Earlier this week, The Invincible arrived, a first-person narrative adventure based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Polish author Stanisław Lem. New video game adaptations aren’t entirely a new phenomenon, with many of our favorite franchises like The Witcher, Metro and Assassin’s Creed all having their origins in the pages of books, but does this one manage to stick the landing?
I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t read the novel on which The Invincible is based, but I still didn’t find it to detract from my enjoyment of the story. Here you play as an astrobiologist named Yasna, who goes on a mission to find her missing crewmates on the barren and desolate world of Regis III. As you begin to discover the fate of these missing members, a broader mystery surrounding the planet and its origins begins to unravel.
Without going into too much detail, I thought the story was well paced and had many twists sprinkled throughout that kept me hooked. The two main characters, Yasna and Novic, also deliver solid emotionally charged performances, which was great to see as their back-and-forth interactions take up most of the running time. I also felt that The Invincible didn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at around ten hours.
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My biggest complaint about The Invincible’s story is the illusion of choice it tries to inject. There were a few times during my journey where I was presented with one seemingly pivotal moment or another, only to discover that the choice I made had absolutely no bearing on the direction of the story. The same can be said to a lesser extent of the dialogue options. Responding to Novic gives you a handful of options to choose from, but it rarely felt like the options I chose actually made a difference.
Speaking of gameplay, the title I would most compare to The Invincible in this department is Firewatch. Your time will mainly be spent walking the surface of the planet, solving basic puzzles and tracking down your crew using a selection of gadgets inspired by ’60s sci-fi. These gadgets include a tracker that lets you track the signal of your crewmates and an X-ray machine that allows you to view the planet’s surface.
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What I’m saying is that if games like Firewatch or What Remains of Edith Finch haven’t done it for you in the past, this probably isn’t one for you. Most of the game is spent walking along one big linear path and there are no action scenes to break things up. Personally, I enjoyed the beautiful visuals and listening to the unfolding panicked conversations between Yasna and Novic, but I know this won’t appeal to everyone.
However, I wish there was a little more variety to spice up the moments of getting from point A to point B. You do get a rover later in the story and it helps to speed up and vary the journey, but most of your journey is spent on foot. I also didn’t find navigating through the environment to be the smoothest. Yasna cannot jump and you have to look for clues in the environment if you want to climb up or descend a ledge. These prompts aren’t always the easiest to deal with and the animation associated with them is painfully long.
While it manages to tell a compelling story, overall I found The Invincible to be a bit of a mixed bag. The game offers only an illusion of choice, with the player’s decisions mattering very little, and I found traversing the world to lack any real variety. If you’re a fan of the source material or get a kick out of these narrative titles, this one might be interesting, but if you don’t fall into these two camps, I’d recommend giving it a miss.