When they’re not busy safe-guarding ancient secrets, The Inkulinati, Masters of the Living Ink, draw out riveting battles in the margins of medieval manuscripts. A delightful indie strategy game both developed and published by Yaza Games, Inkulinati takes inspiration for its art style from actual historical drawings depicting quirky animals and their hilarious antics. Inkulinati isn’t set to release to Steam until 2021, but Yaza Games has been kind enough to let us dip our quill in the proverbial ink bottle to get a glimpse of their creative world. This is our hands-on preview of Inkulinati.
Welcome to the Inkulinati
You’ve heard tales of the Knights Templar and the secretive holy women that carried the heavy burdens of divine knowledge. Now, you get to meet members of the Inkulinati; a hidden order composed of Masters of the Living Ink that command intimidating, hand-drawn animal armies.
At its core, Inkulinati is a turn-based strategy game that pits these colorful characters against each other at the behest of their masters. You take control of one of the Inkulinati and ready your quill to do head-to-head battle, or in this case, page to page, with another of your order.
As with most strategy games, the goal of Inkulinati is to absolutely devastate your opponent. Since you’re drawing your armies right into the margins of the manuscript, the resource you’re using is straight-up called Ink. Ink is used to summon more creatures to the battlefield and perform a variety of actions like praying (awards a bonus to damage in the next round) and moving around the page. Each round you’ll need to manage your ink supply to ensure you have enough animal soldiers to protect your Tiny Inkulinati. If someone manages to break through your ranks and get to that little guy, it’s over.
Inkulinati has several delightful features that shake up the traditional turn-based strategy combat.
Take the Battle into Your Own Hands
Just because you’re their creator doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines while the enemy donkeys blow their butt-trumpets in your face. Arm yourself-with, well…your arms! Inkulinati allows you to openly smash other drawings with your bare fist and move pieces around the battlefield. So take advantage of that and decimate your opponent.
The Tiny Inkulinati is a representative of your character, and your main piece on the page. As is the case with most books, the pages and drawings are rendered in 2D, so you can only go left, right, up, and down. This remains true for the Tiny Inkulinati who can only move one space at a time. Remember when I said that you can move pieces around the battlefield? If a space is occupied when you try to move an enemy’s piece, that character will move to the next adjacent space. If there isn’t a space…they will soar right off the edge of the page in hilarious, brutal fashion.
I don’t even know where to begin with the hilarious character design of the units you’ll command in battle. Inkulinati claims that the bizarre animals you command are actually based on historical drawings of the same concept. Sword-wielding dogs, butt trumpet donkeys, man-eating snails are just a few of the comical troops you can draw into being.
At the beginning of various stages, living ink splotches are scattered throughout the page. If a character ends their turn here, they will gain more ink. More ink, means more soldiers, and more chaos to conjure. Something to note, however, is that there is a hard cap of 5 soldiers that can be out at a time. This is probably for the best, because the page can become cluttered pretty quickly with an army of bunnies and dogs occupying the ground and battlements.
Each time a character perishes, they drop a pool of living ink at their feet, and the race is on to conquer the resource before your enemy.
If this sounds like a leisurely battle between equals, you are wrong. After a set amount of turns, the hellfire of the apocalypse breaks loose, ravaging the edges of the battlefield and forcing your Tiny Inkulinati ever-inwards. If your character ends its turn in the flames, that’s the end of the game. Remember, the ultimate goal is to protect your Tiny Inkulinati. However, the same goes for your enemy. There are a few units that have the ability to shove other units, so you can actually push your enemy back into the flames and hurry their fiery demise.
While the battle rages on, the story of these quirky characters write themselves on the very pages that you’re fighting. As each unit attacks, a new line of text emerges describing the hilarious and dramatic events that unfold.
Inkulinati is a fantastic, creative game. You can tell that a lot of love and energy has been put into its unique characters and mechanics. Additionally, I’m a huge history buff, so seeing more games take inspiration from factual events and artifacts is such a nice change of pace. Alternatively, if you’re also interested in other cheeky games rooted in history, take a look at our Astrologaster Review.
One of the advertised features that isn’t quite ready yet to demo, is the single-player campaign that lets you battle figures like Dante Alghieri and Death itself. That alone has me pretty excited for the future of Inkulinati. So far, the matches are already entertaining and challenging on their own, but throw some more historical figures in there and I’m hooked. How about Joan-could we get Joan of Arc? On second thought, maybe not. I doubt she wants to be anywhere near fire.
Since Inkulinati won’t be released until 2021, head on over to Steam to add it to your wishlist!
A product key was provided for the purpose of a preview.