Review in Progress | Inkulinati (Game Preview)
I have to admit that, as someone who’s practically Italian (I wasn’t born in Italy, but I lived most of my life here), this game’s name is just really funny and awkward. While I can’t go into extreme detail, let’s just leave it at the fact that the title is way to close to a term that would imply some people got some… uhm… intercourse… from… behind. That’s as far as I can go without getting in trouble, and I’ll make sure no jokes or puns will ever reference this in this review in progress. It’s in progress, because this title, that’s also launching to Game Pass, is currently in Game Preview, and is still going to get a lot of content before the supposed 1.0 launch. So – let’s assimilate it all and get behind the quirks of Inkulinati!
Inkulinati is actually and obviously a word play that fuses the global elite of the illuminati and the word “ink”, as this small Polish team Yaza Games came up with a clever idea. In short, the player duels against the AI or an actual player in a turn-based strategy set in a 2D landscape viewed from the side, with sometimes multiple stories, obstacles and an assortation of events and traps that can make the combat more hectic. Most of the combat revolves around the so-called Inkulinati, who are these magical narrators of sort on the field that can effectively draw/spawn new fighters out of thin air, and also push around opponents, or even break the fourth wall and hit an opponent using a real-life finger from outside the screen.
This, of course, makes somewhat sense due to the game’s visuals and lore, which see the duelist Inkulinatis battle in front of a giant canvas, drawing their assembled fighters and then moving them around with their hands (or manus, if you prefer). The units themselves are, frankly, hilarious. Inspired by medieval marginalia, these characters are either human or animal-based and closely mimic the less serious drawings of the times, with rather abstract combinations like dogs with arrows and flags, rabbit knights and more. Naturally, expect the usual scissors-paper-rock balancing of units, with some excelling at ranged attacks but being virtually useless close-up and vice versa, and every unit having their preferred targets and weaknesses.
After a handy tutorial, the direction most players shall take is the campaign. This one combines pre-determined events and situations with procedurally generated encounters and even story beats, and sees the player customize their Inkulinati and assembling a selection of units they can then spawn during battle. Players can then unlock further Inkulinatis, fighters, and a usual selection of perks and bonuses to further boost their run. And, of course, future runs: players can lose all their progress if everyone dies, and restart perhaps with a different set of fighters. This tutorial barely even scratches the surface of more advanced game situations, such as when there’s multiple “rails” (more on that later) on top of each other for more complicated battlefields.
The battlefields themselves reserve a lot of surprises. Their “flat” side-view amasses plenty of traps and unusual game mechanics to consider when pondering your moves. Various slots of the grid feature collectible ink, which gives the player a bonus towards evoking further units in the battle. Lethal flames and other traps can also pop up from time to time, and perhaps most interestingly the entire battlefield is “on rails”. What this means is that no two units can be located in the same slot, so if one happens to move (out of their own volition or thanks to an enemy push), they will not stop until they find an empty spot. And the side of most maps features the end of the sheet, the void, where units and even the Inkulinatis can fall to a certain death. More than one battle I had where the winner seemed certain have been turned around by an unexpected push into nothingness of a key unit.
Ready for more
Inkulinati is now available in Game Preview and on Game Pass, and it’s already a very unique turn-based strategy game. The game’s visuals fall into the surprisingly popular recent trend of medieval art, such as the one found in Pentiment, yet offering a compelling combo where players are tasked with assembling a deadly army of anthropomorphic animal soldiers – all this with a highly replayable campaign, much to unlock and even a PvP mode, though that one’s unfortunately limited to local play only. This is a review in progress because the game itself is in development still, but fans of turn-based strategy should absolutely keep an eye on this one.