The duality of games makes it so that we often desire novelty, but find ourselves disappointed once we have it. As such, it’s always a risk for video game developers to approach an established genre with a fresh take. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Inscryption does for the horror genre. First and foremost, Inscryption is a card game, but after playing through the game in one sitting, I quickly realised it’s so much more.
Inscryption starts differently than most games. Instead of starting a new game, you must finish a game that someone else seemingly started by pressing “Continue”. Once in the game, you meet a mysterious figure who tells you to play cards, teaching you the basics of the game. The cards are based on animals. However, you quickly realise that there is something amiss when the Stoat card starts talking to you.
As the game progresses, the mysterious figure lets you stand up to explore your surroundings. It appears that you found yourself trapped in a cabin. Fortunately, the Stoat, alongside two others, have a plan to escape.
”The strongest selling point of Inscryption is its game design.”
The complex story of Inscryption is told piece by piece across the entire playthrough. Every boss, new card, opponent, NPC and distinct part reveals a small sliver of the truth behind Inscryption and the story of the Scrybes; the four antagonists of the game.
The strongest selling point of Inscryption is its game design. The game is divided into 3 distinct parts. Every part has cards as a core component but differs in major ways. The first part in Leshy’s cabin is a roguelike with deckbuilding, board game and puzzle components. In this part, you need to make your way through three maps while strengthening your deck along the way. At certain intervals, you must fight against Leshy and defeat him. However, you can only lose once on a map or else Leshy will kill you and turn you into a card. After completing the map, you will take on a boss, with its gimmick and powers, and after beating the third boss, you will face Leshy himself.
”You will have to move around a world map resembling Super Mario.”
The second part is a retro RPG deckbuilding game. You need to pick a deck from one of four roughly themed after undead, beasts, machines and wizards. From there, you will have to move around a world map resembling Super Mario, with your character able to move to different spaces. Each area has a set of characters you can interact with and fight against to progress. Defeating them yields cards specific to one of the aforementioned decks. Combining the different types of cards and building an optimal deck helps to defeat stronger bosses.
Once the last boss is defeated, you enter the third part of the game, which varies depending on which of the Scrybes (the bosses in part two) you choose to replace. For my part, I chose the machine Scrybe PO3. The is very similar to part one in that you make your way on a virtual map to accomplish an ultimate goal. Along the way, you fight against bots who will try to impede your progress. However, losing in this part does not mean death like the first part. Instead, you just lose all your money and have to make your way back to where you were from the last checkpoint.
Inscryption perfects immersion. The game tries to put you into the shoes of the protagonist, Luke Carder, who is a pack opening YouTuber. One day, he is able to purchase some booster packs from the limited edition Inscryption card game. In his opening video, he finds that there are some coordinates marked on one of the cards and, after digging at the location, he finds a floppy disk. The game you are playing is actually that game.
“The game design, the immersion and the atmosphere are perfect for Halloween.”
After part one, you will hear Luke interject and react to events happening in the game. In between every part, you can watch a set of videos of Luke’s life as things get very strange very quickly. The company that made Inscryption in the game threatens to sue Luke if he doesn’t return the disk. You also witness a mysterious young woman appear at his door inquiring about the disk. These additions submerge you deeper into the game, blurring fiction and reality.
Although, Inscyption does botch its deck balancing mechanics. As the game progresses, it does become quite easy to cruise through the game with little effort once you have the correct build. For example, in part one, Squirrels can be configured to be played infinitely, leaving you plenty of room to sacrifice them to play stronger cards. Fortunately, this is only a minor issue and doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment.
In the end, Inscryption is still an absolute delight. The game design, the immersion and the atmosphere are perfect for Halloween. For its price, it’s absolutely worth it, and until November 2nd, you can pick up the game on Steam for 10 per cent cheaper.