PAX Online: Inkulinati
You know when you see those impressive, breathtaking, larger than life paintings that make you pause in wonder? This isn’t quite that, and I mean that in a good way. No, Inkulinati may be inspired by classic art, but it’s the weird stuff from 700 years ago that was drawn in the margins of books and documents. Any time you see those strangely proportionate animals doing oddly anthropomorphic things, THAT is what this game is about and its quite entertaining to say the least.
During my time with the game at PAX I played as Godfrey, a knight who controls an army of dogs, against Hildegard, a nun who commands rabbits. Inkulinati are masters of “the living ink” in that whatever they draw comes to life. Naturally they use this skill to do battle on paper. Despite its absurdity, somewhere in there is a pretty solid game. I was only able to try the bare bones version but they assure me there will be a full campaign with a customizable hero where you take on legends across the map.
Let Loose the Dogs of Inky War
You’ll use a renewable resource of ink to draw soldiers, move them around the page, and try to topple your enemy leader either by killing them, pushing them off the edge of the book (the level) or letting the apocalypse deal with them. In the demo this meant a fire broke out and you would have one turn to move your hero out of the way – displayed hilariously by a real life hand coming on screen and just pushing them over to the next space. After my first skirmish I unlocked the Donkey Bard who can blast a trumpet with his butt to paralyze enemies and give allies a second action on their turn. It is absolutely ludicrous yet at the same time a core and valuable mechanic. Despite having this “advantage” of a new support unit, the fires struck once again and we had to get ever closer to the center of the book to avoid the flames.
There are multiple stages to play on adding depth to the page with new platforms to climb, ink pools to claim for extra resources, and every action that is taken is written into the background of the page like an epic story. Inkulinati is primarily built for its PvP and unlockable options like upgraded units and new maps, but it also features a simple AI opponent to take on as well while you learn the basics. I’m still not quite sure what to think of Inkulinati after walking away from it, but I do know I had a blast playing it. The absurd humor of the game is almost Monty-Python levels of weird, but its toned down enough not to fundamentally break the fact this is still a complex, turn based strategy game that just happens to have funny/weird/awkward art.
Inkulinati is a prime example of a developer taking an idea and running with it into a weird and beautiful direction. It might not be for everyone, but it is incredibly accessible and varied enough it won’t quite play the same way twice. I would like to see what that campaign has to offer but as it stands having only seen the multiplayer, it’s at least fun for a half dozen rounds of hilarity, backstabbing, fires, destruction, and butt trumpets.
Inkulinati is set for release in 2021 and will be launching on PC and Nintendo Switch with the possibility for other platforms in the future. For more information check out the game’s official website, and be sure to keep it locked on COGconnected for all things PAX Online.