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Inscryption is Much More Than You Think it is

Picture of Maki
Co-Founder of Time wasters. I gravitate towards open world, action RPG’s and combat or sandbox survival. I play mostly Xbox Series X, PC or Meta Quest 2 - but my trusty NES is never far away.
inscryption review

Inscryption is a horror game where-in you’re trapped in a mysterious cabin, fighting for your life. Your captor has only one wish, play him at his favorite card game. This is a strategic deck builder with an interesting take on “permadeath” from creator Daniel Mullins Games, but published by Devolver Digital.

This Inscryption review is a collaboration between writers: Maki and Sandoozee. Reviewed on Steam. Timewasters did not receive compensation for this article.

When you first boot up Inscryption, you’ll notice there is only a “Continue” option, no “New Game” – Weird huh?

pixel art of sandoozee

“I was gifted this game after having watched the gifter play it themselves. It seemed interesting but not super captivating from a viewers perspective (at least my perspective that is). Boy was I wrong.”

If you’ve played any of Devolver Digitals games, you’ll know they have a particular style for breaking stereotypical game loops, challenging your expectations and continually keeping you guessing. Inscryption is no exception, even not being technically developed by Devolver themselves. If you don’t know Devolver, click here and have a quick watch of their E3 2019 conference and you’ll get the idea. Right from the get-go, it is obvious that you won’t be strapping into just any old card game, nor any room escape, no any old horror game for that matter! Inscryption is truly something unique.

Semi-Permadeath with Meta Progression

Smile! You’re on Leshy-cam!

If you are a fan of the rouge-lite genre and have dabbled in games like Dead Cells, Hades or even Rougelikes such as Darkest Dungeon, you’re going to find Inscryptions approach to progression very intriguing. Death is permanent yes, you’ll lose your deck and start from the beginning of the game map – bummer I know. A few things however do live on, without spoiling any major plot lines here, I’ll elude to some interesting meta-progression that will follow you even in death:

  • Upon death, you’ll create a death card, which is an amalgamation of a few cards you choose from your deck. This death card can appear randomly upon your next run and can be quite powerful if you’re lucky.
  • Unlockables you earn from solving the puzzles around the cabin are kept, although each behave differently and again to save any spoilers, I won’t get any more specific about what they can do
  • The game is divided in to Acts, after which a save point is created. Expect to spend about 10-20 hours in the first act, depending how quickly you learn the winning strategies, solve the puzzles and how your luck is.

In case you were wondering: A Rouglite is a game that allows some form of progression to continue after death. A Rougelike uses permadeath, in other words you start completely from scratch on each go!

Creative Strategy and Punishing Mistakes

All me cards were turned to nuggets….. Shucks

pixel art of sandoozee

“Even while playing Inscription I kept thinking that I would log off any minute, only to realize that another half hour and run had passed somehow… It draws you in with its intuitive gameplay and creative strategy. Also the fact that it is constantly changing from round to round keeps it from getting repetitive.”

Make no mistake, this is no easy card game or deck builder. You’ll pay for mistakes early in your run sometimes hours later, regret choices, pivot strategies, abandon all hope and yell in victory – and not necessarily in that order. Inscryption keeps you thinking, plotting, surviving, but also doesn’t allow any room for laziness. Change is constant, specially on your first few runs.

Each time you traverse that game map, you’ll learn of new creatures, sigils, map events, pack items and more. It might all seem to be a little too overwhelming at first, but the earlier you accept that you must die dozens of times to get where you’re going, the better. With each punishing death, a glimmer of hope usually arises in the form of new information, an unlocked item or new game mechanic to leverage next time.

inscryption game map event survivors fire
These survivors seem trustworthy, right?

The Plot That Keeps Thickening!

pixel art of sandoozee

“The game so far has been fairly straight forward. You’ve been captured by someone who intends on basically having you entertain them by playing against them in cards. Seems simple enough right? Well it really starts to get interesting once the first card starts talking to you.”

Inscryptions plot is not for the feint of heart. It’s main antagonist, Leshy, is a super mysterious and terrifying individual who seems to have a power over you that is impossible to escape. That actually doesn’t make him unlikeable though! His portrayal of characters throughout the game is pretty comical as he dawns unique masks and personalities for each of the “boss encounters” along the game map. As you progress, you start to wonder if Leshy is just severely bored and needing company more than he is a mystical serial killer going through an identity crisis. No need for a spoiler warning here… it’s immediately obvious that everyone you encounter on this game map is Leshy.

The game starts to get pretty interesting once you meet your first potential ally. A card in your deck will begin to talk to you, and as you start piecing things together, a dark and terrifying plot begins to unfold before your eyes. If you manage to persist through every one of Leshy’s challenges, an incredible plot-twist awaits you, but more on that later.

My personal favorite Leshy, The Prospector.

Should You Play Inscryption?

Short answer – yes!

Inscryption has something for anyone who likes puzzles, turn by turn strategy, layering game mechanics, unique art styles, horror genre, escape rooms and more but most importantly – you’ve got to be able to take a little punishment. It can take hours to complete some of the game maps the first time, and when you get all that way, only to die, lose your deck and start from scratch, it can be pretty devastating! Don’t worry though, it’s not all bad news, every death is a new strategy learned, a new observation, a new unlock, a new card and usually, a new piece of intel that advances the plot.

inscryption review leshy in the fleshy
Leshy in the fleshy

Each run through will be quicker than the last. If you spend time on the cabin puzzles (which I’d recommend you do) you can really progress quickly. Without ruining what lies beyond Act 1, the first major section of the game, I would encourage you reading this to really put in the time and effort needed to defeat Leshy because what awaits you beyond that cabin will almost definitely BLOW your mind! I won’t go into any more detail so that this review can remain mostly spoiler-free, but in short, Inscryption is the most unqiue and inventive game I’ve played this year and would be an honorable mention for best Rouglites out there right now!

pixel art of sandoozee

“This is a lot more than a card game. Your game is dependent on the randomly generated “map” that your captor has laid out in front of you. Will you have a number of paths to the boss or will it be a straight shot? Will you be able to upgrade a number of your cards first or simply be destroyed again and again. With the level of randomization from round to round, there are times where victory can seem completely out of the realm of possibility. Thanks to this it can become extremely frustrating. Especially since when you die you don’t get to keep your deck. Your next run through starts all over again. Even with the different degrees of frustration I would have to say that overall the game is extremely addicting and entertaining. Definitely worth a play.”

You can get Inscryption on Steam today or download a free demo, it is currently available for Windows only!

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