Review – The Invincible
There is always great joy in compelling science fiction mysteries. Uncovering the unknown is something that video games do well, even in the walking simulator genre. Games like SOMA have stuck with me for years, thanks to a compelling narrative, even if it ended up lacking in gameplay. Unfortunately, The Invicible ends up being a something that is tough to recommend to everyone.
Set on the planet of Regis-III, you play as Yasna, a part of the Firefly expedition team sent planetside to investigate the local fauna and flora on the planet, but things don’t add up. Very quickly the situation becomes dire, as Yasna is separated from her crew and suffering memory loss with frequent blackouts. Yasna with the help of the Astrogator must find the rest of the crew and discover what is causing these strange side effects.
Based on the novel of the same name by polish Author Stanisław Herman Lem, The Invincible tells an extremely compelling narrative mystery to uncover. Yasna, as one of the only characters, is an absolute treat. Much like how The Martian‘s Mark Wattney is incredibly likable, managing to keep a small sense of humour whilst stuck in what is arguably one of the worst possible situations you can possibly be in. Trapped alone on an empty planet with seemingly livable conditions, but nothing is quite right.
Yasna is not alone however; joining her is the Astrogator who will help guide her through the dangerous terrains and whatever else you will find throughout. Their relationship sits at the core of The Invincible as they discover the unknown they will have deeper discussions about the future of humanity and their place in the universe.
Dialogue choices come up very frequently and the implementation here is excellent, adding a lot of flavour to the experience and encourages some form of replay value. There are some choices that can have some impact on how events play out, but other times can give the illusion. Regardless, the choices do a great job of building up these characters, so much so that I’m considering replaying the game.
Having an incredibly strong story is undoubtedly its highlight, because unfortunately, The Invincible has some pretty severe issues. Namely with gameplay, that will very rarely engage you. The Invincible is very much a walking simulator, as Yasna will very slowly move from Point A to Point B. You do eventually get a rover to fast track exploration, but it still sits with the same problem of extended periods of nothing. As a result, the pacing drastically suffers as it can take a long time for the plot to really start kicking off, and when it does it keeps slowing down as you move from one area to the next.
Not only that, but there is a severe lack of variety with the gameplay, which doesn’t help matters. You will occasionally need to climb up a hill or rocky terrain, but this is just pressing the same few buttons. Very little variety gets added, despite there being some potential for some puzzles or something more substantial. Yasna’s journal is a big part of the experience, mapping out the terrain as well as points of interest. But instead of doing some interesting mechanics around this, it’s all completed for you.
Same for the metal detector, bionics, and tracker you have access to. They are all used in a linear fashion and very rarely make you think. Whilst I understand this is a linear narrative experience, some variety would have went a really long way to significantly improving it. If it wasn’t for such an incredibly strong central cast, this experience would have been impossible to recommend. Even with the story being as good as it is, there are some major issues that one can’t overlook.
Regis-III has some excellent views. This is on-top of the excellent retro sci-fi look, and I’m not talking Starfield‘s low-tech sci-fi aesthetic. The visual design itself is very 1950s, with simpler designs that just look absolutely wonderful within the context of The Invincible‘s world. It’s not always great though, with some low resolution textures when you get too close to the environment, or some pretty bad pop-ins all throughout.
As for the sound design, this is excellent. Yasna’s and the Astrogater’s voice actors do an absolutely amazing job carrying the seven hour experience. They hit all the emotional beats whilst still having great chemistry. Its subtle but impactful soundtrack kicks in at key moments to make the game feel a bit bigger than it is.
The Invincible lacks imagination in its gameplay, which is pretty much walking in a straight line, and fails to capture any potentially interesting mechanics. However, The Invincible‘s compelling narrative, strong themes, and great characters make this an experience well worth playing. If you are a fan of science fiction, this is a must-play, assuming you can get past the lacklustre gameplay.
The world of Regis-III has some magnificent sights, but look a little closer and there are some seriously rough edges.
Walking, walking, and more walking. The Invincible is a walking simulator that fails to add even a little variety.
Incredibly strong voice acting keeps the story engaging, with some likable characters and chatter.
The Invincible‘s compelling sci-fi mystery is just enough to push through some tedious gameplay.
Final Verdict: 6.0
The Invincible is available now on PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 4070.
A copy of The Invincible was provided by the publisher.