Why Inscryption is the best video game of 2021


[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for Inscryption.]

Encryption is one of the most confusing games I have ever played.

For our Match of the Year 2021 coverage, Polygon celebrates our top 10 video games with a collection of essays. You can see our full top 50 list here. Throughout the month of December, we’ll also be heading back to the year with special videos, trials and more!

Calling it a roguelike would be a disservice. To label it as a deck of cards would be missing the point. To dwell too long on its horror qualities would be myopic, like describing a movie based solely on its opening scene. Encryption Are all of these things, yes, in the same way that a book is a collection of paragraphs – there is much more to it.

Even the way we speak on Encryption has an air of mystery. One day, just over a week before Halloween, he started appearing in Polygon’s Slack channels. Several writers had tried it over the weekend and showed up on Monday bursting with excitement. “Did anyone else play Encryption?? “It spread slowly at first, then suddenly: discussions formed, spoiler warnings appeared, and groups split into DMs to discuss this weird and confusing game with d other colleagues who had passed “this part”.

The rogue lite table in Registration

Image: Daniel Mullins Games / Devolver Digital

In other words, Encryption had created a moment, and we all loved it so much that we refused to spoil what made it so special. We trusted the game to work its magic on newcomers, regardless of our rave and whispered praise.

Now looking back Encryption By the end of 2021, away from that initial fervor, I can enjoy the game for more than the excitement it has generated. It came out in a year filled with roguelites, time-looped mysteries, and genre-defying successes. But still, he dominates his peers. Its first act effortlessly combines the strategy of a deck-building card game with the puzzle-solving of an escape room. Its second act takes us on a pixel art adventure that pays homage to everything from Tied to the earth to Pokémon. Its third act brings us return in the roguelite format of the first chapter, but in a completely different context: the cabin in the woods has been replaced by a factory, with holograms instead of parchment, and floppy disks instead of maps. In addition, the croupier is a robot.

This is where the full scope of the magic trick comes into play. As we learn the intricacies of the card game variations, Encryption told his story under our noses. On the one hand, developer Daniel Mullins distracted us with some of the most clichéd genre tropes in video games. With the other, he fleshed out an entire cast of characters, each with their own fears, goals, and insecurities.

Inscryption - A young man Luke Carder in front of a green screen background, sits down and prepares to record a video on the card games

Image: Daniel Mullins Games / Devolver Digital

None of this has to mention the fake YouTube videos tying all of the acts together, or the Easter eggs hidden in the credits, or the real-world story Mullins has linked to. Encryption‘s lore. Some of the most compelling elements of Encryptionthe story unfolds outside of the actual game. Dedicated gamers have followed a breadcrumb trail to real-world data storage websites and GPS locations, winding their way through an ARG that has become somewhat of a signature in Mullins’ wallet. As Cass Marshall said on our list of the 50 best games of 2021, “Encryption is a play about games, centered around a story with as many layers as a Russian nesting doll.

Not all of history works, to be clear. In more than one case, Mullins tries a little too much hard to be smart. The live-action plot thread focused on the obscure company GameFuna (Encryptiondeveloper in the universe of) ends with a choreographed murder in which neither the assassin nor the victim have the acting skills to make it organic. In addition, a large part EncryptionThe second act legitimately drags on: the novelty of the top-to-bottom pixelated world quickly fades, and the lack of roguelite elements makes deckbuilding more of a chore than a compelling gameplay loop.

But I forgive any game its valleys when the peaks are so high. I’ll choose the game that takes the big swings over the one that rides a constant wave of “good” every time. Just as I prefer the intermittent perfection of The Sopranos on the consistency of Thread, I can’t help but marvel at the height EncryptionThe goals are – although it misses every now and then.

Because when Encryption is at its best, and its genre-blending systems fuel its narrative, and its deck-building mechanics tell a story the likes of which can only be told through interactivity, there is nothing quite like it. Encryption is a symphonic homage to video games as a whole, and even with a violin or two slightly out of tune, it builds an astonishing crescendo.


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