Review – Inscryption
I want to start off this review by stating that I will NOT dive into a lot details about Inscryption‘s premise and plot. This is a game that is best enjoyed with little to no knowledge about it. I will talk about its first few hours, which do give you an overall impression of its gameplay, but not enough of the completely demented twists and 180s this lunatic experience has to offer. You will have to trust me when I say that, yes, this is a damn good game, one of the best Devolver has published in years. You should grab Inscryption. But try to find out as little as possible about it before playing.
How to even begin describing a game like this? Well, Inscryption is a roguelike deck builder, as you venture through randomly generated maps, collecting cards and passive buffs to increase the size and strength of your deck. It’s also a Yu-Gi-Oh-esque card game, featuring some similar elements to Konami’s long-lasting franchise, such as sacrificing smaller fry in order to summon stronger cards, and winning a match by “attacking your opponent’s life points”, which is represented in here by a scale. You need to deal five more damage points to your opponent’s life than he does to you in order to win a game.
This game is also a tabletop RPG, as you have a dungeon master narrating the experience and pretending to be other characters by wearing masks in front of you. A very low budget tabletop RPG, in the best of ways, since you’re locked inside a cabin. This is where Inscryption shows it’s also a survival horror, as you’re basically a victim locked inside a maniac’s house. If you lose a match, you basically die, and another victim shows up in their place. Although you cannot escape the cabin from the front door, you can freely explore it. You are heavily encouraged to do so, as solving some of the cabin’s puzzles results in more cards being added to your initial deck, increasing its strength whenever you start a new run.
There are also plot-related reasons for you to explore the cabin, but as I stated before, I really don’t want to talk about the story. All I will say beyond the initial “being inside cabin in the woods with a lunatic” premise is that a bunch of crap ensues later on, with the game taking some twists and turns that might give you a whiplash. Using the expression “subverting expectations” is a boring cliché used by journalists at this point, but I cannot think of another way to describe the kind of stuff that happens. I won’t say anything else about it besides that it is totally demented and worth experiencing. Now, can we go back to talking about something less spoilerish, like the visuals and sound design?
Inscryption features a very unique presentation, but they are probably the game’s least interesting aspect. It goes for a “slightly better than the PS1” graphical style, featuring decently-crafted polygons clashing with below average lighting effects and low-quality textures, giving it an overall “retro but not really” aesthetic. The game spices things up with more visual elements the more you play it, but I wasn’t entirely sold in its graphics, especially when it came to its excessively dark presentation.
The sound design fares better. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to like the game’s soundtrack and retro sound effects, but given the fact I’ve been humming Inscryption‘s theme song for the past four days or so, it’s safe to say the soundtrack grew on me. There are very occasional instances of voice acting, as well as slightly more impactful sound effects in the game as well. At the end of the day, I did enjoy what Inscryption had to offer in terms of sound. My goodness, I can’t believe I managed to get to the end of the review avoiding any kind of spoilerish content. Sorry for the vagueness, folks. As I said, the less you know about Inscryption before playing it, the better.
Inscryption is an utterly demented piece of software in the best of ways. I don’t remember the last time I played a game that made me go “what the hell am I looking at” with such frequency and intensity. As previously mentioned, try to avoid spoilers and any other videos showcasing what the game has to offer, try to experience this game with as little information about it as possible. I can’t stress how weird this game is. If you are looking for some totally bonkers, absolutely insane, completely lunatic game to play this Halloween, Inscyption has got you covered.
I do like that Inscryption goes for a unique low-textured aesthetic, but the combination of some of its assets with its intentionally poor lighting results in some unnecessarily annoying moments, at least visually. There are other visual elements throughout its runtime that add a bit of variety to the mix.
A fantastic concoction of deck building, Yu-Gi-Oh influenced card battling, tabletop role-playing, survival horror, and roguelike elements.
Retro sound effects mixed with some catchy tunes and very occasional bits of voice acting. It worked better than expected.
Fun Factor: 9.5
Inscryption is completely insane, in the best of ways. It manages to sucker punch you with twists and turns in a way few pieces of media can. The best thing about all of this? There is an actually addictive game in the middle of all this anarchy.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Inscryption is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Inscryption was provided by the publisher.