This past weekend the developers behind 2020’s Monster Train, Shiny Shoe, opened up access to a pre-alpha build of their upcoming title Inkbound. So, I hopped into the game with three friends to test the waters and see what Shiny Shoe is cooking up.

Inkbound is a roguelike with a focus on co-op play, with up to four players running through procedurally generated dungeons together. Players can pick from different classes between runs — three available (out of five known) were playable at the time of this pre-alpha test.

Each class has its own abilities which drastically effect playstyle, and all classes can pick up new abilities throughout each run.

For example, the threadweaver class focuses more on ranged attacks, with a basic attack that creates a ‘thread’ between the player and enemies, allowing for abilities to affect them. These abilities can also be augmented throughout the run, which may be something like a direct increase in damage or adding status effects, such as inflicting burn on enemies.

Combat plays out in turn-based fashion — players take their turns using a pool of action points in order to move and use abilities, ending the turn once the pool is spent. At this point, enemies act.

In co-op, all players take their turns simultaneously, the inputs happening in real-time, and therefore effects happen in the order players acted. Players can also see the areas-of-effect for enemies’ attacks before they hit, allowing for strategy in positioning or hitting enemies to re-direct their aggro.

Gameplay during the demo was ushered along by characters scattered throughout the world, some with voice acting. What bits of the story and lore were available seem to indicate a fairly light-hearted adventure with a cast of colorful characters sprinkled throughout.

Overall performance was very stable, and particularly impressive for what was labeled a ‘pre-alpha’ build that seemed just as stable as many full release games today. My friends and I had no issues with online play for multiple runs, and everyone voiced their enjoyment of the gameplay and that they were looking forward to seeing more of it.

I must echo my friends’ opinions — Inkbound shows a lot of promise as an engaging roguelike, especially with friends, and I’m going to keep the full release on my radar for later this year.

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