(Photo courtesy of: Slant Magazine) “‘Inscryption’ is a deck-building horror game.”
For those looking for a spooky night alone, why not try “Inscryption?” Released on Oct. 19, 2021, “Inscryption” is a single-player, roguelike deck-building video game with a larger story brewing underneath as the player uncovers the secrets of their surroundings and the characters within the game.
“Inscryption” starts by forcing the player to choose a loaded game file rather than starting a new one, setting an off-putting tone. The player is then thrown from the old-school, pixelated starting menu into a dark room with a table and two sets of eyes staring at the player. This shadowy figure, Leshy, introduces you to the card game.
There are eight card spaces—four for the player and four for Leshy. The goal is to deal enough damage to Leshy to tip the scale, with each point represented as teeth. The player can only place cards if there is space and if they can afford the cost in blood. Blood can be earned by sacrificing the player’s cards on the table.
Each card has an animal with their respective damage points, health points, blood points and special abilities. For example, Squirrels have no special abilities, but they do not cost any blood to be placed and can be used as temporary shields thanks to the little health that they have.
There are escape-room elements as well, allowing the player to explore their environment. By solving puzzles and losing to Leshy, the player can receive new cards, rules, power-ups and information about the world of “Inscryption.” The game consists of three acts, and the multiple ways to build the player’s deck allow for new ways to play the game despite the one underlying story.
“Inscryption” has an alternate-reality game (ARG) element as well. There are moments where the real-life player can access found footage of card-game reviewer, Luke Carder, who is under the pseudonym, “The Lucky Carder.” As the player progresses through the game, more videos about Luke and “Inscryption” as a game within the story are revealed.
Daniel Mullins, the developer of the game, created “Inscryption” during the 2018 Ludum Dare 43 game jam, where the theme was “sacrifices must be made.” At the time, Mullins took inspiration from the sacrifice mechanic in “Magic: The Gathering,” a digital and tabletop card game. He submitted “Inscryption” to the game jam under the title “Sacrifices Must Be Made,” and later released the game on itch.io that December.
Eventually, Mullins decided to flesh out the game into “Inscryption” as it is today, releasing the game on Windows in 2021 and on other platforms the year after. He even released a developed mini-expansion of the game on March 17, 2022, called “Kaycee’s Mod,” where the player can endlessly play through Act I’s card game without having to play through the storyline of “Inscryption.” In this expansion, the player can unlock new abilities and cards to take on tougher challenges.
Although most of the characters in “Inscryption” do not have any voice lines, each character has their own unique subtitles. With the help of an atmospheric soundtrack and the use of multiple art styles, “Inscryption” feels like a story that lures players into its world for hours of gameplay.