirrel to your hand, and, my least (most) favorite, a pair of pliers that you can use to add a point of damage to your opponent’s side of the scale by pulling out a tooth and dropping it on the plate. It’s as horrifying as it is awesome.

 

An Intriguing Mystery

 

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Play alternates between moving your little figurine along a map rolled out on the table, having a card battle, and exploring the small shack. Before you make a move on the map, you can get up from the table and look around the small room, and while there’s not much you can do in the beginning, it looks extremely promising. There’s a strange safe, a locked door, a pile of figurines near the door, and more. Definitely adds to the super ominous atmosphere.

And speaking of the atmosphere, I love the aesthetic of Inscryption. The cards have this hand-drawn quality that gives them an undeniably creepy feel. The music and sound effects are very atmospheric; the candles on the table cast shadows that flicker and dance, the stranger’s eyes glow unnaturally, and lightning flashes outside the locked door. I may not fully understand what’s going on yet, but I love what I’ve seen so far.

 

A Demo That Leaves You Craving More, More, More

 

It’s really not often that a demo hooks me so thoroughly that I get ridiculously stoked for the actual release, but Inscryption has definitely sunk its claws into me. I honestly can’t even find something to criticize about the demo; gameplay was engaging and addicting, the aesthetics of the game perfectly match its setting, and I am desperate to know and see more. There is just so much potential here that I really think this game is one to keep a very close eye on.

Daymon Trapold
Once upon a time, he wrote for oprainfall. Now, he's scraping off the rust to get back into writing about the games he loves. From his humble origins of playing the Atari and Commodore 64, he now dabbles in just about every console there is. Although he has a particular love of hardcore dungeon-crawlers, roguelikes, and niche JRPGs, some of his favorite games include Earthbound, Persona 3, Eternal Sonata, Bravely Default, Tales of the Abyss, and Fate/Extra. If his geek cred wasn't good enough, he's also a bassoonist.

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