The Invincible tells a retro-futuristic mystery, one of space travel, intrigue, and loss, all presented with stunning artwork and direction. While I enjoyed the story and presentation, it still fell a little flat in other areas, both technical and pacing in nature.
We play as Dr. Yasna, a biologist onboard the Dragonfly; a space-faring research vessel. After a series of successful missions, the Dragonfly makes one last stop on the way home, orbiting above a planet known as Regis-III. What follows is the tale of what happened when the crew touched down on the surface, with plenty of twists and turns across the 7-10 hour playtime.
I found myself continually intrigued to see what was going to happen next, and for my money, the writing and performances here are very good (though there’s no denying some of the exchanges between Yasna and others can feel a bit disjointed at times). As a story heavy game, there’s rarely a moment where someone isn’t talking, and one of the aspects that really made me get immersed is in Yasna and Astrogator Novik’s chatter. He’s based on the Dragonfly throughout, so helps Yasna via radio chatter, offering advice or suggestions on where to head next. Get held up in one place for too long, and he’ll check in with Yasna, reminding her of her objective, or just seeing how she is. That might sound overbearing, but in practice it’s actually well-handled and definitely made what would have otherwise been some quiet, trudging periods more enjoyable.
I wouldn’t want to spoil anything (again, story heavy means the less you know going in the better), but the tale is definitely the strongest aspect of The Invincible outside of the art direction. It’s interesting and has enough hooks to keep us going, and by the end I kinda didn’t wanna put it down until I’d finished off the last sequence fully, despite it being way past my bedtime…
Let’s move onto that art though, and The Invincible makes excellent use of the retro-future design philosophy; it’s all very Star Trek in it’s bold colours, solid shapes, and use of simple (and in no way feasibly useable) technology. There’s hardly a corner turned on Regis-III that doesn’t offer some serious eye candy, and it absolutely sells us on the experience of being on an alien planet.
Story and visuals aside then, and how does The Invincible play? Well, it’s a mixed bag here. It’s a pretty linear game, which is fine, but for a lot of it we’re walking from A to B very slowly. Again, those aforementioned radio chatters from Novik help here, but there’s no denying Yasna’s movement is a bit too laborious at times. She can sprint, which isn’t actually much faster and tires her out within what feels like 0.2 seconds (it’s actually about 5 seconds, which isn’t much better), then slowing her down even further for a spell while she recovers. It’s actually maddening to use.
When we get to B, there’s usually a bit of investigating to do, items to find, or, in one instance, a bit of ‘gunplay’ to engage in. These suit the slow movement far better and progress the story nicely. There’s nothing challenging in any real way, but there’s the occasional light puzzle to work out.
We are given various tools at points to use, but they are only used at certain sections and briefly at that. There could have been some scope for more exploratory areas, but as it is, once we’re through a section there’s no reason to get the tool out again until we’re told to do so.
We’re also given a vehicle to make movement a bit faster later on, but this comes with the caveat that the windows are so small that it can make seeing where we’re going too tricky. More than once I got turned around and wasn’t quite sure which way I was headed without getting out and looking around thanks to the environment (as nice as it looks) being a bit samey looking through a postage stamp-sized hole.
There are dialogue choices to make frequently, which can affect the following scenes and endings. These pop up as a little speech bubble, requiring us to pull LT to open the options. Or, should you wish, most can simply be ignored too, depending on if you want to dig deeper into a subject or just get cracking with the mission.
One neat touch in The Invincible is that when certain key events happen, a comic book panel is unlocked that is viewable form the options menu at any time. These keep track of Yasna’s journey, showing choices made and letting us refer back to what’s happened so far. I for one really appreciate this sort of thing, and would love to see it replicated in other story heavy games.
The Invincible is definitely propped up on its art direction and story, both of which are really rather good. Dialogue choices and alternate options mean there should be scope for some replays, though that’ll also depend on how much of Yasna’s slow movement speed you can stomach again. All in all, The Invincible was enjoyable enough to recommend, but I’d hope to see future outings from the team fine tune the character controls and movement.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.