Saving the world from destruction is the oldest trick in the book as far as RPGs are concerned. If a game isn’t well-written, it’s one of the most hackneyed, unimaginative stories possible. But with strong characterization, sharp dialogue, and engaging gameplay, the overall plot doesn’t matter as much. And Indivisible from Lab Zero Games does a great job with all three.
Oh, no. Not my village…
Indivisible‘s tale begins in media res with four characters fighting a few glowing orbs. This all makes plenty of sense later and is a good way of providing the player with the basic gist of the combat in the opening minutes. But the game stumbles a bit at first. We play as Ajna, a young girl living in the village of Ashwat. She’s late for training with her father, but she overslept because she’s such a ditz! Immediately after her training session, she realizes her village is burning and her father is dying. The game wastes absolutely no time throwing all of these cliches in. But this part of the game is fairly brief, so at least there’s that.
As her father dies on the ground, Ajna meets his murderer, Dhar, and faces him in battle. During the fight, however, Ajna accidentally takes him into her mind, and he agrees to lead her to the man he takes his orders from, Ravanavarr. Along the way, Ajna meets other people who also take up residence in her mind to join her on her quest. As it goes on, the fate of the world ends up hanging in the balance as she figures out that she’s part of something much bigger.
The narrative is simple and extremely familiar. However, the characters are all well-written and likable. The dialogue is especially good, and I very much enjoyed the banter. The game is just plain funny, but it can also be quite touching. The story itself won’t impress anyone, but the characters and dialogue shine and give it a ton of personality. My favorite character is Razmi, an extremely strange woman who wears the skin of her dead tiger friend, whose soul she uses to set things on fire.
One good turn
Indivisible bills itself as a Metroid-like action-RPG, but it’s more complicated than that. You can only control Ajna when moving around, and she starts with a basic set of movements. She can dash, wall-jump, and slide at first, but she frequently gains new abilities that significantly expand her mobility. The movement is especially fun here. Plus, there’s a ton of platforming, which makes really intelligent use of all of Ajna’s many abilities. She can also hit enemies in the field to initiate combat.
Then there’s the combat, which is inspired by Valkyrie Profile. Ajna finds a ton of party members and can have three of them fight alongside her at any time. Each party member is mapped to one of your controller’s four face buttons, and everyone attacks in real-time. You simply press the corresponding button, and then they go off and attack the enemy. Each character has three basic attacks – their standard one, an up attack, and a down attack. The way Indivisible handles its character’s movesets and their markedly different playstyles reminded me of a fighting game more than anything else.
Still, the combat works really well. The characters can all block, and perfect blocks reward you with no damage taken. The environments have red gems that you can find called ringsels, which can be used to upgrade your party’s attack power and defense. Each time you upgrade attack, everyone gets another button press and extra damage, while defense sees them taking less damage and gaining more health back from perfect blocks.
Character attacks naturally come in different forms. Some characters are melee-focused, some ranged, and some do magic damage. They all have varying stats, too. I preferred to have nothing but fast characters on my team, as their attacks fill back up much faster, which allowed me to mash all four face buttons at once to clobber the hell out of enemies. This makes combat take way less time. During the first 3/4 of the game, enemies can be a bit spongey, so I just thought this flowed better than slowly taking them on one-by-one, even if it meant that I didn’t get to explore the deeper mechanics of each character.
But Indivisible‘s combat is mostly very easy anyway. I almost never died during it. Even so, the fighting is still very enjoyable. However, 3/4 of the way through the game, the enemies all start dying in just a few hits and the combat starts feeling like an afterthought. This was a weird choice, as I missed it during the last several hours.
The game itself loses a lot of steam at the 3/4 mark as well. It stops introducing you to new places and sends you back to ones you just got through with. And, in some cases, you have to go back through the exact same areas again with only minor differences, which was disappointing. However, Ajna still regularly gets new abilities, so you can use those to explore these areas for ringsels you couldn’t reach earlier. And the level design is good, so I didn’t mind so much, as Ajna’s abilities are a joy to use.
Indivisible has a good amount of content on offer, despite how re-hashy the last quarter of the game can be. It took me about 23 hours to beat, though I did scour the game world for everything I could find. I still missed a couple of companions, though, despite how thorough I tried to be. There doesn’t appear to be a new game plus or anything to do once you beat the game, however. I beat it and sat through the credits, only to find the option to start a new game where it doesn’t seem anything carried over.
Still, I had a really good time with the game. The levels can feel a little empty due to the fact that you tend to fight enemies more like a turn-based RPG than a traditional action game, even if the fighting is similarly satisfying. I really enjoyed the platforming too, which could be surprisingly challenging, especially when trying to reach difficult ringsels. What I didn’t like was the obnoxious last boss fight, which is very different from the rest of the game. That battle is based on memorization and perfect blocking. It definitely left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth at the very end.
It really needs to be said that Indivisible is a gorgeous game. The sprites are beautifully drawn and animated, and the character designs have a ton of personality. The sprites also mix very well with the game’s 3D backgrounds. I never got sick of seeing the animations, whether in combat or just exploring the world.
What isn’t quite as good is the voice acting. Indivisible mostly sounds like an above-average anime dub. A fair amount of the actors are surprisingly miscast and often put inflection on the wrong words in their lines. And this varies from character to character. Ajna’s actor is a good fit for the role, but her inflection is often lacking, especially in dramatic moments. Characters like Dhar and Thorani have voices that don’t really suit them in my opinion, with Dhar’s actor being more wooden than most.
But then you’ve got Stephanie Sheh’s fantastic performance as Razmi, plus other standouts like Nuna’s actor and the woman who plays Mary. Matthew Mercer gives a solid performance as Zubei as well, although that character is one of the duller ones. I’d chalk a lot of the voice problems up to casting and voice direction. Due to budget, it’s possible there just wasn’t enough time to get the best performances they could. The sound Ajna makes when she runs also gets old.
And that’s that
Overall, I enjoyed Indivisible a great deal. The graphics and combat are top-notch, and the dialogue is excellent too, in spite of the very basic story and some mediocre vocal performances. But the game is held back a bit by rehashing and near-total abandonment of combat in the last quarter. Some obnoxious boss battles can also take some head-scratching. That said, I can wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone who wants a unique, beautiful action-RPG filled with lovable characters.