Encryption review: a spoiler-free opinion on a must-have card game

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Revision Encryption is tricky. I want to gush out of the twists and turns that happen in the middle or end of the game, but I know that would spoil the fun of its story. Unravel the mystery of Encryption, a new horror card game available on Windows PC, is as essential to the experience as the card game is at its heart. So if you haven’t heard of this game at all, let me be the first person to tell you – avoid spoilers.

Encryption is primarily a roguelike deck-building game, with some breakout puzzle elements and a heavy dose of atmospheric horror. There are also some interesting meta-elements, the kind that haunt other games from developer Daniel Mullins Games, like pony island.

The first time you start Encryption, you will find the option “New game” grayed out; you can only choose “Continue”. This is a little clue to the bigger mystery running through (and outside) the game., foreshadowing how his answers will be revealed.

In EncryptionIn the first act, you face The Game Master, an obscure character who begins by telling you how you got to the cabin: by winning a series of card games, of course. Your deck is made up of animals such as the Humble Squirrel (which you sacrifice to summon more powerful cards), as well as debuff skunks, defensive river turtles, mighty wolves, and possibly a coterie of alien specimens, like the ‘ouroboros and the mole man.

For every attack that goes past that furry line of defense and for every point you land on your opponent, a gold tooth is added to the scale – literal scales that stand up on the wooden table, emphasizing the rustic, bodily aesthetic of the game. No one has a life pool in this system; if you each take one point of damage, you’ve tied. Sometimes I got stuck in a corner, just trying to deal enough damage to keep the scale from tipping, to give myself time to draw better cards. Remarkably, it generally worked; the action on the set changes so quickly that stalling has proven to be a pretty powerful tactic.

As you browse the parchment map that The Game Master has prepared for you, you’ll have the option to fight enemies with cards, fill your backpack with single-use items, or permanently sacrifice a card to transfer its seal of special buff to another. animal. These events often highlight Encryptionthe scary flavor. For example, the mycologist can put two identical animals together to create a single, more powerful being. The resulting map is roughly chipped and smeared with blood, but still worth a shot.

Image: Daniel Mullins Games / Devolver Digital

Encryption is full of secrets and puzzles – so many that you’re unlikely to find them all in your first game. All along my live broadcast, several people who had beaten the game before were excited when I found something they didn’t have, like a slime jar or a glitch card with a binary code string where its name should be. Some are random events. Others are just easy to miss.

Some cards have secret powers that are only revealed when you play them – in some cases when you play them an parcel. I got my hands on a legendary card at first, but due to its paltry attack value of 1 and 1 hit point, I didn’t use it until I got deep into the game. It was only when I was put in a corner that I finally played this seemingly useless card and discovered its secret power. By then it was too late to incorporate the map into my overall strategy, but I spoke to other players who relied heavily on it.

Like so many good roguelikes, Encryption just rewards you for trying things. Don’t know what a seal will do? Play it. What’s in this egg card? Let it hatch on the ground. What is this pot of glue for? You have to use it to find out. Things can go very badly, but you will have learned a lot about Encryptionlocking systems. And as an added incentive, at the end of each race, you’ll have the option of crafting a new, possibly very powerful, map to boost your next attempt.

Between battles with enemies and maiming your cards, you can get up, leave the table, and inspect The Game Master’s sparsely decorated booth. Some furniture and accessories will benefit you immediately after clicking on them, but others take a little effort and investigation to discover their usefulness. While I have often found myself neglecting the escape room puzzles for just a more round of card game, I recommend being more proactive than I was – most of the rewards in the cabin are powerful items to use in the card game, but some are needed to move the story forward . Other trinkets are so subtly tied to the overall story that their purpose won’t become clear until later in the game. In some cases you won’t know which one until it’s too late, so do do your best to look around and solve everything.

Three cards are placed on a wooden table: one labeled worker ant, one labeled cockroach and one labeled Jasmine.

I named all my personalized cards after the Disney princesses, to continue the theme of the woodland creature helpers.
Image: Daniel Mullins Games / Devolver Digital via Polygon

The two main questions I have been asked about this game are (1) will I like it if I don’t like deckbuilding games, and (2) how good is it? frightening ? It is basically a card game, and more than that, a ode to card games. If you can’t stand the genre, I don’t think so Encryption will change their mind. But it does a good job of facilitating the player in strategies and teaching them the best ways to play, so if you are new to card games, this is an educational and scary place to start.

As for the horror question: I didn’t encounter any jump scares in my game, just dark images and a scary atmosphere. The worst moments are moments of body horror, which, while not displayed exactly onscreen, are quite visceral. At first, you get a pair of pliers that you can use to literally tip the scales in your favor – pulling out one of your own teeth and placing it on your opponent’s side. This is happening from a first person perspective, and the accompanying audio is, well… pretty intense. The good news is that these moments are pretty easy to spot before they happen, so they’re unlikely to catch you off guard. That said, if first-person self-violence seems too much to you, approach this game with discretion.

registrationSkillful handling of the roguelike and strategy elements means that once you’ve hacked a reliable approach you can progress very quickly. This is good because, as I hinted at, the cabin is only the first part of the game. To say more would be to step into spoiler territory. But despite all the secrecy, there is much more to Encryption than the slow revelation of its mystery.

Encryption is a great game, spoiled or not. This is what will help it stay relevant not just for a moment, but for years to come.

Encryption is now available on Windows PC. The game has been reviewed using a copy purchased by the author. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find further information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.


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