Originally published at: Review | The Invincible - XboxEra
The Invincible is a prequel to the 1967 Polish novel of the same name. That book was a hard science fiction title by Stanislaw Lem, and after playing through this game I had to go read it. In the game, you are Yasna, part of a crew created by developers Starward Industries, tasked with scouting Regis III. With an atmosphere full of all the building blocks of life you’re there to see why it is devoid of anything advanced with only the simplest forms of life in the vast oceans. Over the course of 7 or so hours, you’ll walk, run, drive, and climb your way through a mystery best experienced as spoiler-free as possible.
After a brief cutscene of your team’s recent expedition, you awaken confused & with no memory of how you reached the surface of Regis III. As Yasna, you’re all alone. Cut off at the start from your Astrogater as you wander the sands looking for signs of life. A demo was released a while back that is set surprisingly late into the game, so I feel it’s okay to mention that the majority of your time playing the game it’s a constant back and forth between you and your Astrogater who helps guide you around from orbit. That relationship, with its writing and voice acting, is the heart of The Invincible.
Yasna and Astrogator Novik have excellent voice acting that is backed up by fantastic writing. The game, though Polish-made, only has English audio according to Steam. Thankfully it is almost entirely great, as this is a narrative and decision-making game with a few sections featuring deeper gameplay mechanics. With Novik’s guidance, you will search Regis III for your missing crewmates, make fateful choices that change the story, and uncover why this planet’s surface is dead.
As a prequel to the novel, it works incredibly well with its dedication to the same type of Atompunk hard sci-fi approach. This universe’s technology is both incredibly further advanced than ours, with its navigation through space, yet devoid of all the devices we take for granted. It looks like the endgame of 1960s Soviet space tech and fashion pushed to the extreme and running on UE4 it is gorgeous at times. There are no video screens, and it all feels analog in nature. Like if you dialed back the digital in Atomic Heart and upped everything else.
You’ll be doing a lot of walking and mantling in The Invincible. I played on PC, as console code wasn’t ready before launch (as tends to happen lately). There is a lot of cursor moving around things and pressing A (or left mouse click). It’s a narrative/choice-focused title with easy and directed puzzles to solve. I never once died or reached a fail state, and while the game has a single “combat” section it’s not really anything resembling a first-person shooter.
The gameplay felt smooth on both controller & mouse/keyboard. For a large part of the mid and endgame, you’ll have access to a vehicle to drive around, which felt easy to use as well. The game is always in first-person, so seeing while driving could be tough and I had to bring up the game’s maps often. Those maps are hand drawn but still show your position as well as points of interest in the environment. The game’s dedication to hard science fiction comes through in the meticulous, hand-crafted nature of everything you have access to and come across. It’s handled well and never a burden. Your character is brilliant and can understand things well enough so that even if you aren’t sure she’ll call out what to do or where to go next when necessary.
If you’ve played the demo then you’ve seen a lot of what the main gameplay is like. The drive is the narrative and the choices you’ll have to make in the game’s timed response system. There were a few occasions where the game gave me an objective and I didn’t realize it wasn’t mandatory. Sadly there is only one save which is automatically handled so I was unable to go back and make the choice I would have preferred. It’s my main critique, the lack of manual saves. Let me save scum so I can fix choices!
Running on Unreal Engine 4 The Invincible can be stunning at times, and a bit low-resolution texture-wise at others. The colors and art direction are phenomenal, though the HDR to SDR conversion when capturing footage in OBS was far too saturated for anyone watching the video review. Character models look solid, with some of the human faces looking a bit off at times. I just love the Atompunk aesthetic, and the machinery, vehicles, and habitats are consistently stunning.
Writing-wise the stars are the two main characters, Yasna and Novik. Depending on your conversational choices you’ll become either close or incredibly close as you try to save your comrades and escape a dead world. Some later characters are a bit weak, but writing and voice acting-wise but they’re not bad. It did drag it down a bit for me in the end when the voice acting of one particular important character sounded “off”, like English might not have been their first language. The plot itself is fascinating and an awesome setup to the events of the book. I would recommend playing the game first as the mystery of the planet is straight from the novel and I appreciated that I didn’t know it before playing.
There isn’t a ton of music in The Invincible but when it hits it’s great, matching the mood and location well. The Foley work on sound effects is well done, with realistic thunks and whirs as the various analog contraptions are used. Dr. Yasna is voiced by Daisy May, who puts in an incredible performance. Her work alongside Novik, voiced by Jason Baughan, carries the title and elevates it from something good to a truly great experience.
The only bugs I ran into while playing were graphical in nature and tied to clipping through objects. Occasionally when climbing my hands would go into and through the ground to a hilarious degree and on two occasions I became stuck in a corpse and had to hop around for 10 seconds before finally dislodging myself.
The Invincible is a great game, full of wonderful storytelling and choices that feel impactful. The narrative suffers a bit near the end, but it’s an easy game to recommend to any genre fan. The gameplay is enjoyable, Regis III and everything on it is gorgeously realized, and it is a dream prequel to an excellent book.