EARLY ACCESS REVIEW: ‘Inkbound’ Takes Roguelikes Online (PC)

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Inkbound — But Why Tho

Fresh off their hit game Monster Train, developers Shiny Shoe are determined to take their distinct approach to games online with Inkbound. Billed as an online multiplayer roguelike, Inkbound is a turn-based approach to the roguelike genre with a beautiful coat of pain that has some real potential. For an early access game sure to continue to grow, what I’ve seen so far inspires confidence.

In the world of Inkbound, players are tasked with entering various stories located in the Atheneum library to travel to other worlds. Each book in the library represents a different world with unique challenges and enemies to overcome. This gives a great amount of variety and replayability for players looking for new ways to clear challenging fights in an ever-expanding world.

Once players enter a new world, they are faced with increasingly challenging battles. These battles take place in a turn-based setting that allows players the freedom to move around in real-time while selecting the moves they want to use. It is a neat little system that didn’t take me long to get the hang of, and it already feels quite polished right off the bat. One of the most underrated parts of this combat system is that different moves will flash with a flame emblem to let players know the next time they use the move, it will be a critical hit. This useful piece of information helped me plan out my attacks in the most efficient way possible. It’s small additions like that that will make combat easier to pick up for more casual players, which is an excellent way to grow the potential player base.

Growing a player base is going to be vital for Inkbound since the game is not nearly as approachable when playing solo. That is not to say that the game is not worth playing on your own, but the experience of playing with friends was exponentially better than playing by myself. Being able to sync up attacks with a full squad of four was extremely satisfying.

The downside of this is that, in its current state, there is no easy way to form a party with strangers. It is something Shiny Shoe has already said they are working on, so I expect that experience to change very soon, but from the start, it is really only feasible to play with a pre-formed party of friends. An upgraded matchmaking system will also only be useful if the player pool grows, but the core combat and setting of Inkbound have me confidently believing the game will see a relatively strong base of players.

Where Inkbound really blew me away was the presentation. I knew going in that not everything was going to be perfect mechanically, but I did not expect the actual game to look so polished. The art direction for the characters and settings will be familiar to fans of Monster Train, but Shiny Shoe really took things up a notch here with excellent 3D animation. There is also some really great voice acting that Shiny Shoe has already said will have even more lines added going forward. The great performances really help make the world come to life and such a whimsical and enjoyable way.

Inkbound has a ton of potential as an early access game with a solid gameplay loop and beautiful animation. It will need a strong player base if the online focus is going to pay off, but what I have seen makes me really excited for players to see the wonderful world Shiny Shoe has created.

Inkbound launches in early access on Steam on May 22nd.

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