This will likely be my penultimate article of the year! I will have one more review I plan on publishing before the end of December, but this one covers The Invincible. This strong, narrative-driven title launched last month, and it looks stunning!
I’ve never read anything by Stanislaw Lem, but after playing The Invincible, I might have to.
The Invincible — a sci-fi walking sim published by 11 Bit Studios — takes upon the iconic novel of the same name. After receiving a review code for the game last month (thanks to the developers Starward Industries!) and playing it for a while, I can finally open up my thoughts about it. As I have no experience with the novel, this is solely my impression of the game itself. While it has a couple of unfortunate pitfalls, I’ve enjoyed my time with the game so far.
Playing as the highly skilled astrobiologist Yasna, things quickly go to pot when the spacecraft crash lands on a hostile, unexplored planet known as Regis III. Alone and with no idea what happened, players must take Yasna on a long, brutal journey across the surface of Regis III, and work out how to find her scattered crew. It starts fairly simple, but the story quickly twists into something much darker. It’s not the longest game — expect a playthrough to take 7-8 hours on average — but the captivating story and strong cast make up for that.
The Invincible is a gorgeous game. With the dusty dunes and the gnarled valleys, Regis III is beautiful and deadly. With Yasna’s confusion and injuries, navigating the world is rather slow, forcing players to be cautious. Interacting with different paths can lead to nasty consequences, such as falling down a ‘too steep’ path and injuring yourself even more. The exploration is marred slightly by invisible walls and being unable to jump. A few times I got frustrated by Yasna being unable to scale what should have been an easy incline.
The voice acting in The Invincible is stellar and helps sell the mysterious narrative. Every character feels alive, and Yasna’s narration made me feel like I was her, not just playing her character. The story goes through flashback narration as well, with layers of world-building that adds to the mystery surrounding the planet. I won’t go into any spoilers but so far, it is an impressive narrative. It makes me want to pick up the book and read that too. As an astrobiologist, Yasna has all the know-how to use the equipment necessary to survive. They call it ‘atompunk’, and you’ll learn how to use them to advance through the story. While The Invincible is heavily focused on story, there are moments of gameplay alongside it — searching dark caves while hunting for your lost colleagues and so on. It’s very slow and pondering, but the beautiful visuals and sound design help sell it.
I just wish the world was more interactive. While the planet is certainly hostile, there are no survival mechanics to manage like resources or oxygen. I would have liked some survival things in the game, as it would increase the stakes. With no real save feature except an automatic progression, I would have preferred more control of that. With the slow pace, it makes it more difficult to stomach multiple playthroughs to see the rest of the endings. I’ve yet to complete this yet, and I am unsure if I will play it afterwards.
All in all, The Invincible makes for a great story experience in an alien world. I can imagine many fans of narrative-heavy games will enjoy this one, as the characters and writing overall are solid. The gameplay segments might be lacking a bit, but it’s not boring by any means. If they add in some survival mechanics like a New Game Plus update in the future and multiple save slots, it would help make the most of this visual masterpiece.
A great story, featuring a powerful cast of well written characters
The gated exploration makes this beautiful world not as enjoyable as I would like
Stunning visuals and sound design help sell the narrative, including a robust Photo Mode