It would be an insult to tag it as a roguelike. It would be a mistake to call it a card game. It would be myopic to dwell too long on its elements of terror, like summarizing a film entirely on the basis of its opening scene. Yes, encryption is all of that, just like a book is a collection of paragraphs, but it’s much more than that. Even the path we speak of Inscryption has a mystical quality to it. He started appearing on Polygon’s Slack channels one day, just over a week before Halloween. Several authors had tried it over the weekend and were thrilled when they returned on Monday. “Has anyone else played Inscryption?” It started slowly, then quickly: discussions grew, spoiler warnings appeared, and groups split into DMs to discuss this bizarre and confusing game with colleagues who had passed “this section”.
In other words, Inscryption had created a rare moment, and we were all so in love with it that we refused to reveal what made it so great. Regardless of our gushing, whispering praise, we trusted the game to exert its charm on newbies.
Looking back on Inscryption now, at the end of 2021, I can appreciate the game for more than the excitement it generated. It came out in a year full of roguelites, time-looping puzzles, and genre-defying hits. Nevertheless, it stands out from the competition. Its first act deftly blends the strategy of a deck-building card game with the puzzle-solving elements of an escape room. Its second part immerses us in a pixel graphic adventure that pays homage to a variety of franchises, including EarthBound and Pokémon. Its third act returns to the roguelite structure of the first chapter, but in an entirely different setting: instead of a cabin in the woods, a factory using holograms has been built.
It is at this point that the full extent of the magic trick is revealed. As we studied the nuances of the different variations of the card game, Inscryption was quietly laying out its story. Developer Daniel Mullins has diverted our attention with some of the most cliched genre cliches in video games for one thing. With the other, he created an entire cast of characters, each with their own worries, ambitions, and insecurities.
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