Inscryption, the tried and tested of the new indie by Daniel Mullins and Devolver Digital

Inscryption, the tried and tested of the new indie by Daniel Mullins and Devolver Digital


In our search for the most interesting demos offered through the Steam Next Fest, we found Inscryption, a very intriguing escape room-style horror card-game that mixes genres and styles in a unique way. Developed by Daniel Mullins Games (Pony Island, The Hex), the game is published by Devolver Digital, which alone is a guarantee stamp.

Here's what we think of this work in Inscryption's trial.


Inscryption puts us in a room, will we flee? One of the first sensations we experienced through the Inscryption demo is a remarkable sense of mystery. Daniel Mullins' work does not open in a classic way. The first screen has a small symbol, a kind of start button to press. Below, we hear the voice of a person who wonders what he will find in this product.

Here is the first piece of information. Similar to Her Story (just to give a single known example), Inscryption is admittedly a "something" within the game. We use the term "something" because it is highly likely that what happens, from the point of view of the person we play, is not a simple game, especially after a few sessions. The demo does not allow us to delve too deeply into this assumption, but with the trailer (which runs automatically at the end of the test) we can also see a series of live videos of a person, some YouTube-style content creator who has found a old floppy and decides to find out what it contains. The trailer also suggests that the experience will lead him to madness.

To all this, we also add the fact that once you reach the Inscryption start menu it will not be possible to start a new game, but only to do "Continue ". Someone has already started playing. What happened to him? Mystery, in fact.

Card-Game or Escape Room?

A shady figure in the shadows will be our jailer in Inscryption In all this, however, we have not yet said what we really do, mouse in hand , in Inscryption. Going back to the previous example, we immediately specify that it is not a purely narrative adventure like Her Story.

Inscryption is a card-game, a rogue-lite-style turn-based card game, where every death follows a new game, in which, however, we bring some of the plot advancements and some of the upgrades obtained in the previous ones. However, it soon becomes clear that this is not a classic rogue-lite. Not only because the plot, as mentioned, suggests that there is something underneath, but also because the whole adventure takes place in a room immersed in darkness and from which we cannot get out. Our opponent is a shady figure cloaked in shadow, whose eyes and hands we see mostly. The atmosphere is absolutely horrifying and, without presenting jump scare (at least in the demo), it gives you the creeps.

There will be puzzles to solve in Inscryption Our host, however, is not a tyrant (yes, he will kill us if we lose a game, but no one is perfect): if we are not in the middle of a fight, we can get up from the game table and explore the room. This is not just a little extra, but a fundamental part of the adventure. In fact, Inscryption is also an escape room. Our aim is clearly to free ourselves from the clutches of the creature that holds us prisoner and we will have to exploit the elements present in the room. For example, there is a safe, which we will discover how to open just by playing and receiving (very clear and direct) suggestions.

We are not alone in this adventure. Some of the cards we will find will be alive and will talk to us, explaining what to do. The various puzzles in the room also reward us with new cards, to make us more powerful and give more variety to the action. This is an interesting way to progress in the game, and we can't wait to see how broad this component is.

Death is also not that bad. When we are finally defeated (we have two lives for each game, at least in the demo), our jailer will make us create a new card dedicated to us before killing us. In this way, in the following games, we will have the opportunity to find a "memory" of our defeats.

Cards in hand

It is played with cards on a small board in Inscryption How by now you will have understood, Inscryption really looks like a very layered game and we are curious to see which of the components will be the most important in the full game. In the demo, however, for the most part you have to pick up the cards and play. Let's see how it works.

We have access to two decks in every game. The first is made up of our creatures, animals such as wolves, stoats, vipers, crows and so on: this deck includes a few random creatures at the beginning, but between a clash and the other we will be able to expand it, choosing a card among some proposals . Also in this case there is great variety in the approach: sometimes we can see the paper, sometimes we only know the species (canid, bird, reptile ...), other times only the cost in sacrifice.

The creatures, in fact, cannot be played and that's it, but must be "summoned" by discarding other creatures on the field. The role of sacrifice is mostly dedicated to the squirrels, which make up the second deck. At each turn, therefore, we will be able to decide whether to draw a creature or a squirrel. This is an important tactical choice, as the squirrel has zero attack power and only one health point.

The fights are in fact based on these two statistics. On our turn, the creatures attack from the front. If there is an opponent's animal in the space, it takes damage (and dies if it goes to zero life). If the space is empty, the creature deals damage to our enemy. The same happens in the turn of the jailer, but with reversed roles. We can see in advance which creatures will be played and in which space, so as to decide how to attack and how to defend.

To win we don't have to inflict a specific amount of damage, but we have to inflict more damage than the opponent . We explain. Scoring is calculated with a two-armed scale: the injured person places weights on his arm and if it touches the table, he loses. Therefore, if both players suffer the same amount of damage each turn, they remain tied.

Between one match and the next one moves on a map in Inscryption However, the clashes are very fast because just a few points are enough of advantage to lower the arm of the scale towards the opponent. Furthermore, the deck is made up of a few cards and in case they run out the opponent will place special creatures that cannot be eliminated, practically marking our defeat. The demo made it clear that you can't try to play calmly or hope to have a better hand, you have to make the most of every situation as quickly as possible, which makes every fight tense and fun.

It also helps that every game is packed with events. For example, it is possible to sacrifice a creature to give its special effect to another (the special effects are many and all the rules of the game vary). We can also upgrade a creature's attack, buy pelts from a hunter (using a currency you can earn from battles) and then sell them to a trader who will give us more cards. We can create totems that activate special effects on some species of creatures. All of this is just what's available in the demo, which ends up against the first boss who has special game mechanics (like a mule creature that once defeated gives us a whole hand of cards). If all this is just a taste of the mechanics expected for the final version, there could be some big surprises.

Inscryption is a very interesting work. The mix of genres - from escape room to card-game, with a bit of horror and metanarrative - is particular and intriguing. The card game, even if it's only part of the whole adventure, is still solid and layered, with lots of mechanics and a high pace. We will have to understand if this mixture of ideas will solidify into a complete work able to remain interesting in the long term. Also, as a rogue-lite, we will need to understand how bad luck will seriously affect card games. However, the potential is all there. We suggest you keep an eye on this game.


Card-game with interesting mechanics Mix of many genres DOUBTS Will the complete work be balanced in all its parts? How much will luck count in matches? Have you noticed any errors?

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