Inscryption has lots of secrets lurking beneath the surface, and players learn pretty early on that something is amiss with the card game they are playing and the opponent who is testing them. But if you pay attention, there are little clues and hints that seem to have no real conclusion. That’s the trick to Inscryption, and it’s present within all of developer Daniel Mullins’ games. There’s a larger mystery at play, and it’s an alluring one.
Fans have already tracked down all the clues, solved all the puzzles, and even found an extension to the game’s ending. Is all of this additional information necessary to enjoy Inscryption? Definitely not. In fact, the game might be better without all of that extra stuff. But that hasn’t stopped fans from creating videos and Google Docs that dig into the game’s secrets and link them back to Mullins’ previous titles — making solving the mystery a kind of game unto itself.
[Warning: This article contains major spoilers for all of Inscryption.]
Inscryption is intentionally multifaceted and dense with interpretations, thanks to its many gameplay layers; it’s a game about a game that’s really about games. What players see, at first, is a deck-builder where the player uses an array of beasts and cryptids to beat a mysterious jailer at his own game. But this iteration of the game is nested within others: There’s the retail copy of Inscryption that we as players buy on Steam and play through by building decks and winning matches, which is an avenue from which we see someone else play a digital copy of Inscryption, which he discovered from an analog card game named Inscryption.
While the analog card game seems innocent enough, the cursed digital adaptation in the woods (which is what players are using to deck-build, with special cards awarded for solving escape room-style puzzles) seems to be more than just a game — it’s a world unto itself.
As the player goes through these multiple iterations, they come face to face with Scrybes — sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a foe. All four of the Scrybes — Leshy, the antagonist from the game’s opening; Gamora, a Scrybe of death; Magnificus, a brilliant but cold mind; and P03, a robot with a love for min-maxing — are the gods of this digital realm, focused on creating the perfect decks, cards, and games through their unique talents.
All the while, we watch that protagonist explore the digital copy of Inscryption through our copy of Inscryption purchased from Steam. Protagonist Luke Carder, a fictional character who is within “our” world, shows up in a series of video clips when players reach specific points in the narrative. Carder, a YouTuber who posts under the handle The Lucky Carder, is hopelessly enthralled by this strange title he found on a floppy disk, the analog card game it’s based on, and the secret data at the heart of it all.
Clues to a bigger mystery pop up continually throughout the game(s). In Carder’s videos, the player can spot secret codes that have no resolution in the game itself. In the various games within Inscryption, the player can pull some weird cards that just show white noise, encounter strings of binary text, or see strange references that don’t add up. Carder escapes the cabin and its master, Leshy, only to find himself playing a 16-bit RPG, and then a sci-fi strategy game run by a sadistic robot. All of these settings are full of clues, but what do they mean?
Inscryption’s die-hard fans have solved all of these mysteries and documented them in a very thorough guide posted online. The answers link to a story of Nazis and the occult, American Cold War paranoia, and The Hex, an earlier game from Mullins. Detectives put this together through clues from the Mullins canon, real-life floppy disks, and mysterious real-world packages — making this a full-on alternate reality game. Which means that the game about games also has a game around it. There’s a lot going on narratively.
At the end of the breadcrumb trail, fans discovered a video suggesting that the game’s ultimate antagonist, P03, won, despite the combined efforts of the other three Scrybes to stop him. P03 manages to complete his upload of the cursed game, and it is presumably that version that we purchased, downloaded from Steam, and played for fun. If that’s not a satisfying enough ending, players are already starting to explore the links between Inscryption, The Hex, and other Mullins titles. If you want to, it’s possible to join the conspiracies and try to track down any remaining answers.
But I’m not sure it’s necessary. Ironically, Inscryption’s protagonist ultimately perishes because he can’t stop chasing down the core truth: the Old Data that corrupted the digital copy of Inscryption and gave the Scrybes their power. I don’t think it improves Inscryption to know that the Old Data can be tracked down to a file found on Hitler’s corpse, or that an agent who comes to intimidate Carder might actually be a new iteration of an old Mullins antagonist.
The antagonists Carder meets along the way just represent different storytelling methods and styles. Leshy, from the first act, loves the lore and narrative of the card game, and focuses on creating a memorable campaign. In fact, his act is very easy to break and exploit, and the right combo of cards makes it a breeze. P03, on the other hand, wants stats and strategies — he’s crunch over fluff.
There are different ways to play a game, and different ways to experience them. For Inscryption, I think the base game works just fine. Walking away with wonder and curiosity, even though some mysteries went unanswered, makes for a better and more memorable experience.