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GDC had a ton of awesome appointments that we got the chance to check out, and it's nearly impossible to choose a favorite. But, if I had to pick one of the few I was really looking forward to, Inkbound would be one of them. Ever since their release and the eventual closing of their microtransaction store, I have been intrigued by developer Shiny Shoe and their direction with the game. At GDC, I had a chance to talk to Mark Cooke, founder and CEO of Shiny Shoe, about the game, the decision behind their micro-transaction walkback, and 1.0's incredible additions for better Steam Deck support.


Inkbound is a really unique game, and seems to combine a couple of different intriguing styles to build into one experience. It takes the top-down camera angle that we see in games like Diablo and Path of Exile, but instead of using real-time action, it instead goes for a more tactical turn-based route.

You, with up to three others, will go on multiple different runs through different books that provide unique locations and enemies. You will encounter enemies where you will engage in combat, each person taking turns, setting up your different abilities to target one or more enemies. You will be able to see your enemies next attack, similarly to Into the Breach, and plan accordingly with your teammates to deal effective damage. As you beat enemies and levels, you will be able to choose different paths with different rewards to claim and new equipment that gives you different passive buffs. You will also get new "Bindings," which act as new abilities that you can use for the rest of the run.


It is a pretty standard roguelike at its core, but there are a couple of features that help it stand out. The turn-based combat systems makes the game feel a bit more like a traditional strategy game, and there is a leveling system which can unlock new passive equipment (Vestiges) and cosmetics. There's also a solo and group ranking system with rewards, and adds some incentive to play alone or with friends. But, the biggest changeup that I like is the Set system. Each Vestige you get has a set or two that it is a part of, and the more you get, the better passive set bonuses you acquire. As you beat levels, you can destroy your Vestiges and permanently gain the set bonuses, giving you the chance to have new passive bonuses with large set bonuses, and it can allow for some deeper loadout building.

When Inkbound launched, it had a microtransaction store with it where you could buy cosmetics that you could equip on your character. From what I could tell, it was all cosmetics and not nearly as predatory as a lot of the other games I have seen with one, especially since this is a co-op game and not PvP. But, Shiny Shoe decided to walk back on the store, which I never fully understood. So, I decided to ask Mark about the walkback.


He explained that it was requested by the community, and with them caring a lot about their community, decided to axe the entire store and replace it with free ways to get these cosmetics like harder to earn currency. It ended up giving them a lot of good press, which did help significantly at the time, but it changed longer term ideas for funding. Originally, the store was meant to help fund a longer development, which meant they had to readjust strategy for long-term support. There are still plans for this, and it will include releasing DLC packs, but the team hasn't given up on it.

Finally, we discussed the upcoming 1.0 update, which is actually releasing a little early now (April 9th). When the 1.0 update was announced, I noticed that there was a ton of great additions that are perfect for portable play, like Offline Mode and full Gamepad support. And when I asked about it, Mark confirmed that getting it running well on the Steam Deck was important to the team. He even showed us a bit of the update on the Steam Deck, and yes, the game is a perfect fit for the console. While I didn't try it there, I have tried the 1.0 update and I can confidently say it should be amazing on the Deck.


I left that meeting extremely excited and confident regarding Inkbound, and can't wait to be playing it more (and hopefully review) when the time comes. There is a lot of love for the game from the dev team, the game feels unique in many different ways, and I honestly love how it sounds. It's like the perfect blend of many different genres, and from what I have seen/experienced, it seems to handle them all with grace.

If you want to start playing now, Inkbound is available in early access on Steam for $29.99, which feels like a very fair price for the game and content it has.

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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