It’s interesting to think that there was a time when one of the primary services offered by the church was penning and illustrating texts. This led to a very vibrant, somewhat unusual art style in Inkulinati by Yaza Games. This is a 2D RPG where instead of having the best stats, it’s about having the best units. You’ll need to pen a number of beasts to fight across the various pages of scripture. Of course, other illustrators will stand in the way of your goal to be the best. Don’t let the quirkiness hide just how challenging this game can be.
What is Inkulinati?
Artists can serve as a great basis for adventurers and the stories that follow them. This is the deal in Inkulinati, which has you playing as an “inkulinati”. What this means is that you’re training hard to be a top-notch illustrator, which your Master believes you can become. After passing your exam, you attend a huge party where everyone is welcome, including Death. Unfortunately, things get a bit too wild, and Death accidentally kills your Master. However, the grim figure offers a chance to save your Master, if you can beat him in an Inkulinati battle. Before this happens, you need to defeat several other inkulinati to prove your skill. Looks like you’ll be participating in a whole other kind of quick draw.
The Sharpness of Inkulinati
Starting up this game, there are definitely elements that jump out. The most prominent is the art style that Inkulinati is using. It really does capture the feel of religious texts and scriptures while also putting a comical spin on it. Using them as references, it comes up with a lot of different creatures that environments that seem to come right off the page. This works in its favor since the whole game does take place on pages and you’re playing as the artist who’s drawing on them. As a result, it feels meta while also pulling you into the strange world that it creates, where everything is silly yet doesn’t feel out of place.
The way it approaches the roguelike style of games is interesting too. Aside from the character you choose at the beginning, it’s all about the RNG. However, this time around, it’s about being able to create the best army while protecting the representation of the artist you chose. You’re trying to collect a diverse range of units while collecting fourth-wall-breaking powers and passive bonuses. You never know what kind of arena you’re going to face or what the opposing artist will be planning. On top of that, there’s a nice mix of event encounters to keep things interesting while also introducing some humorous elements to the narrative.
Finally, there’s the degree of challenge. This game is a lighthearted strategy affair that isn’t just about having the best toys. There are many layers to gameplay revolving around the types of units, the powers you have, objects in the arena, and more. It also causes you to think in a certain way, since your character is a unit in battles that doesn’t actually fight and needs protection. There aren’t many opportunities to recover health, and on top of that, you need to protect your artist from boredom over drawing too many of the same units. The way the title turns comedic elements into curious gameplay is quite creative.
Spilling Some Ink
Though Inkulinati is a refreshing take and stylistic take on a strategic roguelike, there are a couple of slip-ups. The biggest is that challenge can be a bit unfair, especially considering how long some of the battles can last. It also doesn’t help when you meet new enemy types that make you jealous and can seemingly target your character from anywhere on the screen. This is definitely a game where restarts will be quite common and doing multiple runs isn’t as fast as other roguelike games.
Then there’s the UI. While the game is pretty generous regarding how much coverage you can have over the field, it’s not always the easiest to read. You can get used to it over a number of sessions, but it’s not easy to look at. There are so many highlights and colors that it may take you a moment to orient yourself when they pop up.
Become an Inkulinati
Inkulinati is a 2D strategy-RPG roguelike game about using illustrators to fight other illustrators on parchment. It’s creative, challenging, quirky, and enjoyable to view. It does suffer from RNG-difficulty balance and UI issues, but it’s possible to overcome these with time. If you’re able to do that, then you can become a top inkulinati just like me! And if we need to determine who’s truly the best, we’ll just have to draw for it.
Will Quick is a freelance media wizard living in Spain. When he's not gaming or writing, he's doodling comics or whatever else pops in his head.