2021 was an interesting year for my favorite games. In any other year, #3 would have probably been my #1 pick, but despite being one of the most original games released, it just didn’t quite make it there.
Daniel Mullens has made a living on defying expectations with his games since Pony Island first came out to confuse the heck out of people. With Inscryption, this is the most realized take in my opinion of using the gameplay to facilitate the storytelling and direction he wanted things to go. The game is a game within a game, within an ARG.
It would have been very easy for Daniel to skimp on the deck building and just focus on the storytelling and aesthetics, as those elements are definitely front and center here. Instead, he managed to create a very entertaining take on deck-building that combines elements of other deck builders into its own twisted design. Like titles such as Slay the Spire and Monster Train, half the challenge is getting good cards, the other half is figuring out how to use them to just break the game in two. The simplified match structure affords you plenty of ways to create broken strategies that would have been figured out and removed in any other deck builder. Here, that’s just the logical conclusion of any run.
By itself, the deck-building would have been a fantastic game to play, but it’s the entire presentation that gets Inscryption to the top three. The entire escape room atmosphere of the cabin and the levels of hidden mysteries and secrets Daniel likes to put in his games elevate Inscryption. Just like his previous titles, there is this peek into a larger world that if you want to explore, there is certainly a rabbit hole you can go down.
So, with that said, why doesn’t it get higher on my list? As I’m typing this, there is a mod/expansion in development that may fix a lot of the issues people had with the game, and that is moving away from the concept that hooked them in the first place. The entire cabin setting, the secrets, and the haunting atmosphere are all just one part of the game. The additional parts don’t feel as complete compared to it, and the game will just end for a lot of people who don’t want to dig deeper.
With that said, there is a ton of potential given the design and structure of Inscryption to go bigger with the mechanics and atmosphere. Kaycee’s mod shows a ton of potential and there’s a chance we may be talking about a completely different game by the end of 2022.