If you enjoyed Pentiment, Inkulinati’s cheeky ink-based strategy is a great history lesson
I loved the medieval mystery Obsidian Pentiment when it was released last November, and part of my admiration was for its incredible art style. It was as if the development team had dug up a bunch of 16th century manuscripts, scanned the delicate pages, and then brought them fully to life.
Pentiment was clearly made by a team that had a deep love for the time period, and the same can be said for Inculinati, a 2D turn-based strategy game that also uses medieval illuminated drawings. But Yaza Games have taken a slightly different direction with the atmosphere of Inculinati by adding a whole bunch of cheeky humor. You wouldn’t think it would fit the stuffy nature of religious manuscripts, but actually those monks were pretty cheeky people, and the humor of Inculinat is done in a way that stays completely true to the source material, fart jokes and others.
Here’s a quick history lesson. It turns out that a daily routine of prayer, manuscript writing, and other prayers would make medieval European monks somewhat bored. These monks, also known as luminaries, sometimes drew silly little cartoons in the margins of their manuscript pages as little jokes that other monks would understand. Usually associated with animals, they may feature rabbits wielding swords, donkeys playing lutes, snails eating humans; you know, weird stuff monk.
Where Pentiment’s art style is used to reflect the time period, Yaka Games is really embracing the humor these monks from the Middle Ages had with Inculinat. His childish antics come directly from the hundreds of medieval fringes the team has tackled and brought to brilliant, animated reality. And these monks were rude. I wonder what 16th century monks would say if they saw their memes brought to life 700 years later.
This cheekiness carries over into the game. Inculinate is a turn-based strategy game where you take on the role of an illuminator who uses magical ‘living ink’ to paint doodles and bring them to life. The creatures you draw act as your army of miniatures, which you use to defeat other armies of luminaries. The first luminary to lower the other to zero wins. It’s a monk vs. monk throw down with ink and goblet.
Honestly, I’m finding the combat a bit difficult so far. I haven’t spent much time with the game yet, and Inculinati requires you to understand its many rules relatively quickly. After just three battles to get the hang of the basic strategy gameplay, you’ll be thrust into your first boss fight against your mentor, a lighting master. No pressure then. The game is currently in Early Access after launching earlier this week, so with feedback and time, these balancing issues will be ironed out – so I’m not too worried. But the one thing that Yaza Games scores from the start is the animation and humor.
There are cute little rabbit soldiers that carry giant swords, donkey bards that can disorient enemies by shoving a horn up their ass and playing with it, ugly gargoyle creatures that can explode, hitting nearby enemies, and cats bored bishops who spur units into battle through prayer. I like Sir Snail – the deadliest of them all – who can kill a troop with one shot in a giant chew. When you hit enemies, they let out a screech and fall to the ground in an unseemly fall complete with a delightful splashing sound.
There’s something super Monty Python about the atmosphere, especially when the lighting gets involved with their special abilities. They can paint more reinforcements, move troops across the field, and crush enemy units. When you select these options, a giant photorealistic hand appears in battle, granting your wishes. I like to summon the illuminator to aggressively strike enemy units while the hand hovers momentarily over the unsuspecting troop until the death spike is released, causing them to scream in annoyance.
Inculinat is very different for a strategy game, and I like the features of the game more than actually playing it at the moment. Maybe I need a little more time to wrap my head around his systems – like when is the best time to strategically fart. You can find Inculinati on Steam and it’s part of Xbox Game Pass.