Inscryption – video game review

In my experience as an average video game consumer you don’t find indie gems, somehow they find you. While I love a game that is strange and beautiful I feel terrible for not combing through itch.io looking for these undiscovered masterpieces. As a result of my gaming tastes coupled with laziness I often fall prey to the buzz creating indie darling of the moment. It happened with Undertale, Her Story and Return of the Obra Dinn. I’ve discovered some of my favourite games through being swept up in a wave of indie game enthusiasm. All that is to say, I have no idea how I missed Inscryption.

This game heavily relies on the element of surprise and I really don’t want to give anything away. To date I have played 83 hours of this relatively linear game, most of that in the beta of ‘Kaycee’s mod’.

Note: I highly recommend getting access to the beta if it is still on offer. I had a lot of fun.

Are there any elements of the ecoGothic?

In act one? Tonnes. Your opponent in this strange game of cards is an ecoGothic spectacle if ever I saw one. His role is performative in a very theatrical sense, donning masks to represent different characters with different relationships to their natural environment (angler, woodcarver, my boy the mycologist etc.) All these channelled identities use the environment as resource, but they are so heavily immersed in the process of procurement and that we are not dealing with processes of industry. Each one is an other worldly spectacle that is both unsettling and captivating. The mechanics of the card game itself coupled with the symbolism of sacrifice make the player complicit in the deaths of countless animals, weighing the value of their lives through a system represented by drops of blood. Inscryption leaves you in no doubt as to what you are doing; you are sacrificing ‘cards’ or creatures to further your own cause or ambition. There is a lot to be said about the animal symbolism and the role of your opponent as the keeper and collector of cards, but such conversations are near impossible without spoiling the game.

Should you play it?

Yes, you should.

Will you enjoy it?

I guess that depends on what sort of player you are. If you like consistent games that don’t try to mess with your perception of the medium then you probably won’t like it. And if you want instant gratification of your choices rather than a slow burn then you may find it dull. I am by no means calling this high brow or intellectual, but it is certainly one of those games that rewards persistence and adaptability. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It took me a bit to get the hang of what was expected of me as a player, but once I was in, I was in. It is an interactive narrative experience rather that a straight forward card building game, and judging by some of the angry reviews citing ‘false advertising’, many deck building enthusiasts are not. up. for. that.

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