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The Invincible Review

The Invincible Review

Travelling for extended periods through space is a dream we have yet to achieve but which still grips our imagination; the possibility of visiting new planets, systems, or even galaxies lights that pioneering flame in all of us, which is why we explore them in other forms, such as books! But what then? What happens once we actually do make it out there and start discovering more and more about our universe and, by proxy, ourselves? These are the kind of questions Steward Studios’ The Invincible pose. Based on the novel by the same name by Stanislaw Lem, can this title take us to the stars, or are we forever Earthbound? Disclaimer: I have not read the original novel, so I’m going into this blind. I do, however, intend to read it after playing the game!

The Invincible is an adventure title that could be roughly categorised as a walking simulator, though it’s on the more interactive end — think Firewatch. You play as Yasna, a passionate and curious scientist on a mission to explore Regis III, a planet that should be able to support a thriving ecosystem but doesn’t. Your small crew consists of a handful of other scientists, a robot, a few lander modules used to ferry crew between the ship and the planet, and the Astrogator, your commanding officer who is up on the ship. While exploring the planet, you have some tools, like a map-slash-journal, a gadget to find other people, and a set of binoculars to observe the landscape. As you go about your business, you can report your findings and thoughts to the Astrogator, who will comment and react accordingly.

And, yes, the game has a Photo Mode.

So, the basic mechanics can be boiled down to “walk around and look at things”, and on that level, it may seem like a somewhat dull experience. However, during most of the interactions, you get to pick Yasna’s answer from a set of three or so options. These options, in addition to answering a question or continuing a dialogue, also convey a surprising amount of emotion, which is to the credit of the stellar voice-acting performances. In addition to prompts, you can also interact with the world with your actions: there are a few situations where you are asked if you would like to explore a point of interest or if you want to keep going, with both options having unique consequences! In general, I got the feeling that each playthrough will feel slightly different, and I’m honestly excited about playing it again and seeing how it plays out! That, and I enjoyed the chemistry Yasna and the Astrogator have as they chat via their retro communicators.

Take a guess on what this gadget is!

On that note, one of the most striking things about The Invisible is the visuals. Using a distinct atompunk aesthetic, all of the technology looks like something from The Jetsons, combining high-tech functionality and a retro user interface. For example, you have a device that detects nearby tracker signals, telling the user if other people are nearby. You may imagine a sonar of sorts or even a high-tech screen with pips, but not in this game! Instead, you have a metal box with a circular grid of LEDs that light up to show proximity, amount, and direction. I absolutely adored this style, as it made the game stand out, in addition to explaining away some of the problems that could have been fixed with “modern” tech.

In addition to the retro vibe in tech, the game looks very good! The desolate plains and canyons of Regis III are still vibrant and colourful, even though they are more desert than anything else. Caverns and plateaus are also on the list of explorable locales, which had me stopping to just take the sights in! The Invincible has great little touches in the world that build upon the story we experience in subtle ways, which makes the world feel more alive than just a set dressing. Finally, the game even has little comics of your adventure, which are shown when you load into the game at the start of a session! Not only is this a great addition in itself, but it’s also a great way to help get you back into the game. In terms of sound, no notes. The soundscape is great, hitting the right notes of eerie and wonder. The sound effects of your devices are also great, being distinct from the natural sounds of the planet.

Now, though I do sing its praises — deservedly, mind you — I did have my fair share of issues. Some of them were minor graphical or visual hiccups, which may well be due to the early version I played, but there were three that were slightly worse, both of which became more apparent the further I played. First off, being the curious explorer I am. I usually explored most corners of the map, trying to avoid the “correct” path in fear of points of no return (which the game does have, regretfully). During these excursions, I managed to get myself stuck onto the scenery or walk off the edge of a cliff, left hovering in the air. While these were more humorous than annoying, I did have to restart a few times. The second issue is somewhat related to this, as it was a bit unclear what constituted a checkpoint in-game. On more than one occasion, I ended a session in what I felt was a good spot (seeing an icon for the autosave flash), only to come back to the game and start in a spot about 15 earlier than where I thought I was! Again, minor but annoying nonetheless.

Rad Regis Racing, anyone?

The biggest issue I had, however, broke my heart. The further into the game I played, the more the game seemed to become confused about what dialogue options I had chosen, referencing previous dialogues I did not recall! As a completely made-up example, imagine a dialogue where Mumblo, the scientist, asks Yasna about the orbital qualities of dandelions, only for Yasna to scoff, “I already told you that at the water cooler”, though you actually chose to go to the coffee machine a few dialogue choices prior. This is a major issue, as I kept being lost in some important dialogues and felt like my choices weren’t actually that important. A bad look for a story-rich title!

Even though the previous issues made a dent in my experience, I did still end up enjoying The Invincible enough that I decided to get the book it’s based on. There's something about the plot, the characters, and the setting that kept me hooked, even tense in some sections. The science is pretty hard, but I was able to follow along easily enough. The philosophical ideals of the game are also pretty deep, exploring humanity and our role in the universe, but what I really enjoyed was how the game doesn’t pretend to have the answers either! It’s up to us, the players, to make our own choices and conclusions. Taking about seven to ten hours to complete, the plot is short enough to enjoy in a few sessions but doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or enjoy pondering philosophical questions while exploring a foreign planet, this is definitely worth a playthrough!

6.50/10 6½

The Invincible (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

The Invincible is a visually impressive game of exploration, philosophy, and consequences. The characters, their choices and struggles will pull you in, while the intrigue and mystery will keep you around. Just beware of some unfortunate bugs.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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