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Realm of Ink Demo Impressions – Outstanding Art, Fluid Combat

Realm of Ink is an upcoming roguelike action game by Leap Studio and Maple Leaf Studio, and I have gone hands-on with the first level of the game. The first thing that caught my eye in the trailer was the striking 2.5D ink-wash art style and the isometric action gameplay. Players take on the role of Red, a character who discovers she’s a fictional being trapped within a short story collection called Realm of Ink. Only by unlocking the dark secrets of the Book Spirit will Red discover the truth of her existence and defy her fate.

Armed initially with a scarlet sword, Red must battle her way through procedurally generated levels, defeat ink-spawned enemies, and unravel the mysteries of her own existence. Realm of Ink’s combat is fast-paced and dynamic, with Red wielding her brush as both a weapon and a tool. She can unleash skills from ink gems which are special skills that can be swapped out and upgraded), dashes, and powerful charged attacks, while also using the environment to her advantage. The ink-based aesthetic translates well to the combat, with enemies dissolving into splatters of ink upon defeat.

As you progress through each room, you are given a choice as to which path to take for the next room. Choices range from Gems Abyss (where you will gain silver and ink gems which are new skills), the perks stand (which will allow you to choose from three random items to add passive bonuses, and silver chests where you’ll earn larger amounts of silver. After a few combat rooms I found myself in a central hub area where there are npcs that will upgrade ink gems. They require resources to upgrade that you collect during room runs.

Also in this central area is a npc that sells food for silver that will replenish some of your hp and give you a buff that lasts for two rooms. Finally, there is a row of items that cost silver and these give you passive and active bonuses depending on the inks you have and your playstyle, whether you favour light attacks, heavy attacks, shields or a mix. The choice is yours as to whether you buy one or not, or if you have enough silver to buy a couple if you feel you need them. The next room was a boss fight so it was always helpful to grab at least one perk.

I faced two different bosses in my hours with the game, each with their own unique skills and threats. Both had two phases which surprised me, but then again roguelikes like to throw surprises at you. I don’t know if every boss in the full release will have two phases each – I hope there’s some variation otherwise it becomes too predictable. Like many roguelikes, Realm of Ink features procedurally generated levels. This means that each playthrough will be unique, with new challenges and surprises around every corner. This adds to the game’s replayability and keeps things fresh even after multiple deaths.

The game’s ink-wash art style is truly stunning, especially when you slow down in the central hub areas and have time to take in your surroundings. The world is brought to life with unique and colour-filled strokes, creating a sense of both beauty and danger. The level of detail in the background areas is phenomenal with a traditional Chinese feel, especially in the inn. The combat animation is also fluid and expressive, making Red a captivating protagonist, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies and hit markers flashing all around her.

While this gameplay preview had me just playing as Red, in the full version you will be unlocking additional characters as you progress. I was able to try different weapon types and the twin-blades was by far my favourite. Utilising the Fox Demons’ immortal power, players will traverse treacherous ‘Story Relics’ and confront four bosses with unique backgrounds to escape from the ever-changing Realm of Ink. Overall, Realm of Ink is a promising roguelike with a combination of fast-paced combat, engaging story, and stunning art style. Playing with perks and different ink gems, as well as swapping to different weapons in the inn, allows you to experiment with different playstyles. I really enjoyed my time in the game so far and this is a game that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

These demo impressions utilised a key provided by Mark Allen PR and the demo for Realm of Ink is available now on Steam, and well worth a play through or two.


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