Review: Dark Deckbuilder Inscryption Is Brilliant, Unexpected

Screenshot: Inscryption   This review strives to be as spoiler-free as possible. It’s hard to write about Inscryption. It’s a game that’s full of surprises—and those surprises are part of the fun I’ve had while peeling back Inscryption’s many layers. But writing about it proves problematic because of spoilers—and while I know my efforts will be in vain, since spoilers will be on the internet once the embargo lifts, I don’t want to be the reason that you are spoiled for this amazing game. Inscryption is a darkly atmospheric deckbuilding and puzzle game. If you’ve played games like Slay the Spire, Inscryption may look familiar to you—but that’s surface level. Inscryption’s brilliance is hidden within multiple layers of compelling mystery. To start the game, you find yourself a hapless victim in Leshy’s cabin—an insane hermit who is forcing you to play a deadly game of cards against him. If you lose, it costs you your life. The gameplay of Inscryption not only requires you to build good decks to defeat the challenges you’ll face, but to also solve puzzles to reveal secrets, and uncover its mysteries. Screenshot: Inscryption My first impression of Inscryption was that it was a haunted game—like it was something I discovered, but wasn’t meant to. It uses its dark atmosphere, and scaled down retro style graphics to set the tone of a game that feels like it was plucked straight from creepypasta. It’s not long before you start to realize that things aren’t necessarily as they seem, as the cards begin to talk to you. Get up from you seat, and you can explore the cabin, finding secrets including hidden cards, and information that reveals the truth of Inscryption. As far as deckbuilders go, Inscryption takes a whole lot of bold and exciting steps, and is one of my favorite card games in recent memory. Card duels in Inscryption are extremely fun, and very high risk—with decisive moves making duels over in only a few rounds. It’s set up a bit like Magic: The  Gathering: cards are played opposite one another in a number of lanes. Cards that attack with no card in the opposite lane will instead do damage to the other “player.”  There aren’t conventional hit points. Instead, if you’re hit, a scale is weighed down in your direction—if the scale lowers too far, you lose. This makes health dynamic, and sometimes duels are a tug of war, trading blows back and forth. Screenshot: Inscryption There is a lot of room for crazy, unconventional, or just plain overpowered cards in Inscryption. There are a few methods of upgrading or modifying cards, with certain combos of abilities that make for fun synergies. Cards have health values and damage values—but they also have sigils that determine their behavior. Inscryption’s style of card dueling rewards high risk behavior and sacrifice. In fact, especially to start, sacrificing cards is necessary to even play them, though new card mechanics are added (and removed) as you play. There is an underlying mystery in Inscryption, and to get to the bottom of it, you’ll need to explore everything you can. Nothing in Inscryption is as it seems. It creates an incredible atmosphere of dread, propped up by the amazing soundtrack by Jonah Senzei. Screenshot: Inscryption A major part of Inscryption is interacting with its environments. There are many puzzles and other unexpected things to interact with and discover. While some of Inscryption’s puzzles are easier than others, none of them had me stumped for long. There are so many things to discover, that I felt like I was hardly ever stuck—and always moving towards the answers to Incryption’s secrets. Inscryption pays homage to video games in many ways. It uses meta narrative in a way that reminds me of what was so exciting about Undertale—and while I can’t predict if Inscryption is destined for such massive popularity, it deserves to be. Inscryption is easily one of the best games I’ve played all year. Screenshot: Inscryption Inscryption is available tomorrow for PC via Steam.         A Steam key was provided to us for this review If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content. You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.