I’ll be honest, when it comes to my favorite type of game, I certainly lean much more towards the relaxing, less intense genres that offer me time to think and reflect as I play.
Games like Minecraft and Stellaris, which give you lots of time to do what you’d like on your own, but then also offer fast-paced moments where you need to make snap decisions or else you’ll lose all of your progress. That’s why The Invincible quickly grabbed my attention, with its slow-burning tension that builds as you learn more and more about the dire situation that the lovable and relatable protagonist, Yasna the biologist, is up against. Add an appealing backdrop with breathtaking landscapes, and this single-player adventure had me from the start.
It also lost a part of me quickly early on, though, and that is why I felt like my expectations fell a touch short of the hopes I’d had for this futuristic atompunk experience. Based on a novel from 1964 of the same name by a popular Polish author named Stanisław Lem, the game clearly draws inspiration from the “hard” science fiction world Lem creates, but it also has a different storyline to ensure that readers of the book will get a new perspective on the events that unfold upon the mysterious planet of Regis III. So, let’s dive right into what the game is all about, shall we?
Knock-your-socks-off visuals and sights
Okay, my absolute favorite part of this game is 100% the insane visuals it provides. I mean, the image above speaks for itself — and that’s only the very first part of the game. Already, you can see just how detailed every single part of this brand-new planet is. The shadows and colors combine perfectly to immerse you in the world of The Invincible, all through the visor of Yasna’s helmet. Trust me when I say that the outline of your biologist protagonist’s helmet never gets in the way, and only adds to the experience that’s already exceptional.
And that’s before we even get to talking about the sky. Oh, the sky. The planets, moons, and other astral bodies you will bear witness to as you play the game will take your breath away in the best possible sense of the term. There were many times where, while on a mission to complete an objective, I found myself taking a quick (and then not-so-quick!) pitstop to just stare up at the heavens above. It was a really calming experience for me, and helped to dispel some of the tension that the storyline was building up, if only for a moment.
A plot that keeps you guessing
There are so many different twists and turns throughout the storyline of The Invincible that you’ll feel your head hurting and maybe even become a tad dizzy — but that’s probably just your oxygen levels getting a little low. You should really check on that. Now, I don’t want to reveal too much, but as you uncover more of the story with the help of your steady Astrogator (who is the captain of your mission), your objectives and priorities will shift and then shift again. In the background of it all, the tension begins to rise as your answers just lead to more questions and you find yourself uncovering more and more mysteries as you progress.
This could be a frustrating environment for some people who don’t like to wait and uncover secrets over time, but I really found it enthralling. The suspense and constant wondering of what was going to happen next were two of the main reasons that I found myself unable to tear my eyes away from The Invincible. I will say that there were times I felt the game left a couple of things open-ended or did not resolve them as definitively as I would have liked, but for the majority of mysteries introduced, you will find satisfying answers as you play on.
A foreboding atmosphere of both wonder and danger
If there’s one thing the developers of The Invincible managed to nail more than anything else, it would have to be the way that they quickly draw you into the story of the game and never let you go from then on. You’ll instantly be captured by Yasna’s plight and her curious lack of memory from the events leading up to her waking up during your first moments within the game. The team at Starward Industries does a fantastic job at ensuring the suspense only builds from there, and they will have you constantly looking over your shoulder.
If I’m being completely honest, this game coming out right after Halloween may have put me a bit more on edge than I would have been otherwise. Still, I kept feeling like I was being watched, and the music playing in the background did nothing but help enhance the atmosphere and make my immersion into the world of Regis III more complete than it always was.
One of my absolute favorite parts of the game (without spoiling anything) had to be towards the first part of the mission, when you are heading back to the base camp to reconnect with your team and find out what happened during your memory blackout. You’re all alone with only your own wits to get you there, and the whole time you have no idea what happens — but you get the sense that there’s something wrong, especially with the brief flashbacks that are interspersed throughout your journey.
Difficulty completing some objectives
I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but I’d say that if you’re talking about the different types of gamers, I am definitely closer to holding the status of an expert than that of a beginner. However, there were a number of times where I found myself confused about where to go next, especially when the objectives involved finding items or following the correct path to begin the next stage of a mission. Sure, part of that poor sense of direction was definitely due to my slack-jawed face as I experienced the incredible graphics of The Incredible, but there were also certainly some other factors involved.
One thing I would have liked to see in the game is an optional ‘Hint’ feature which could help direct the player to the next objective (should they choose to select it) and would be toggleable so that those who didn’t want to use hints wouldn’t have to even see the option. This would have helped me, as even from the very first valley that Yasna finds herself in, I was a little confused on how to leave the place. I actually walked towards the exit, but I had to go another route to get there and the game told me (through Yasna’s self-monologue) that I’d found the exit, but couldn’t access it from my position. Apparently, Yasna missed the climbing session in astronaut school.
All jokes aside, however, the problems I had finding my way to a few of the objectives (or finding the objectives themselves) weren’t a massive deal. And, hey, maybe it was just me having difficulty and not a more widespread issue. But at the end of the day, I would have liked the extra help when I was stuck, because the experience did feel a little frustrating at times.
The NPC animation left much to be desired
Although I will die on the hill that the visuals of The Invincible are — literally — out of this world, and blew me out to Regis III’s star system, there were some issues with the finer details of things that I felt could have been ironed out quite easily. My biggest suggestion, had I been a developer, would have been to make the NPCs in this game, such as your fellow crewmates and stalwart Astrogator, more lifelike. Their movements often seem a little jerky and unnatural, especially in the flashback scenes that Yasna experiences as her memories of the events immediately preceding the start of the game begin to return.
It is quite difficult to talk more about my other issue with the NPCs without revealing too much regarding the game, but I wish there had been more character development between Yasna and her fellow crewmates before she arrives at the base camp, so that we could see who they are and begin to develop attachments to some of them before we actually get to meet them. More flashback scenes such as ones that explore the lives of the crew as they traveled through space would have been most welcome in my opinion.
All in all, this game is a solid philosophical take on humanity and our right to explore the cosmos (and our own world), cleverly wrapped up into a suspenseful and intriguing adventure surrounding a plucky and sympathetic protagonist. The graphics are to die for, and even though the details of NPCs can get a little murky when you look too close, the stellar views and beautiful landscaping in the game are sure to blow your mind, just as they did mine. It’s not too often that a first-person game comes around that offers you views like this one, and I can’t help but say that I am a little jealous Yasna got to experience the majesty of Regis III firsthand! Unfortunately, we will have to console ourselves with the second-hand experience, but it’s certainly worth it. I simply can’t recommend this title enough to gamers like me who love a suspense-filled adventure game set in an original sci-fi setting!