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Inkbound is an upcoming turn-based roguelike from the Monster Train devs

With up to four-player co-op

Developers Shiny Shoe are best known for their roguelike deckbuilder Monster Train, which Matt Cox slapped a Bestest Best badge onto in his review. And I got an early look at their upcoming game Inkbound, a co-op roguelike that ditches the usual realtime room-clearing for turn-based battling. From what I've seen, it looks like it has potential.

So, I didn't get my mitts on Inkbound, but did see a quick 20-minute presentation led by creative director Andrew Krausnick who took us through a portion of a run at breakneck speed. The game is very much taking the roguelike template of say, Hades or Dead Cells, but putting more of a tactical spin on combat with up to four other allies. Rather than slicing and dicing through rooms, you're making the most of the turns you're given.

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You play as a Needless, a dinky character with a magical quill who's able to manifest stories and bring them to life. Some stories are decaying because of a mysterious evil, so your job is to re-write them with force. It's a neat setup and Krausnick said that there's much more of a story focus here in comparison to Monster Train, with quests steering you through most runs.

Things start off in a hub space called Aetheneum, which is where you'll teleport back to between runs and accept new quests. You'll find a bunch of NPCs hanging out here and a portal for hopping into the Inkwell, the opening stage of a run. We spectated the melee-oriented Magma Miner, who could choose from beefy buffs and big bonks. Krausnick's co-op partner was a spell-casting Weaver, who seemed to shackle enemies and pew them down.

As things progress, you're able to add to or upgrade your abilities, gather potions, crack open chests, nab keys, and choose which areas to delve into to complete your quest. And like Monster Train, you're able to take on tougher challenges for greater rewards. From the looks of things, the combat seems like a mix of standard turn-based fare with the option to chain attacks quickly like a MOBA. You're able to move at will between turns and line yourself up for juicy hits. Abilities cost you points, big radius markers keep you updated on what will and won't hit – you know the drill. Honestly, it looked like it lacked a little punch. But! It's early days and it's impossible to truly tell whether it's one of those "easy to learn, hard to master" type deals until I give it a go myself.

A player interacts with an NPC in Inkbound's hub space, Aetheneum.
Two players fend off fiery goblins in Inkbound.
Players line up targets in Inkbound's turn-based combat system.
Choosing between three Magma Miner abilities in Inkbound.

One thing that's clear is Inkbound opting for a more chill experience overall. You aren't going to find a bunch of permanent upgrades to improve your characters across runs. Instead, it seems more focused on gathering your mates and completing quests at a manageable pace. A ranked mode is planned, though, which aims to appease players who want to see where they stack up with other players on the leaderboards.

After my whistlestop tour of the game, I've come away thinking it'll shape up to be a good time. I'm not blown away by it, as I'm unsure whether it's bringing anything that'll upend the roguelike genre, but hey, maybe that doesn't matter. All I know is that it should make for a good jaunt with some buds. And that's what really matters right?

Inkbound is due out sometime in 2023 and you can follow it over on Steam.

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