Reviews - Updated on March 28, 2022

Attention: spoilers! It is better to get acquainted with Inscryption, knowing as little as possible about the game.

Let’s count like this. I became Luke Carder, started playing Inscryption, the game eventually got access to my computer and removed my review from the site. And she said it wasn’t true at all. And I, in turn, became like her and turned on the mode of sophisticated postmodernism – that first review was the same trap as the entire promotion campaign of Inscryption, the new game by Daniel Mullins, author of the cult Pony Island and The Hex. Do you also believe that this is just a horror version of Slay the Spire and Hearthstone? Well, now you deserve the true ending and the real review.

Make yourself at home, traveler

The whole Inscryption is a big nesting doll, where there is a game within a game, which is a game within a game. And under the surface, a second, and a third, and a fourth bottom are found. On the surface, it’s really a mixture of Slay the Spire and Hearthstone, spiced with Mullins’ signature darkness, violence, and tearing down the fourth wall.

In some accursed old house we play cards with Leshy, unknown for the time being, who, as it turns out later, looks more like the Forester from the King and the Jester video. We lost – and he kills us, stretching his thin, terrible hands to his throat. But before that, he asks to make a unique card from the properties of other cards (this is how we actually form rare cards that will be found in the next races with a certain chance) and takes our photo as a keepsake, mockingly asking to say “Syyyr!”.

Inscryption: Overview

Did you shrug too?

At the same time, the characters in the deck are mainly animals and insects: squirrels, bears, wolves, bees, porcupines, ermines, and so on. Each creature has attack and defense stats, a cost to use, and unique (sometimes very unusual) properties. But to use them, you will have to sacrifice another card, having received the required number of units of blood or bones. This sacrifice mechanic is really interesting and makes you look at familiar tactics in a new way.

Inscryption: Overview

From the outside it looks like a children’s board game, but this is a very deceptive impression.

The very principle of movement is taken from Slay the Spire – there is a map of the area with branching paths along which we walk to the boss of the chapter. Along the way, you will come across new fights, merchants, the ability to take a relic or consumables, improve a creature, choose a new one, or even create a more powerful one from two of the same.

But you have to see how it’s all presented. We play with a first-person view, victories are calculated by teeth on the scales, which, if anything, can be pulled out from ourselves using pliers (one of the consumable items). There are also scissors that allow you to take and cut an enemy card, a hook to steal an enemy creature, a knife with which you … gouge out your own eye and immediately win the round.

It looks very naturalistic – the first time I even shuddered.

Yes, everything is presented very uncomfortable, naturalistic and ominous. Creatures on the map also have to be constantly sacrificed or improved, warming by the fire under the hands of hungry survivors reaching for them. Even when a character met on the map tries to create a new, more powerful one from two identical animals, he asks to turn away – they say, it’s better not to look at it, it will be scary. And he begins to shred … By the way, Leshy wins back all the oncoming-transverse Leshy himself, simply changing masks, which makes him even more uneasy. And what unpleasant, interesting and difficult bosses are here …

Inscryption: Overview

The appearance of the most powerful enemies is always played out in a special way.

The escape

But in fact, all this is a game within another game, the purpose of which is to find out what is happening here and escape from the clutches of a maniac. Here begins a horror quest with a first-person view in the spirit of Escape room. We can get up from the table, walk around the gloomy room, unsuccessfully trying to open the door outside under the heavy gaze of Leshy’s red eyes, sparkling somewhere in the darkness of the corner.

Inscryption: Overview

It looks scary, but atmospheric.

And there is also a safe, a locked cabinet with puzzles, a clock where you need to correctly set the hands, and some figures with which you need to interact. Moreover, hints are given … by some cards. So, from the very beginning, an ermine communicates with us, then a cockroach joins it. Together they are clearly unhappy with what is happening, constantly hinting at something (“Pay attention to this wolf in a cage!”) And asking for help – either come up with an escape plan, or bring Leshy to clean water and stop this whole nightmare.

Inscryption: Overview

This is how the cards communicate with each other.

As they say, both laughter and sin. In any case, the meta-story that is hidden behind all these card battles is developing.

Breaking the fourth wall

And the protagonist of this meta-story, the link between everything that happens here, is, as it turns out, a real, living person, Luke Carder, a blogger and fan of card deckbuilders, who accidentally discovered the only (and, it seems, cursed) digital version of a vintage games called Inscryption and in the end … Well, in general, you will find out for yourself. This is where the natural Blair Witch Project begins, with a bunch of live videos shot in the appropriate style.

There are other games in between. In fact, all of them are also variations on the CCG theme, but with their own chips and new rules, which are always interesting to beat and change known mechanics. In addition to the deck of animals, there are decks of a magician, undead, robots that can be personally controlled by aiming from a sniper bot. It just comes in different formats. One resembles a typical RPG Maker game – “pixels”, exploration of the world, communication with characters and solving puzzles.

Inscryption: Overview

There are a lot of “live” videos here, and everything is done very atmospherically.

Another game is already moving between rooms, where you can find a merchant, a save station, new enemies, and so on. But the horror quest with a first-person view and the need to solve puzzles does not disappear anywhere. Then this begins … However, you deserve a chance to find out for yourself what will happen next. I can only say that I saw such insane postmodernism and the demolition of the “fourth wall” only in the works of the same Mullins (although he seems to have surpassed himself in Inscryption) and in the Doki Doki Literature Club!

Inscryption: Overview

And why did I immediately remember Undertale?

The finale of this crazy adventure, as it should be in such cases, leaves more questions than answers – how else in such a multi-layered game, which is not a game at all, but rather a crazy experiment? No wonder the discussion of Inscryption on Steam (and not only) is replete with questions, why these coordinates, and why these ciphers. Knowing the work of Mullins, you understand (well, or you want to believe) that there are still unsolved secrets here, perhaps even other endings and games. The main thing is that while you are looking for them, Inscryption does not delete your operating system, and there is no knock on your door …

Inscryption: Overview

Inscryption is very different.

Daniel Mullins pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in video game history. Yes, fundamentally these are presented in different ways, but still variations on the theme of the CCI, diluted with a horror quest. But metahistory and metaidea are completely different. And the way the author juggles it with an insane smile… After Inscryption, you will no longer be able to play CCI the way you used to – you will always wait for a catch and look for a second bottom. Not only did I fall into Mullins’ trap, but several other journalists did as well. Although it was worth being prepared – Pony Island is also not about pony at all!

Well, it’s really mega-cool, mega-conceptual and mega-genius (although it’s dragged out in places) – at least on a par with Undertale and Doki Doki Literature Club! And the perplexed questions about what is happening here are eventually replaced by the realization that we have just touched a masterpiece. But you know, now I will bypass the work of Daniel Mullins – it’s better to remove Inscryption from the computer as soon as possible, out of harm’s way. Or send it back to him? Does anyone know the address? Wait, someone is knocking on my door. Ah, this is Kungurov and Makoveev. And what is it in your hands? But I’m sorry already…

Pros: Genius post-modern concept that mixes genres and games that are actually set in other games; a very original look at the usual mechanics and surroundings of card games – you have not seen such CCGs yet; difficult, but addictive gameplay that interferes with different genres; signature combination of black humor, horror and breaking the fourth wall from Daniel Mullins; great work with sound and a great soundtrack.

Cons: In some places, the card gameplay seems to be drawn out.

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