If you search through the most medieval of artworks, as we all like to do on a Sunday morning, then you might come across something quite odd – pictures of rabbits and dogs wielding weapons in battle, hunting. No, this wasn’t an actual real-time description of what was going on in the world at that time but something called Drolleries. Think of the comic strip ‘The Far Side’ with its strange upside-down view of the world and you will be getting close. 

It is this which has become the inspiration for Inkulinati, the latest Xbox title to make the most of a Game Preview session powered by Game Pass. But what is it? Let’s find out. 

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Inkulinati has been created by Yaza Games, published by the Daedalic Entertainment team. It’s dropping into Early Access with plans to sit there for a while as the developers look to work things out, adding new content as they go, especially working on the multiplayer side of things over the year. But even though it is far from the finished article, you can already play a whole chunk of things, like a single-player campaign and lots of other modes attached on top. The devs are keen to hear from players about any problems or thoughts about the gameplay. 

So, you ask for a medieval-inspired illustrated game and – of course – two come along within months of each other. I’m talking about Pentiment of course, but these two games are completely different beasts. Inkulinati is a turned-based strategy brawler at heart. An Inkulinati in this context is basically an artist drawing images on paper. At the start of each battle, two face each other across the battlefield and the point of the game is to destroy the other one before you get killed. How do you do this?

Well, you draw – and your main currency and lifeblood come in the form of ink. You can draw all manner of creatures to help you in your battle if you have enough ink, allowing you to summon rabbits, dogs or a farting donkey plus some other nice surprises. These animals have their own weapons like swords, spears and arrows, with more arriving as you progress and level up. 

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Working turn-based, in each round or chapter you have a certain amount of moves available for each character on offer. It’s up to you to move the creatures around the levels to get the best possible advantage over the enemy. Tactics are in order and working out the best course of action for each battle. Do you go full-out attack or play the waiting game? The choice is pretty much yours. 

Each soldier has a different range of moves to have in attack, depending on the status of the fighter. Archers come from afar, the sword from close – you know, as you would expect to happen. But when you attack a little mini-game appears, showing the number of possible hit points you can take from the enemy. You then use your skill to get the best possible score. 

There are options to heal (if you get the right creature), pray, and with the power of Inkulinati, push your enemies off the ledge and into oblivion. My favorite has to be that of a Donkey Bard with its farting attack, but there are tons of options on offer. There are also bits of level design to take into account, like barrels with hidden attacks that can cause a whole ton of pain. 

The visuals come across as medieval illustrations, and Inkulinati uses these as an inspiration. Frankly, they look superb and are extremely original in their design, even though they are over 600 years old. During the rounds when your Inkulinati makes a move or creates a creature, a giant hand comes into the shot, creating the action. That rarely gets boring. 

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In my time with Inkulinati via Xbox Game Preview I’ve mostly played the single-player campaign. It’s something that has been tremendously enjoyable, thanks to a battle system that isn’t too complicated for newbies coming in green to the genre. But there’s enough here to ensure the die-hard turn-based fans have enough depth to get their teeth into too. 

We’ll look to run full review as Inkulinati comes out of Game Preview, but already, in this state, there is a ton to get involved in, and much to be excited about. When the multiplayer side of things is fully fleshed, it’s going to give Inkulinati a new dimension; one that will be very interesting to take in. 

For now, Inkulinati is another example of how innovative and original the games coming to Xbox and Game Pass can be. There are exciting medieval times ahead.

Thanks go out to Daedalic Entertainment for providing Inkulinati code, allowing us to get hands-on for this preview. You can grab the game for yourself from the Xbox Store – it’s sitting under Game Pass or a £21.74 asking price.

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