Inkbound review

by on May 17, 2024
Reviewed On
Also Tested On
Release Date

April 9, 2024.


There aren’t many games I play where I feel concerned about how difficult it will be to write a review while I play them. Most games I play for review fit neatly into a couple boxes: for a narrative game you write about the story, for a platformer you talk about how the controls feel, and so on and so forth. But some games are just built different. They either don’t fit the mould, or they’re just so dense with content and mechanics that figuring out how to discuss them as a whole is exhausting. Well Inkbound falls into the latter half of that statement, and attempting to explain why you should definitely play it is going to be a hell of a task.

Set in a world where writing is a powerful form of magic and can be brought to life, you play as a being known as a Needless who with a bit of luck might be able to save all the books in the world from being destroyed. You’ll learn all about this world between roguelike runs by talking to people in the hub world, in a sort of Hades style. The Supergiant mega hit clearly inspired this roguelike RPG in a number of ways, but the combat isn’t one of them.

You see, despite the isometric perspective that feels made for the action RPG combat Diablo made famous, Inkbound is turn-based. Each of the game’s many classes (four you begin the game with, and four more you can unlock) starts with three different abilities, or Bindings, that you can use as long as you have the Will to do so, and by moving around the battlefield you can ensure you hit as many enemies as possible with them. It gets a hell of a lot more complex than that though, as you’ll find out soon enough.


Each class in Inkbound has a different gimmick which you’ll need to take advantage of to succeed in battle. The most basic of these is that of the Magma Miner, who every ten turns builds enough heat for a massively powerful attack. Then there’s the Mosscloak who gains shuriken for using certain attacks then can unleash them all for massive damage, or the Obelisk that gains shield while attacking for a bit of extra built in defence. Mastering these on top of the different movesets of each class is important if you want to start succeeding on a few runs, but you might need some luck too.

Like any good roguelike, Inkwell is packed with loads of ways to upgrade your character as you go. Binding upgrades are regularly acquired that will add extra effects to your attacks, ranging from everything from extra damage or status effects to increasing the area of attack so you can take down more baddies at once. You have room for two extra bindings on top of your starting moves too, and grabbing the ability to block incoming damage or reduce all your cooldowns will make you much harder to kill.

Alongside making your bindings better, you’ll also collect items called Vestiges to provide you with passive buffs that can really bring your build together. There are Vestiges for almost everything – Vestiges that grant you an extra Will on your first turn, Vestiges that boost your critical change, Vestiges that grant you damage resistance, if you can think of an effect then chances are Inkbound has it in a Vestige.


Now, having items that grant you a few buffs is nothing new for a roguelike, but there’s much more depth to it in Inkwell. Each Vestige you equip grants you points into a variety of categories, and by gaining enough of a specific type you’ll activate a set bonus. The effects you gain from these sets are often ridiculously powerful, but with only seven slots to equip Vestiges, it’s gaining enough points to unlock them isn’t easy.

That’s where the ability to destroy Vestiges comes in. When done, this removes them from your inventory but also grants you double their set points permanently. It rarely feels good to destroy something that helps so much in battle, but for the longer term benefit of some seriously powerful set bonuses it’s often very much worth it.

The complexities of combat will take up a lot of your time in Inkbound, but there’s also so much more to this dense roguelike. There are ridiculous amounts of quests for you to complete as you go through runs, that give you loads of extra experience for your overall account level, unlock new items for future runs and occasionally even new classes. Having little tasks to check off as you go makes playing through the game over and over all the more compelling, and kept me invested for countless hours.


There’s so much to Inkbound I haven’t even mentioned yet, too. Like the fact the whole game can be played cooperatively with up to three other Needless buddies, or that there are all manner of unlockable cosmetics and even a daily quest waiting for you every time you boot the game. Inkbound is a game you could feasibly play every day for the rest of the year if you wanted, and you’d probably have a great time doing so.

That being said, Inkbound also isn’t a game without flaws. The story is throwaway to say the least, and as it’s constantly being added to between runs it feels quite hard to escape. It also doesn’t really introduce you to the game’s complex systems very well, and for a while I didn’t know that destroying Vestiges had any benefit at all. Some classes just never clicked with me, either, which is a shame because I’d have liked a bit of extra variety in my abilities.

Inkbound is an incredibly dense turn-based roguelike, with engaging combat, loads of build options and the ability to play with friends. As long as you’re able to figure out its complex systems without much in the way of hand-holding, you’ll have a blast writing your way to victory.


An engaging and incredibly deep Roguelike
Combat is really compelling
Loads of different build options and classes
Can be played in co-op


The story isn't particularly gripping
Some systems aren't very well explained
Not all classes clicked with me

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Inkbound is a turn based Roguelike with a whole lot of depth to it, but don't expect it to hold your hand in the early hours.