Earlier this year, the team behind 2020's Monster Train took a step back and decided to take its roguelike experience to a different type of game. Developer Shiny Shoe is about to go from deckbuilding to online RPG with the upcoming Inkbound. The roguelike is an increasingly crowded genre, but this game looks to stand out with an imaginative world and an emphasis on teamwork. Shacknews recently got to jump in with the game's developers to try it out for ourselves.
Inkbound takes place within a storybook universe filled with exciting tales. Atheneum is the massive library that sits at its center and holds all of the universe's known stories. However, these stories are in danger, thanks to an evil and mysterious force, one that's only recognized by an inky substance. Not much is known about the ink, but it threatens to unbind Atheneum's stories through monstrous ink constructs.
In some respects, Inkbound plays like a standard turn-based RPG. There are multiple classes to choose from, which prove to be more of a foundation for the runs ahead. Instead of a more traditional leveling system, players will enter each run and draft different abilities, known as Bindings, at the beginning of run. Solo users can consider what lies ahead and select abilities that they've become attached to or ones that they feel confident in wielding. Co-op is where things get a little more fun, as ability drafting becomes more of a team effort. When playing with friends, each individual can discuss which individual compositions will best suit the team.
Inkbound also stands out through the combat system, which is a blend of real-time strategy and MOBA-style striking. Characters can move freely in order to find the best position to strike. In the case of co-op runs, teammates can act in any order. This is where another major teamwork element pops up, as players can evaluate their current builds and work towards chaining together combos. I was playing as a Magma Miner, so I wasn't so much the one setting up combos as I was completing them with my giant hammer.
Once it's time for enemies to act, players will have to be aware of how to minimize damage or keep an eye out for safe spots that allow them to avoid incoming fire entirely. While all of this sounds easy enough, Inkbound works on a mana system, so players will have to budget their movement and abilities based on how much mana they have available each turn. Certain moves will have cooldowns attached, which is another thing to consider before rushing in.
As is the case in most roguelikes, players will progress their builds through each run. In-between some battles, players can augment their abilities, which can either bolster their defense, boost their class-based abilities, up their chance for critical hits, or select any of a handful of random buffs. They might even get some passive buffs that can come in handy later in runs.
What's particularly enticing about these runs is that they don't take very long. Players can go from waves of minor enemies, to exploring the procedurally-generated layouts, to fighting boss characters in just a little under a half hour. This should be good news for those who don't have a lot of time on their hands, but still want a good online co-op experience. Those looking to invest more time in their Inkbound experience will find no shortage of lore throughout the Atheneum libary hub space, as it's filled with information and friendly characters.
The other aspect of Inkbound that Shiny Shoe hopes players will gravitate towards is the robust character creation system. From what I saw, the character models looked rudimentary, though a big part of that is because each player character is essentially a featureless blob of ink. However, there looks to be a deep customization system in place, one that the dev team hopes to build on as the game moves towards launch. The team is also looking into the battle pass system in order to provide users with cosmetic items to make their characters stand out.
Inkbound is a long way from its final manuscript, as Shiny Shoe is making preparations for a long stint in early access. Look for the early access period to kick off on PC in 2023.
This preview is based on a limited-time Steam preview build provided by the developers.