‘Inscryption’ is a D-D-Duel to the Death

In the Cards

Looking from a video game developer’s perspective, one can see the appeal of cards. Taking a game concept from prototype to finished product is easier when working with something familiar. It’s why, even outside of the crowded digital deck-building market, most titles feel like they’re referencing each other. 

So it’s completely understandable that, on its face, Daniel Mullins Games’ Inscryption is yet another ‘deck-builder with roguelike elements.’ What isn’t as understandable, however, is everything that happens after the player continues the game.

Note the word ‘continue’, which is very deliberately not ‘start.’

At the beginning of Inscryption, your controls are limited as you take in your surroundings. The first-person POV reveals a darkened cabin with your most immediate concern staring out of the darkness, opposite your seat at a wooden table marked with a grid. Your shadowy opponent begins to explain the deck of cards you have at hand.

Welcome to Die

All of the cards are themed after various real or imaginary beasts. Playing these cards on the table’s grid deal damage to the mysterious cabin dweller. To put most cards into play, however, will require blood. Inscryption’s ‘blood’ is one of its types of currency, only obtainable by ‘sacrificing’ cards that are in play.

Winning the match via your blood-summoned cards reveals that the eyes in the shadows are not only your opponent, but the game master running this bizarre tabletop session. A map is unfurled, and you are given a player piece to move across a makeshift board game. Players will perish early and often at the gnarled hands of this cabin-bound gamemaster.

Surprising no one, this game has multiple kinds of sacrificial altars.

Dead Man’s Hand

As you do, however, more options open up – both at the table and beyond. It’s easy to dismiss as some bizarre take on Yu-Gi-Oh! by way of the Saw movies, but the antique graphical style and basic structure hide astonishing surprises. Most impressive is that each new narrative twist is merged with new ways to play the game. 

That’s because at its strange, twisted heart, Inscryption is a treatise on games and the people who make as well as play them. As torn as this reviewer is between wanting to shake the hands of these developers or punch them in their mouths, Daniel Mullins Games should be proud of the digital chain letter they’ve created.

9.0 out of 10 Cursed Objects

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  • Live-action cartoon character, based on the tie-in manga inspired by the video game. Previous residences include The Disney Afternoon, the Turtle Lair, and Santa Destroy. Will edit for pizza and graphic novels.

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