Inscryption was all the rage last year when it was getting nominated as one of the best independent games due to its unique gameplay and story. Just like Wildermyth, the only barrier to entry for console gamers is that it was previously exclusive to the PC.
Developed by Daniel Mullins and published by Cult of the Lamb’s Devolver Digital, Inscryption is a roguelike deck builder that combines escape room elements, nerve-wracking card battles, and found footage horror for a unique experience.
Inscryption opens in a dark and eerie cabin where you’re engaged in a board game with a mysterious storyteller. You have no recollection of where you’re from except that you’ve just stumbled into a dark forest. With no other choices, you indulge the figure and play their card game.
From the get-go, it feels like you’ve just launched into a game of GWENT, or for the more familiar, Slay The Spire. It’s quite straightforward: each time any of your creatures in your deck go unopposed, you earn golden teeth that weigh down your opponent’s scales. When you tilt the scales all the way to the bottom, you win the game.
It sounds and seems easy, but there’s more than meets the eye.
Let’s Play A Game…
Inscryption is three ways a deck builder, a roguelike, and an escape room horror game. It doesn’t look too complex thanks to its drab visuals, but don’t let its simple looks fool you-it is a well-designed game that draws you into it right away, due in large part to how it sets everything up.
The game really digs deep within its horror genre, with every aspect of it adding to the creepiness every step of the way. It would be easy to dismiss it as a card battler game, but unlike Slay The Spire and GWENT, there are so many more layers that dwell within Inscryption, especially as you start uncovering many of its many secrets.
Inscryption shares similarities with Slay The Spire, and almost annoyingly so. You start with cards as you work your way up the map. You choose a path that best leads you to a boss, collecting bonuses along the way, and then ultimately challenging the area boss, with each having their own gimmick.
There are a few quirks though, as I feel that a randomized shuffle should’ve been implemented instead of starting with the same hand. While the proceedings are quite challenging, and luck will definitely play a role with card pulls, I found myself restarting matches as I knew how the match would start for both myself and the opponent.
Those looking for an engaging story won’t be disappointed, but the difficulty level could be a pain in the side as it certainly gates progression. Losing out because of the many ways the storyteller cheats (and boy, do they cheat) is seriously frustrating, and starting all over again because of the roguelike mechanics can be a bit of a bummer.
Inscryption‘s card battle system is commendable, especially with the resource mechanics and trying to successfully manage twists and turns. The whole loop is extremely engaging, and when you throw the added dread of the roguelike and horror elements, the game just takes on another level.
Live or Die?
What makes Inscryption shine from the rest of its deck builder games is that there is an aspect of the game that evolves into an escape room horror film. Without giving too much away, there are moments where the storyteller allows you to explore the cabin and find the many secrets within. You can uncover new cards, items, and other tools that will help your character succeed.
As you uncover many secrets, the storyteller changes their tactics accordingly, and did I mention that he cheats a lot? Despite that, the puzzles are extremely enjoyable and the little story beats will keep you engaged to find out what happens next.
When you manage a successful run, like many roguelikes of its type, Inscryption keeps you going because of so many unanswered questions.
Finding someone who relates to all 3 genres that Inscryption dabbles in is admittedly tough, but put together, the game turns out as something special. For me, the game was engaging enough from the get-go, and while the difficulty levels could turn out to be a bit of a pushback, the way everything else works together is more than enough to make up for that.
What We Liked:
- Engaging horror mystery atmosphere that pulls you into the game and keeps you guessing.
- Challenging roguelike deck builder with unique aspects.
- So many surprises to uncover even after you’ve completed the story.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Visuals are a little drab and simplistic.
- Difficulty can be a sore point
- Could’ve used better-randomized shuffling to deter restarting.
Verdict: Buy It!
Inscryption is definitely a game I’d recommend trying for its unique experience, and I’m happy to get a chance to play it on a console a year after sticking to the PC. It’s a perfect synergy of roguelike deck builder and horror mystery that’s engaging from the moment you start playing until after you’ve completed the story to further explore its many mysteries.
While it does have its issues and it may require a little bit of effort to gain momentum, it’s definitely worth the reward as you uncover Inscryption‘s many secrets and become fully involved in its world. It’s exhilarating, anxiety-inducing, and you may even get a laugh from its quirky dark humor; taken as a whole rather than its parts, this is where Inscryption truly shines.
*Inscryption was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.