Preview: Shiny Shoe adds multiplayer to its roguelike formula in ‘Inkbound: Rise of the Unbound’


'Inkbound: Rise of the Unbound' features eight playable classes but players must unlock four of them. — Photos: Shiny Shoe/TNS

Shiny Shoe is a small San Francisco studio that has big hopes for its latest project Inkbound: Rise of the Unbound. The game was released in Early Access on Steam a little over a year ago, and on April 10, the online roguelike game is being fully released.

The team found success with its previous title, Monster Train, a roguelike deckbuilder, and Inkbound follows the same path. It mixes elements of that game and other tiles such as Slay the Spire and incorporates into a turn-based combat that also requires positioning. It’s more tactical as players have to figure out safe spots to avoid enemy attacks while also finding efficient ways to damage as many enemies as possible with an attack.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The element that truly sets Inkbound apart is its co-op multiplayer features. The game supports up to four players and they all make decisions in real time as they move about the battlefield. They also have a shared environment in the city of Atheneum. That’s where players can see each other’s gear and socialize. It also hosts several nonplayable characters that offer quests.

When players first launch Inkbound, they’ll find four classes but they have the opportunity to unlock four more via quests. At the start of the run, they choose one of the classes, which has innate abilities, and draft the type of attacks they have. From there, they go dungeon diving across five worlds with a sixth being unlockable.

Positioning your character is important in 'Inkbound: Rise of the Unbound'. Positioning your character is important in 'Inkbound: Rise of the Unbound'.

Crafting a character

They battle monsters and clear rooms, which in turn rewards players with more abilities to draft or items to procure. Players have to keep in mind that they max out at five abilities and have seven item slots available. Over the course of a 20- to 40-minute run solo or a 30- to 60-minute run with multiplayer, they’ll have to make hard choices and craft their character so they take advantage of all the abilities and perks they acquire.

That means every run will be different, and this brings a deep replayability to Inkbound. The multiplayer factors in with some abilities meshing well with other. For example, one player can mark an enemy with a Binding that boosts an ally’s attack to double the power.

Every action in each turn has a mana cost, and when players use that up, it’s time to end the turn and let the enemies attack. Abilities also have a cool down and other factors, but they can also be improved in a run. In addition, the fighting arena shrinks over time forcing players to be more aggressive and less defensive running away from enemies. All of this creates another layer of complexity to the rewarding combat system.

As a way to bring players back after each run, Inkbound unlocks more abilities and powers over the course of runs. This increases options when battling enemies and allows players to create builds they couldn’t before.

Lastly, with the launch, Shiny Shoe said it’s offering controller support. The idea is to support the popular Steam Deck systems. Inkbound launches April 10. – The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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