Brutally Honest Review

The Invincible

Written by - Codiak

Updated: November 25, 2023


Posted: November 2, 2023

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Every year I try and spend some time playing games off the beaten path. AAA juggernauts are, for the most part, predictable and if you want to have a truly unique experience you branch out and explore games you otherwise wouldn’t. That’s how games like Dave the Diver, Dredge, and heck even the first game I covered here on the channel, Dead Cells gets discovered.

With that context in mind, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Starward Industries first game The Invincible which is an adaptation of a book by the same name, published in 1964. It also happens to be one of my low-key favorite genres of games, a walking simulator, and if you’ve never heard that term before I believe you. 

To put it simply, a walking simulator is a single-player story-driven game that focuses on narrative, environmental storytelling, and deductive reasoning to guide the player through a linear adventure. There’s very little, if any combat, and the game’s fun factor comes by telling an engaging story that sucks you into the world you’re inhabiting. Games like Gone Home and Firewatch, which is a personal favorite of mine, helped elevate the genre to the mainstream, but by and large it’s still very niche.

I’m giving you this extra background because I realize that not everyone knows this genre the same way they understand a first-person shooter and if you can’t understand something you can’t appreciate it, so hopefully the context helps. With that in mind, let’s get to the matter at hand.

Here’s the headline, The Invincible is a solid attempt at a deep sci-fi walking simulator. The voice acting is stellar and the story hits on an emotional level multiple times throughout the journey, but unless you’re a starry-eyed fan of space and the secrets of the universe it might not hold your attention.

I wanted to love The Invincible, I really did, and as I’ve already confessed, I’m a huge fan of this story-driven genre, but at the end of the day unless you’re a huge fan of hardcore science fiction it’s very possible the game could lose your attention. To be fair, that’s a me thing, and if you are a fan of sci-fi then The Invincible could very well be a game you enjoy, but on multiple occasions throughout my playthrough I just fell out of the immersion, and I’m going to try and explain why that is, but first I want to highlight some of the good things about The Invincible.

First and foremost the world of Regis III, the planet you’re exploring, is rather breathtaking and it did pull me in almost immediately. It’s desolate so don’t expect vibrant colors and gorgeous vistas, but as a scientist, stranded on an alien planet it did its job. Throughout almost every step of my adventure I felt small, as if I was trespassing on someone else’s home and I think that’s the exact vibe the developers were going for. Couple that with the 50’s era atom-punk technology that you’ll encounter and all of the pieces of the world come together in a rather interesting way.

Of course I can’t go too deep into the things you see and do because with a game like this every scrap of information informs the bigger picture, and I don’t want to spoil that for you, so we’ll keep things generalized so as to not ruin the element of discovery.

As is common with this genre you’re often alone, and in the case of The Invincible you’re in constant contact with your commander via a radio. This is where the voice acting becomes such an imperative part of the experience because one bad line of dialogue, one ill-performed delivery and it can pull you completely out of the element. In this, The Invincible gets it right and the constant back and forth between Yasna and her commander are masterfully written and delivered.

It’s that level of back and forth, intermixed with your ability to choose specific, and often distinctly different responses that give Yasna a unique identity. Your responses to a situation might be different than mine and the game does react to those sorts of situations all the way up to the very end. It’s cool to have that layer of “choice” in a walking simulator because oftentimes you’re stuck entirely on rails. The deviation is purposeful and to see the developers follow-through with your responses with variable outcomes is really cool. 

That being said after I finished the roughly 6-hour game, and yes, I’m well aware that’s going to shock a lot of you, I realized that I could go back and play through it again with different choices. The sad reality is, I just didn’t want to. Again, this is most likely because I was never truly hooked on the hardcore science fiction of the game, but if you are someone that enjoys H.G. Wells or Jules Verne then again, it’s very possible you could get sucked into the story that unfolds in The Invincible. 

One thing I really enjoyed was the 50’s aesthetic and I was actually surprised I liked it so much. Dubbed atom-punk the technology of the game was futuristic yet shockingly primitive at the same time. The developers managed to carry that theme throughout almost every piece of technology. Whether you carried it around with you or explored it as part of the world there was a cohesiveness that helped ground the experience in a place and time which I loved. That theme of space and technology really culminates at the end of the adventure, and while I of course won’t spoil that for you, I was genuinely shocked by the scale at which the developers presented one of the final set pieces. It honestly took me by surprise. 

Ultimately though the experience of The Invincible boils down to the story and how each piece of that is laid out to the player, and that’s really what I want to focus on in the last leg of the review. The story of The Invincible, like other walking simulators, is laid out one beat at a time and it’s that slow build that you hope leads to a climactic conclusion. Usually, the mysteries that you’re trying to solve involve a complex web of people and individual ambitions, but this is where the hardcore science element of The Invincible will either win you over or lose you.

From the very beginning of your adventure you’re in a race to find some trace of life on the planet, Regis III, but every step of the way you’re confronted with scientific analysis of the situation. Not only is it a story to uncover what happened to your crew, but it’s also an exploration of the planet itself and with each journal entry or probe records you uncover you learn more about the planet than the human story that’s underlying the entire plot. 

This is honestly what lost me. I was, and am, much more interested in the human element of exploration than I am with the biological makeup of a strange alien planet and I felt like the game constantly struggled with that balance. On one front you learn more about your crew, and the struggle between the commonwealth and the alliance, a different faction. On the other hand you’re trying to make sense of a strange planet and that often takes precedence over the human side of the story. 

This isn’t inherently bad, but it all comes down to what you find interesting in your games. It’s two sides of the same coin and while each part of the adventure is interconnected it wasn’t clear what exactly I should care about at any given time. When I did eventually arrive at the finale it didn’t hit quite as hard because both threads of the main story didn’t feel fully developed and that left me with a slightly hollow feeling as the credits rolled. Bottom line, I wish the developers had picked a lane to more clearly explore and while there was enough exposition on both fronts both science and human interest, it needed more to truly hook me.

I’m sure it’s clear by now that I’m a bit conflicted on The Invincible and that’s not often a position I find myself in when reviewing a game, but this genre is notoriously tricky to evaluate because it’s so subjective. You’re analyzing game system the way you would with an RPG or FPS so you have to dissect the nuance of story and immersion that define what these games are.

Unlike some walking simulators The Invincible doesn’t leans into puzzles to try and augment the gameplay experience. There are small moments of interaction where you have to flip a switch or turn a knob, but it’s clear the developers are wholly focused on you, the player, having an immersive experience with the aim of not bogging you down in any one spot with an overly complex brain teaser. I will admit I think the game could have used a bit of this. The 50’s-inspired tech and the threat of a hostile and alien world certainly feel like the perfect backdrop for systems like that, and it felt like a bit of a miss to not include more interaction, even if it wasn’t to the level of full-tilt puzzles. Alas, the story is king here, that’s just what it is.

That being said, The Invincible is interesting and for the small cross-section of people that enjoy walking simulators and hardcore science fiction I think you’re going to find this game really enjoyable. It’s a nerdy jaunt through the minds of science fiction writers of a bygone era and the game developers did a marvelous job bringing those things to life. 

If sci-fi isn’t your genre of choice the game is still enjoyable from a story perspective, but less gripping than some of the best the genre has to offer. That may be my personal opinion, but hey, that’s why you’re watching our review. Technically the game performs fine and while the movement can feel a bit slow and tedious at times that doesn’t really get in the way of the actual experience. Again, it’s not about systems, it’s about story, and while I think the team did a good job of telling a compelling space mystery, it’s not perfect and didn’t completely win me over.

I think by now you have all the information you need to properly evaluate the game. It’s not a question of good or bad, it’s more along the lines of, “is this the right type of game for you”. For $30 it’s an easy yes for me, even if the game is relatively short. As a channel we want to support indie developers trying new things and Starward Industries has proven here that they’re willing to go out on a limb and do something different in the space, and that’s something we support. However, whether or not you choose to get The Invincible is entirely up to you.