Review: The Invincible Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Expectations
Update: an issue with our reviewer’s graphics card caused textures to display incorrectly during his initial playthrough. After checking the console versions, we’ve revised the text to remove complaints about a lack of detail. IGN apologises for the error.
On paper, The Invincible has all the makings of a fun adaptation of a classic sci-fi novel into a combat-free adventure game. It offers space exploration, a mysterious threat, and an amnesiac protagonist trying to unravel the mysteries of the planet Regis III. However, while there are intriguing aspects to Starward Industries’ take on Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 story, it doesn’t quite translate well from the page.
Lack of Context:
The Invincible falls short in providing enough context for its story right from the start, which is crucial for a game centered around storytelling. While an introduction comic reveals the existence of rival factions engaged in a space race, it fails to explain why or when they are competing. The crew of the science vessel Dragonfly finds themselves stranded on Regis III, leaving the protagonist, Dr. Yasna, alone and with no recollection of how she got there.
Well-Executed Amnesia Storytelling:
Despite the overuse of amnesia as a storytelling device, it works within the context of The Invincible. Jogging Yasna’s memory by interacting with objects in a non-linear format is an interesting way to learn about her past and ties into a significant element of the later acts. While optional, the recovered memories provide additional backstory.
Beautiful, Yet Flawed Scenery:
The initial exploration of Regis III is captivating with stunning visuals, accompanied by epic sci-fi music and colorful backdrops. However, as the game progresses, the grandeur of the scenery highlights significant weaknesses. Frequent pop-in occurs, regardless of the location’s size, and the first-person view can induce motion sickness, especially during climbing sequences due to excessive camera movement. Overall, travel in The Invincible can be frustrating.
Although the intended path is linear, finding the correct way forward can be confusing. Climbing one set of rocks, for example, may be possible, while identical-looking rocks in the next section cannot be climbed. Such inconsistencies make the geography of the game world unreliable.
Painfully Slow Movement:
The climbing animations in The Invincible are needlessly slow, replacing a simple jumping ability. The slow movement speed, especially with the inability to sprint for more than a few seconds, makes the extensive walking sections tedious. The game could have benefited from increased speed or the inclusion of a fast-travel system, reducing the overall runtime and improving the pacing of the story.
The gameplay aspects of The Invincible, aside from walking, fail to deliver anything interesting or challenging. Puzzles involve basic knob-turning or using a tracker to locate items, but they lack depth. The shooting mechanics feel pointless, with no indication of their effectiveness. These gameplay elements seem like superficial attempts to add interactivity to a primarily story-driven experience.
Emptiness and Gripes:
Being alone for the majority of the game makes the already open and empty locations feel even more desolate. Nevertheless, The Invincible manages to maintain a gripping story. The protagonist, Yasna, is charming and knowledgeable. The final section offers multiple endings based on dialogue decisions, but they often feel abrupt or incomplete. There is a lack of closure and context, leaving a dissatisfying aftertaste.