The horror genre is constantly evolving to keep experiences fresh. Frightening a player through an interactive experience seems like a cinch, but creating a memorable, lasting impression with fear is notably tricky. The Devolver Digital published Inscryption is one such title that, based on my brief time with its closed demo, is proving to take a unique approach to horror through a disturbing meld of unconventional mechanics.
When beginning, players are greeted by an eerie, mysterious creature whose only initial visible body parts are its eyes. It demands you play a card game with it, which hosts a relatively simple-to-understand ruleset. Each card has its own attack and health values, and they can also be sacrificed to summon more potent cards. The goal is to prevail against the nameless creature by attacking its side of the board until the literal scale tips entirely in its direction. The scale balances in accordance with how much damage is dealt on either side, making attack value incredibly vital to success.
Amidst this card game is a map players progress through. While it is linear at first, other pathways quickly become available, and the actual gameplay becomes moderately thought-provoking instead of a glorified cinematic horror experience. Players can explore the cabin between games, investigating the myriad of odd objects around like a safe, figures, and other seemingly random items. Still, the most alarming event occurs when players lose against the creature twice. Their character is taken to what seems like a different part of the cabin and is killed, with the last remanents of their existence being engraved onto a card with a name typed by the player in these final moments.
This is where the roguelite element comes into effect. Players simply control another person subjected to this devilish game afterward, with the card containing the last remnants of the previous character being usable. It is a simultaneously disturbing yet genius implementation of the rogue-lite and card battler genres melding with horror. The nightmare is seemingly infinite, and the sheer thought of continuously losing to this creature as more and more characters die makes the overall vague situation unnerving.
Inscryption’s presentation aids in this uneasy atmosphere that permeates every facet of the experience. The expertly utilized lighting doesn’t make every part of the screen unknown. Instead, just enough of the environment is shown off to depict a comprehensible setting with the terror of the supernatural and unseeable visage being just beyond sight. The sound effects of the mysterious creature’s speech are also remarkable. They aren’t overwhelmingly oppressive, which emits a precise level of confidence in attempting not to brute-force fear into the player.
While my time with it was cursory, Inscryption has already cemented itself in my mind as a unique horror title boasting a vague yet intriguing premise. This generality is coupled with a coalescence of various genres and mechanics that make the game a fresh take on fear rather than a reliance on mainstream conventions. The sublime sound and visual design only amplify the game’s charm, making me enthused for the full release.
Inscryption is releasing for PC via Steam on October 19.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.