Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
There are very few games that grab your attention from the start menu, but then again, Inscryption is a rare game in many ways. Launching Inscryption for the first time, after going through a fake loading screen, your right index finger is briefly confused as you hit the “New Game” button fruitlessly.
That’s because Inscryption has no new games. Only games. One about bones and blood and ritual sacrifice. The man with winking eyes and withered hands taps the table impatiently, sometimes doing…other things. Instead, you have to press continue because you’ve been playing for a while and continue is all you can do. Alternatives are not worth considering.
So, let’s move on. You’re sitting on a stool in some out-of-the-way cottage, clutching a handful of cards in trembling hands. Each card depicts a woodland animal. Across the table was a figure shrouded in shadow, speaking in a deafening voice like Lucifer’s refrigerator. Between you is a chessboard on which to play cards. Guests always start to turn so you can play squirrel. The squirrel is useless and can only be used as an offering for the next card. Sacrifice squirrels, beat stoats with blood. The ferret will talk to you and tell you to play with it. Listen to the ferret.
You have no movement now, so ring the bell . The round will be resolved and the game will return to you. On this new turn, you can draw a card from your hand or a deck of squirrels. Draw a squirrel and place it on the board. Now sacrifice the squirrel and ferret (they will protest) and use the two blood tokens you received to play as a wolf.
resolves the turn again. The wolf will attack the animal in front of it, or if there is no animal, directly attack your opponent, then it will deal damage. Damage is calculated against a set of scales that rebalance as damage is swapped. Do enough damage to your opponent to exceed your own damage level and you’ll win, and possibly progress. If you lose, well, let’s not dwell on what happens if you lose. You will find out in due time.
Is there so much to absorb? It’s ok. Feel free to take a break. Yes, as long as you’re not in the middle of the game, you can get off the table. Stretch your legs and look around the cabin. Admire the crisp pixels of many objects in the room. Fiddle with the safe in the corner. Move the hands of the cuckoo clock behind you. Flip through the rulebook to better understand the cards in your hand. Didn’t this ferret mention the rulebook? It might help you escape this room in some way?
Why not sit down and think about it? Move your figurine to the next point on the map. You might have a chance to get some new cards like Ant, whose damage stacks to every ant you have in play, or Adder, whose venomous bite instantly kills any animal in front of it. Or you may come across some much-needed supplies that provide you with disposable equipment, like squirrels that you can add to a bottle on hand at any time, or scissors that you can use to cut one of your opponent’s cards.
Pass enough fights and your opponent will reveal him one of the myriad personalities. In these special encounters, you’ll battle enemies like the Prospector, who can turn your cards into useless nuggets of gold. Passing these battles will test your deck handling skills to the limit. But you should be satisfied with your progress. Very few people have made it this far.
Victory in these encounters could be sweet. But the taste is fleeting. We’re not done, not even over. There are many more waiting for you to discover. Maybe you prefer to build your army out of bones, an alternate type of resource that increases every time one of your animals is killed. Or maybe you’ll use a stone altar found in the wilderness, sacrificing one animal to give its power to another. Or you might become a fur dealer, collect these inert cards from trappers, and face your opponents with a deck full of useless skins until you can sell them to merchants for extra powerful cards.
Go down the rabbit hole, it’s Warren spreads from the board to the cabin itself. You see, the two are inextricably linked. The board will lead you to clues to the world, which will lead you to more powerful cards that will bring you back to the board. With each new clue, your power increases so that you can create unstoppable cards that break the rules of the game. In fact, if your opponent has an oversight, it’s that he puts too much latent power in your hands, and once you pass a certain point, the game moves away from him.
But you wouldn’t mind too much, would you? Admit it, you like it here. You love those twinkling eyes across the table. You like the scary atmosphere and the threat of obvious consequences if you lose. You love the feeling of blood and bone sliding through your fingertips, and cards that chatter, argue, and complain as you play. You’ll find it exciting and maybe even a little fun. Your hands, they tremble not from fear, but from excitement.
so why not pull up Your stool, another round of this twisted little game? Immerse yourself in its deep hues and delve into its deep and ever-changing deck. I will be with you, lurking in the dark. After all, there’s nothing like it.