HANDS-OFF PREVIEW: ‘Inkbound’ Looks To Be An Interesting Blend of Genres

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Inkbound Preview

Inkbound is a new co-op roguelike from the developers at Shiny Shoe. the team previously made its name known with 2020’s roguelike Monster Train. To help potential players better understand what to expect from their newest title, I was invited to watch a hands-off preview hosted by the studio’s creative director, Andrew Krausnick. 

The preview began with a look at Inkbound’s social space, Atheneum. The area allows players to interact with one another, gather a group, and prepare for their next run. There is a full text chat for players to connect with one another, quests to pick up, and NPCs to talk to. Inbound is an online-only game that can be played solo, but for the preview, there was already a duo ready to tackle a run in the Inkwell. 

As players progress through the game they will unlock new character classes to play and experiment with in group compositions. The first class shown in the preview was the Magma Miner. This class was described as a tank option that was able to withstand extreme amounts of damage for their group while putting out solid damage numbers from up close to enemies. 

The second class that I got the opportunity to see in action was Weaver. This class paired well with the Magma Miner because it was a ranged class that focused on grouping enemies together with spells so that they and their teammates can hit multiple of them at once. This worked well to keep the enemies around the Magma Miner at all times. 

After a brief overview of the classes, both players entered the random-generated dungeon that would make up their run, known as the Inkwell. After a brief tutorial, they each get to pick from three randomized cards, called Vestiges. Like many roguelikes, these modified their characters’ abilities or stats to influence their build and make them adapt. 

The options that I could see included removing the cooldowns of movement abilities, dealing free damage to a random enemy at the start of each turn, and reducing the cooldown duration of magic abilities by interacting with the environment during battles. While none of the three cards in the preview were super impactful, they did say that having a large variety of possible builds for every class is very important to the development team to keep things fresh and push players to adapt throughout the run. This is also helped by Augmentations that can be found during runs to allow players to change or unlock new abilities for their class. 

After selecting their Vestiges, the two players entered their first area, Garden’s Edge. The area was grassland with a lot of plant life and hedge walls that divided it into smaller sections. Here we got our first real taste of Inkbound’s interesting combat system. 

Ahead of the demo, the game was described as a mix of MMOs, MOBAs, and roguelikes, and that influence mostly takes shape in the combat. When a combat encounter begins the players are locked into an arena with the enemies for turn-based combat.

However, turn-based combat is non-traditional as players play simultaneously. During their turn players are able to move around freely and spend a pool of mana to perform their abilities. Since players go simultaneously they have to communicate with one another during their turns to coordinate their positioning and abilities. It is in the abilities that one can see the influence of MOBAs on Inkbound. The ones shown during the preview were primarily skill shots, and the developers made sure to emphasize that fans of MOBAs should see a lot to love in the range of skills and abilities in the game. After the players take their turn, the enemies go and the process repeats until one side is killed. 

During the preview, the developers also touched on their larger vision for Inkbound following its release next year. The team behind the game hopes to continue supporting it following its release with seasonal updates and battle passes. Krausnick did make sure to emphasize that the microtransaction elements of these updates will be entirely cosmetic and not pay-to-win.

There is still a lot that remains to be seen regarding Inkbound ahead of its release. The number of available classes, the game’s world, and just how deep its combat system ultimately is will all end up determining just how successful of a roguelike it is. However, Inkbound looks like it could be a breath of fresh air to the roguelike genre. 

Inkbound releases in 2023 on PC. 

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