Inkulinati PC Review

A fun, surprisingly complex strategy game where you play as a medieval scribe battling against another scribe in the margins of some parchment.

By LCLupus, Posted 08 Feb 2023

Inkulinati is the first game by Yaza Games, and it is a 2D turn-based strategy game with a unique aesthetic that impacts the gameplay far more than you may immediately realize. In the game, you control an Inkulinati, a special figure of sorts who can use a substance called living ink to fight against other Inkulinati. The whole premise is that you’re essentially a medieval scribe fighting against other scribes by drawing on some parchment and dueling each other to the page-based death. It feels a little like kids doing a stickman fight in the margins of their school workbook.


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The premise is unique and interesting, and it impacts the way the Inkulinati is played in many ways that will be explored soon. However, for a basic explanation of how the game plays, you control what is basically a king piece in chess. The slow-moving Inkulinati piece cannot easily get around the page that is your map, but they can create creature pieces to fight against their enemies.

Every round in the game allows you to lay down different types of creatures you can then control. Each different type of creature in Inkulinati has its own special abilities. This is fairly standard fare in a strategy game of this kind. You see that there are no real obstacles in one particular part of the 2D map, so you put down some sword-wielding creatures to deal greater damage or you see that you’re playing on a map that has multiple levels. So you deploy some spear-wielding creatures because they can strike upwards and attack enemies that would otherwise be out of reach.

This may immediately make Inkulinati sound somewhat simplistic, and the basic premise is very simple. This kind of game is easy to learn but difficult to master as you start to unlock more creatures that you can use in battle, and each of those creatures provides you with new ways to take on your enemies. The game also increases in complexity the further into a battle you go and on the greater difficulties. 


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Inkulinati is a highly strategic game, far more so than the cutesy presentation may lead you to believe. You see, you cannot just create new creatures to fight; you need to strategically place your creatures in certain positions so that you can harvest the living ink you need to create more of them. Your AI opponent is doing the same and is bound to the same rules that you are bound to. However, placing your creatures in certain positions is also dangerous because they could be attacked in all manner of ways if they are not, in some way, protected. For instance, a creature in a heightened position, such as the “second floor” of a map, can be pushed off that floor, and they’ll die as they fall. The ability to push enemies around can take quite a long time to get used to, as it is very unusual to find in a strategy game.

To counteract the danger of moving your creatures around, often in pursuit of the living ink resource you need, there are various aids and hindrances around the map. You may find a cloud that heals you or a barrel that gets in your way yet simultaneously stops you from being pushed off a ledge. It’s up to you to decide how to fight and where to put your creatures as they battle against your rival Inkulinati.

You have been wondering what this “Inkulinati” thing actually is. Well, in Inkulinati your most crucial piece is the Inkulinati themselves. These pieces are specially named characters who have specific capabilities. For instance, one of them may have a poison-based buff system that they can unleash on their enemies. Otherwise, the Inkulinati also act as pieces that can somewhat meta-narratively interact with the parchment that serves as the battlefield.


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The Inkulinati pieces can heal their creatures, force them and enemies to move around the map, and even directly attack. All of this comes in the form of a finger or quill that enters the screen and does whatever that particular Inkulinati can do. So, there may be an enemy who’s getting a little too close to your king-like Inkulinati piece, so you decide just to smash the enemy. This then leads to a big finger entering the screen and stomping on them.

In addition, whenever a creature is created, because they are created using living ink, a hand will appear on-screen and draw them where they need to be. It’s a unique way to show this battle on the margins of ancient parchment. Furthermore, the Inkulinati piece is the most important one on the map. It cannot move like the others and pretty much just sits there and waits for the battle to be over, but if they get killed, then the whole thing is over. You lose.

This also means that Inkulinati pretty much has chess rules. You can either destroy every piece on the board to destroy your enemy or you can go straight for the rival Inkulinati piece and end the match quickly. It’s up to you how you want to proceed. It also means that there can be times, especially when you’re first learning to play when you don’t even realize that you’re too close to the edge, and then your enemy just pushes you, and you die despite having full health.


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You need to get used to watching out for every possibility, as different enemies can inflict different status effects on you or could just come along and push you off a ledge and kill you instantly. There are ways of negating an enemy’s attempts to do anything like this to you, such as by praying. Whenever a creature prays, it cannot be pushed, but it also automatically ends its turn. So, do you want to strike during that turn or prepare yourself for what might happen during your enemy’s turn?

To make matters even worse, in a match in Inkulinati, you can’t take too long to fight. Eventually, some kind of apocalyptic force is going to start consuming the blank spaces on the page, such as fire. The fire then spreads throughout the page and harms whatever is in its way, and if one of your Inkulinati pieces gets caught in the fire, you’re in trouble. It’s not like they can easily move around the map and escape the fire.

All of this together makes Inkulinati a surprisingly strategic game with a great aesthetic. However, it is worth noting that Inkulinati is in Early Access at the moment. Thanks to this, there is more content to come, and the base game, at present, is a little bare. There is a campaign mode, but it doesn’t feel like it has much variety. There are also a limited number of Inkulinati pieces for you to use at the moment, but there is enough variety to make this game worth a try.



 

The campaign mode has you journeying across an overworld map, with various stops along the way to use the gold and prestige you’ve acquired to prepare for upcoming battles in an attempt to survive and gain enough experience to overcome death eventually. There is also a dueling mode where you can go up against an Inkulinati of your choice, and it serves as the death match mode in the game. This is all there is at present, though.

Ultimately, Inkulinati is a good strategy experience that is lacking in variety at present but that should be improved over the coming months. However, it does provide a good deal of enjoyment in its present form. Furthermore, the medieval scribe aesthetic is the kind of aesthetic that hasn’t been done before, and as far as gimmicks go, it’s a pretty great one that should provide a good few laughs as you see all the ways the developers figured out to use it as part of the gameplay.
 

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Inkulinati

75/100

Platform(s): PC, XBSX, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Daedalic Entertainment
Developer(s): Yaza Games
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: Tactical, Medieval
Release Date: 2023-01-31

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