Inkulinati is the latest title to join the stylized selection of games on Xbox Game Pass. In 2022, with the release of Pentiment and with the recent Developer_Direct, they shadow-dropped the brilliant-looking and stylish Hi-Fi Rush that has taken the internet by storm with its graphics and unique gameplay. I’m proud to report that Inkulinati from Polish Studio, Yaza Games, has joined that roster, and we look forward to what the final game has to offer to fans. Here’s our Inkulinati Preview, where we talk about everything it offers.
Inkulinati is a 2-D Strategy game akin to X-COM if the entire game was also a side scroller. The title touts a strong visual aesthetic that will not take your graphics card on much of a stress test but will capture you with its brilliant and simplistic beauty. Blending in real-life actors in the cutscenes to depict the medieval era cast of characters you play as and adding a layer of immersion with the quill connected by various hands throughout your adventure to draw the fine ink on the parchment is truly a masterwork of art and graphics here.
The imagery here is simple and clean, but it is also very diverse from the range of units, bosses, and your own character. There is a lot of variety here, and the effort is truly visible on screen and on parchment, where the gameplay takes place. This is where the visuals were the most important part of the game to enhance the player’s experience and enjoyment of the title.
As you advance in the game, the parchment also becomes more complex, as does the background on which the parchment is placed. This is again another attention to detail showing how much care the developers have put toward the title. Inkulinati is a constantly evolving experience, and how they want to show various setpieces on parchment and off-parchment to improve the player’s immersion into a colorful yet 2-dimensional world which is a rarity in today’s push for hyper-realistic graphics versus a clean and minimal aesthetic which this game does in spades.
If you enjoy visually appealing and rich games, this is one title that you should immediately grab. Otherwise, you can grab it on Game Pass when it launches on January 31st.
The game is punishing and is very complex to learn as there are a plethora of mechanics to understand in being the best of the best in inking combat. The basic objective is to control the 2D board and either push off the enemy from the platform you are on or have your units attack the enemy until they die.
Although your enemy will not simply sit there and take your hits, they are equally capable of dishing out damage unto you and pushing you off the world with their own units as well. Even on the easiest difficulty, the battles require meticulous planning and a lot of strategies. There is a tutorial, but even that requires you to learn the mechanics by heart if you have a chance of getting through the levels without repeating them for hours on end.
Drawn to Life
It’s worth mentioning that each of your units has its own procedurally generated name. Some are simple, and others are funny quips, punchlines, or other clever names, giving each of your units their own identity rather than swordsman number 1 or archer number 2. This little detail made me care a lot more about my units.
You always need to be on your toes because the tide of battle can always turn against you if you’re not careful. After you ink a soldier or unit into existence and utilize your ink for that turn, you have to end your turn to replenish your ink and allow your units to attack. This means that there is a lot of planning involved in the placement of your units as they are not readily available to attack most of the time. This helps put an emphasis on the importance of placing your units in the right place.
The Quill Is Mightier Than The Sword
Combat is also a very fun part of the game as you can make attacks that face your enemy and even ones where you don’t have to face them, such as letting a fart out to disorient them for a turn. If you do decide to go face-to-face with an enemy, you will have to stop an arrow at the number you wish to hit your enemy with, and this number can vary from unit to unit. However, the combat is also a very fun element of the game, which is also a unique element to its credit.
Similar to other titles in the genre, you have a limited amount of ink, which you can replenish through various parts in the environment presented as ink blots by having your units, or your character moved to pick them. You utilize the ink to build soldiers and other combatants to fight for you, while you focus on fortifying a strong defense for your own character in the game.
Battle for the Pages
You and the enemy of the stage take turns exchanging blows to each other’s units until one gets overpowered and is the victor of the stage. However, there are some twists here. There are opportunities here for you to cheese the battle and use a mechanic in the game which lets you push the enemy off the stage or into a bonfire at the edge of the stage and get immediate victory. This is rare and difficult to pull off, especially on higher difficulties but is also a fun way to end what would undoubtedly be a very challenging battle, particularly in the later stages.
As you progress through the game, it becomes a whole different deal. You will have to go through various levels with new obstacles such as ladders, doors, and other ways the environment will change the way combat will occur. In addition, you will also get control of new units, as will your enemies. The game constantly evolves and will keep you on high alert at all times. This is a game that will take a long time to master, but each victory feels more satisfying than scoring a victory in any battle royale game.
When I say that the game has a plethora of complex mechanics to understand and master, I mean it. The tutorial section is vast and expansive and allows you to master all of these. This is something I highly recommend to first-time players of the genre and even new players. This game is played best when you fully understand how to utilize all of the tools in your artistic hands to their fullest potential.
The audio is a great match for the visual part of the game, from the music and the combat. You’ll hear the clanging of swords and the sound of an arrow firing, backed with era-appropriate music.
The audio helps greatly with the immersion and is a great way to be fully invested in what’s happening around you while feeling like you are legitimately in the seat of the artist without having the quill in your hand.
The sound design is also one of the better parts of the game, and it complements superbly with the established aesthetic of the game, which is easily the biggest strength of the title.
Inkulinati is a title that shows it has a lot of love and detail put into every ink stroke, every level, and unit. This is a wonderful journey that truly shows appreciation for one of the finer parts of the medieval era – the arts. With a well-crafted world, the attention to detail that relates to treating the units as individuals with their own when you ink them into life. The colorful and vibrant graphics, the complex yet rewarding system, and even the music are all masterstrokes of what should go in a title that is made with attention and love at the front and center.
Inkulinati is coming to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X as an early access title on 31 Jan 2023. It is also coming to Xbox Game Pass.
What did you think of our Inkulinati Preview? Share your thoughts in the comments below.