The Polish game studio Starward Industries is one of those that was born in recent years by “splitting” developers from larger companies. Thanks to this, you will find veterans who participated in games like The Witcher 3 or Dying Light. According to them, their ambition is to bring games that, although in terms of scope or price tag, fall into the AA category, but with their processing and quality, they clearly fit among the top AAA titles. This concept has been successfully demonstrated in the past by other relatively small teams and games such as Hellblade. If you’ve played one of the two public demos, you probably already know that the developers have succeeded in their ambitions in many ways: The Invincible looks amazing, and entering the game’s stylized world will make a big impression on you.
- Platform: PS5 (reviewed version), XSX|S, PC
- Date of publication: 6/11/2023
- Manufacturer: Starward Industries (Poland)
- Genre: adventure game
- Czech localization: No
- Multiplayer: No
- Data to download: 40 GB
- Game Time: 7+ hours
- Price: 799 CZK (Steam)
Not everything everywhere is for us
The story is based on the famous science fiction book “Invincible” by the Polish writer Stanisław Lem. This is a fairly cult novel that was published back in 1964, but nevertheless already worked with the ideas of very advanced technologies (to reveal exactly what they are would spoil the surprise of the game’s story for someone who has not read the book). With respect to the time of the book’s creation, the entire story is wrapped in a stylish cloak of retrofuturism and atompunk, which the creators of the video game adhere to very consistently, not only in the overall design of all devices and costumes, but also in the way the characters speak. The result is an impressive immersion in the atmosphere of the “golden era of fantasy”, when the future of humanity seemed to be entirely dedicated to traveling through space and discovering new things. But fans of the book don’t have to worry about being able to predict the entire game – the developers have significantly adjusted the story and built it non-linearly, with many player choices throughout the course.
Your character’s name is Yasna (probably Jasna in Czech, or “Jasněnka” if you prefer) and she works as an astrobiologist in the six-member crew of a research starship named Dragonfly. At the end of the current quest, your return to Earth is unexpectedly interrupted by an order to explore the seemingly desolate planet Regis III, which your commander apparently isn’t telling you everything about. Shortly after landing on the surface, things get dramatically complicated, with crew members disappearing and subject to mysterious phenomena. You will have to decide between saving their lives and between a deeper exploration of the strange ruins you discover on the planet. The story has a great flow, the revelations are impressive and the choices you are faced with are often very difficult. However, the central mystery of the planet looms above all this, which is superbly constructed and the quest to uncover it will completely absorb you.
Your return to Earth is interrupted by an order to explore a desolate planet.
You practically watch the entire game from the point of view of your own eyes, and the events are continuously happening around you, similar to, for example, in Half-Life. But at the same time, with each progress or decision in the story, you unlock comic book summary boxes in the game menu, which I thought was strange at first, but I appreciated it a lot during the gameplay, as it helps to keep a good overview of the events, especially when the story is not told linearly in places (it uses also flashbacks etc.). Although the first half of the game completely blew me away and I devoured every new discovery and revelation like few games do, in the second half it seemed to me that the game kind of gave up on the most interesting theme (revealing the mystery of the planet) in favor of a relatively ordinary drama about the theme of human strife between two “factions” trying to unravel the mystery of the planet. The game also has several possible endings, but none felt as compelling as the game’s great opening hours.
A story game for the thoughtful
From a game point of view, The Invincible is a pure-bred adventure game, which many would probably classify as a walking simulator. In other words, there is no action in the traditional sense of the word. The content of the game is walking (and driving in a transporter) on the surface of the planet, exploring interesting locations and choosing dialogue options when interacting with other crew members. You don’t even have an inventory in the classic sense of the word, but you do have some useful tools at your disposal, from an interactive map to a human signal detector to a metal detector that works a bit like an X-ray to help you visualize metallic elements under the sand or rocks of the planet, which will turn out to be be very important not only for discovering hidden ruins, but also for survival in some situations.
In terms of gameplay, The Invincible is pure adventure.
One thing I struggled with a few times during my roughly seven hours of play (the game is impressively narrative, but relatively shorter and also retails for less) was navigation. Once you get a vehicle, the game opens up a relatively larger or more fragmented environment in places, but it doesn’t always sufficiently indicate on the map exactly where you have to travel or where – of course, this is not helped by the fact that, as stylish and impressive as the design of the game is, you are often moving in a relative wasteland of rock and sand. At the same time, this problem is compounded by the fact that the vehicle does not go that fast and Jasna herself, of course, walks even more slowly. Although you can also sprint, Jasna quickly gets out of breath and slows down, which after a while gets on your nerves both functionally and sonically. It’s by no means an issue that’s too common or game-breaking, but you’ll probably sigh a few times over it.
I played the game on PlayStation 5 and visually it ran and looked great most of the time. If you find the planet gray or uninteresting, just wait until the time of day or weather changes (within the story). What was unfortunately a bit annoying (it may already be fixed at the time of release) was the sound – the volume ratio of the dubbing of some characters does not make much sense (a faraway character is louder than a closer one, or the voice disappears in the music, etc.) and here and there there were unnatural distortion of the sound or its loss, obviously caused by some technical problem. But if you have the subtitles on, thanks to them you will always understand what each character is saying. Overall, the game successfully captivated me with its interesting story and very stylish visuals, so I bit off its shortcomings and finished it in one sitting.
- Engaging opening hours
- Impressive visual style
- Difficult choices in places
- Thrilling story
- The central mystery
It bothers us
- Untuned sound system in places
- Sometimes confusing navigation
- Weaker second half