Okay. So, somewhat understandably, you didn’t go and spend $20 or so based on a single paragraph that didn’t actually explain the mechanics, the aesthetics or the story of a weird indie game. I can follow that train of logic. $20 buys a lot of…
Well, actually, $20 doesn’t get you very much these days does it? I was going to say porn or drugs, but no one buys porn anymore, and drugs cost way more. According to a guy I know.
So, here’s my case for the game, and why this article is written so weirdly. Inscryption is incredibly good on many levels, including its mechanics and storytelling. My problem is that many of the mechanics are inseparable from their linked story elements, and giving away the story would ruin much of the surprise. Simply knowing that there is more to Inscryption than might initially appear is likely to sap some of surprise and wonder that you’d get otherwise.
Underlying all of this, however, is an incredibly solid rogue-lite deckbuilder. It at starts off by borrowing the general skeleton of Slay the Spire, and offers you a series of choices of routes and small interactable sections to improve your deck. The underlying card games the two work on , however, are incredibly different. Slay the Spire is an engine builder like Star Realms or Dominion, whereas Inscryption feels like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh. Inscryption’s card game is fundamentally about resource management and generation, and board state control. And it does so while maintaining mechanics that feed into the rest of the game.
One of my favorite examples of this is how winning/losing works. To win a round of Inscryption, you need to deal five more damage to your opponent. To lose, you have to take five more damage than your opponent. This is represented in game by a scale. Whenever a player takes damage, counters are placed onto that player’s side of the side of scale. The scale starts at zero for both players, and teeters between you as you fight to win. This means that a creature that can do five damage instantly might be able to win you the game in a single round, but if you’re already on the edge, all it can do is bring you back just past parity.
And the mechanic doesn’t end there. Any excess damage past lethal you deal to an opponent gets turned into a currency that you can later be exchanged for cards. It’s possible to end up in interesting situations where you can choose to extend a game for the chance of generating a board state that gives a big payout, but risks losing the run.
The solid mechanics underlying Inscryption are arguably its biggest strength. The art is incredible, and the story is (mostly) very well done and interesting. The escape room sections of the game are neat. But all of it is carried by the game and play mechanics of the in-game card game of “Inscryption.”
If that last sentence seems recursive and bit weird, I apologize. But it’s also a very good summary of Inscryption. And it makes quite a lot of sense once you start playing.
Again, you can find links to various stores and places to buy it here.