Stanislaw Lem was a Polish science fiction writer who produced a serious amount of novels over his lifetime. He was heralded, like all good sci-fi authors, as a great writer but also a predictor of future achievements. So it feels like a great idea to take his 1964 novel The Invincible as some source material for a new game.
Whilst we may have had a decent amount of space-themed games releasing in the gaming world this year – with Starfield of course being the forerunner – what is it like to have a more focused, linear experience? A game in which the story is more important than the action? Let’s go exploring in The Invincible.
The Invincible is a first-person action-adventure narrative gaming experience in which you start the game on the planet Regis III. It’s a beautiful sand world full of pink skies and rocky landscapes; apparently devoid of life, except in the oceans. You play Yasna, a member of a small team of explorers who work for a group called The Commonwealth. Yasna is a biologist, but, as she wakes, has no memory of why she is on the planet floor. It is as she starts to explore more the memories start to come flooding back and so she carries on her journey through the secrets of the planet, attempting to get to grips with what happened to her – and her crew.
Story and narrative are the key ingredients to this adventure. The Invincible is a sci-fi mystery story that feels very much like reading a novel; a page-turner in which you’ll want to discover all the answers. If you are not into stories I think you might struggle a bit with this, mostly as there are a lot of them kicking around. In fact, in some moments you will be found just talking for long sections; listening to what is going on is key.
The world-building and characters you meet along the way are satisfying and interesting though, with things building as more is revealed over the course of some eight hours or so. This visual storytelling of the world and places you visit is brilliant, helped along by the use of a 1960s retro space feel, mixing in analog systems and low-grade sci-fi to great effect.
The Invincible isn’t a totally free-roaming affair. There are moments where it feels like a semi-open world, all as you go about discovering things. You can move around the planet with ease too, but there are areas which you are guided to go to. There isn’t a jump button, so you move up when near a selected rock or ledge and press up to access it. This way of performing an action is repeated with lever pulling and the interaction with objects along the way.
But there are more interesting things to do than those I’ve described. You get a variety of gadgets to play with, like space binoculars which are a real joy. There is also a device to monitor living beings nearby and one that can scan beyond the rocks and underneath the ground. There are even moments in the game where you will be driving a rover across the planet, controlling drones, and partaking in a combat section. It all works really well, mixing a multitude of mechanics, however there are some pacing problems, with the more talky sections feeling a bit one-note.
No matter what you think of the tale, the visuals in The Invincible are nothing short of sublime. It’s like looking at a retro piece of pop art from the 1960’s, full of amazing landscapes, brilliant horizons, and moments of beauty throughout. The interior levels are great as well with some high levels of detail and a colour grade that is firmly planted in pastel heaven.
The voice work does an amazing job throughout too. The main character has some lovely moments, singing songs to herself to keep her going when alone in the wilderness. The score is wonderful, with some dramatic moments complemented by quieter beats.
The Invincible is going to split opinion; not everyone is going to love this game, although many others will. It’s a story-driven adventure where narrative is the driving force so should you be looking for a thoughtful adventure in a brave new world and don’t mind the slow pace brought on by the game mechanics, then The Invincible will deliver you to the stars.