Stories and video games have always gone hand in hand. Like, there are the stories you tell friends about a super-satisfying kill shot in Call of Duty, or maybe the twisted narratives you make up while raiding in an MMO. Of course, most videogame narratives act as a chassis to build a game on. Then there’s Shiny Shoe’s Inkbound, in which stories generate worlds.
More than a Genre Mashup
As a developer, Shiny Shoe is all about combining genres and making the sum better than its parts. This is certainly true of the team’s earlier Monster Train. It remains a monster hit, thanks to the clever alchemy of deck building and tower defense mechanics. Similarly, Inkbound tosses together a salad of turn-based tactical combat, 4-player co-op social play, high fantasy aesthetics and roguelite mechanics. Recently the team from Shiny Shoe spent some time showing off their newest title with some hands-off gameplay.
While Inkbound isn’t expected until 2023, it’s clear the game already has a lot of character. Although maybe best played by up to four adventurers, Inkbound can be a solo experience — albeit a more challenging one — as well. The game takes place in the land of Atheneum. It’s a world of disparate, procedurally generated environments, each generated by a story. The world and its stories are unraveling and your task is to defeat the evil force behind it and bind the stories and worlds back together.
Each run takes the player through a series of relatively small indoor and outdoor zones, each area culminating in a mini-boss. Because Inkbound is a roguelite, a party wipe during any the 30-40 minute runs ends back at the starting hub but character progress and upgrades are persistent.
Mechanically, Inkbound’s fast-paced battles feel like they’re in a grey area between real-time and turn-based. Combat is fast and fluid as party members move around the space to find the optimal position, yet the action can be paused to cue up the next attack. Once everyone has used their action points, the turn is over and the foes attack. Movement in Inkbound is not hex or grid-based, so everything flows naturally. The game highlights areas of effects and weapon ranges to help with managing attacks.
Between the variety of weapons, spells and consumables available to your party, combat looks like it will be full of energy, flash and fun. While Inkbound isn’t the same kind of deck-builder that Monster Train was, there are still tons of upgrades and loot to collect that augment different aspects of play. Not every quest involves combat. It looks like players can expect a variety of tasks as part of each world/story.
Characters are quirky and colorful variants on mages, damage dealers and healers. The developers suggest there will be hundreds of builds to explore. Both in the range of weapons, names and environments, expect Shiny Shoe’s characteristic humor, groany-bad puns and general lighthearted vibe. Inkbound looks to have some seriously interesting combat and an engaging narrative, but the mood is bright, colorful and not at all grim or dark.
Inkbound is service-based, so there will be frequent updates, challenges, changes and season events. Shiny Shoe promises that “no two days will be the same.”
There’s no set release date for Inkbound, which arrives on PC-only in 2023. Whether solo or in a quartet, Inkbound’s recipe of speedy tactical action, questing and roguelite mechanics looks like a tasty combination.
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