First impressions of Realm of Ink. An Ink-Style Action Roguelite developed by Leap Studio and Maple Leaf Studio and published by 663 Games.

Red is a heroine and expert swordswoman. During the hunt for the fearsome Fox Demon she discovers that she is an imaginary character. Furthermore, she discovers that she is inside a collection of short stories called Realm of Ink. Only by undertaking a journey she will be able to reveal the secrets of the Spirit of the Book, and discover the truth about his existence and his destiny.

An Interesting Background

The story takes place in a fantasy realm called the Realm of Ink. The inhabitants of this world exist only as the creation of a superior entity, unaware of their condition. Controlled by the mysterious Spirit of the Book, they obediently follow their already predetermined destiny, unaware of the loop they experience.

In the Realm of Ink Kingdom, we will initially play as the swordswoman Red before progressively unlocking other characters. With the help of the ancient Scriptbound Fox and the immortal power of the mysterious Fox Blood, we will have to change our destiny. During the journey we will recover the ink gems which will slowly reveal the truth about the Spirit of the Book. It will be up to our heroes to reshape themselves in countless cycles of rebirth.

The Journey between Biomes

The adventure branches out between verdant Buddhist Forests, the icy and enchanted Monkey Realm, the placid but terrifying Water Lands up to the ancient and sacred Ruins of the Mausoleum. Each area we face will have its own peculiar biome. But be careful, within each scenario there are peculiar enemies and hidden dangers. To discover the secrets that lie in the past of the protagonists and NPCs, we must accept challenges.

Finally the Demo

Now that we’ve talked about background and lore we finally get to the gameplay. As soon as we got our hands on the game we discovered that Realm of Ink is a title strongly inspired by Hades. The overall style, camera, fighting styles and power-ups are heavily inspired by the Supergiants Games‘ roguelite mechanics. Be careful, being derivative is not a bad thing. It is true that the comparison with the other title comes naturally, but it is also true that Leap Studio and Maple Leaf Studio are doing a good job. What we have been able to experience seems to take the good things from Hades. The gameplay is addictive, fast and fluid.

Considering that it is still a demo we will briefly analyze what Realm of Ink offers us.

Realm of Ink: Weapons and Basic Gameplay

The basic gameplay of Realm of Ink consists of a light attack, a heavy attack and a dash. Light and heavy attacks can create combos along with dashing. Be careful because dashes have a limited number of uses and a recharge cooldown. So better No Spam.

In the demo we have 3 types of weapons available.

The Scarlet Sword: a three-slash light weapon with a forward dash that goes in combo with the 360-degree heavy attack.

The Shadow Twin Blades: More technical (and fun) twin blades, whose heavy attack is the throw of a giant shuriken. By catching the shuriken back with a light attack, we will perform a rotating area attack.

The Azure Aura Blades: they are daggers made of energy that launch slashes towards the enemy. They are actually ranged weapons, every 7 light hits you can launch a heavy attack that does even more damage than the normal one. In my opinion this is the weapon that should be nerfed due to the damage and Knockback it causes to enemies. With good positioning you are practically untouchable.

A Friend Called MoMo

As our pet we will have a small creature similar to a plump cat. Actually MoMo is a faithful and extremely useful companion on our journey. In fact, it can absorb Ink Gems, objects that can be collected during the adventure. These gems contain different elemental powers, strongly inspired by Asian mythology. We will have the elements such as water, fire, earth, lightning and also others such as wood, poison, curse and metal. Each of them has different connotations, active and passive abilities.

MoMo will absorb these elements and transform accordingly, changing appearance depending on the gems chosen. Our friend can attack independently and also become dangerous with the right combination. These gems also give active and passive abilities to Red, increasing his characteristics depending on the element. Furthermore, the gems also give an ability to activate with LT or RT. The player can bring up to two Ink Gems, replace them as he wishes and dismantle the ones he no longer uses. The scraps obtained can be used to upgrade the gems in your possession.

Enemies, Bosses and Design

As per the tradition of these titles, in Realm of Ink the protagonist will go through a series of rooms. The room will only be complete when we have defeated all the enemies present and then obtained the reward. Once we reach the entrance to the next room we will be able to choose the new reward.

We can choose between Perks, Elixirs, Ink Gems or silver coins useful for merchants. There are also Challenge Rooms: much more difficult but with truly remarkable rewards. The rewards are random and their quality is defined by the canonical colors green, blue, purple and gold. Obviously choosing synergies both between them and with the pet creates really strong combos.

The opponents encountered in the demo are quite heterogeneous, numerous and quite aggressive. At the halfway point there is a mid boss (I met two different ones) and then the final boss, the General of the ape men Yuwen Yuan. The final boss and a mid boss have two distinct phases. Before these battles we will enter a safe zone where we can buy food to get bonuses or recover health, Perks and improve our gems.

Although it is only a demo, the battles are fluid and well cared for. The most dangerous attacks are marked with arrows or areas to be more understandable for the player. Even certain boss attacks have well-marked areas, great job!

The only flaw is that between the protagonist’s powers and the areas of effect the combat often becomes difficult to read.

Original style and NPCs

Once the final boss has been defeated, or if we are defeated we will return to the central hub of the game. It seems really vast even if for the moment it is not very explorable. The NPCs we will meet are Ying Ming, a creature in the shape of a girl, an old scribe named Pu Gong, a mechanical fox. The latter is a small animal that drives an armor and will be our dummy for testing the weapons.

Once a room is completed we may randomly come across other NPCs who will offer us trades. The currency of exchange will be particular, however, because despite great powers we will have to pay either with hit points or by bearing a curse.

Although similar in many mechanics to Hades, the Realm of Ink demo really impressed us. Even though we have played the first level, the mechanics and gameplay already seem very solid, fast and fun. Maybe there is a need for a bit of balancing because certain synergies really break the challenge. There is still some smearing and lack of clarity on the screen at times, but these are simple problems to resolve. The style is sober but at the same time well contextualized and clean. The protagonist, enemies, NPCs and bosses are really well drawn.

What can I say, I can’t wait to see and play more, as well as learning about the story they want to tell us.

Try the Realm of Ink Demo, you won’t regret it.

I'm a musician (pianist), a nerd and a longtime manga lover. My gamer life started with a copy of Pitfall (1982) for Atari 2600, and so I grew up hand to hand with this medium until now. Later I started to look for what's behind the final product, its design and what happens behind the scenes of the video game world.