REVIEW – The game adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s The Invincible did not work out as it should have. Moreover, it is a relatively short game that is far from being in excellent condition, so the work of Starward Industries (ex-The Witcher developers) cannot be recommended to sci-fi fans. If so, it will be leaked in a month and a half.
Rethink human domination in The Invincible: a story-driven adventure set in a hard sci-fi world by Stanisław Lem. Explore the planet Regis III as scientist Yasna, using Atompunk tools to search for a missing crew and face unforeseen threats. Make decisions in a philosophical story driven by science.
Unfortunately, the game falls into the typical amnesia cliché, so it doesn’t get off to a very good start. Typical awakening in an alien world, the Alliance is looking for resources in the area. Our radios don’t work very well, information is scarce and the whereabouts of our teammates are unknown. A simple but slowly building sci-fi adventure is all around us, represented by the hard sci-fi style. Influenced by atompunk and retro-futurism, we see the hottest years of the Cold War (mid to late 1950s) from a unique perspective, although the future imagined back then did not turn out to be so. So Dr. Yasna leaves the Commonwealth ship Dragonfly and slowly begins to map the area, and that’s how the picture comes together. Eventually she meets Astrogator Novik (who, despite his name, is not a Russian space crocodile, but a navigator), who offers to help our protagonist, who doesn’t get much of a user interface, and there aren’t many visual clues either. As a result, we learn about things through exploration (Journey, for example), and we can’t really go wild with our equipment.
The world of Regis III is at least pleasant, even if it has graphical flaws on PlayStation 5 (and should be downgraded half a point for that), but you can experience the otherworldly elements on Sony’s console. You can get lost in them, and maybe it’s worth it for a few minutes here and there. And the mechanical home, while a bit comical, is an apt way to imagine the future, and our spacesuit goes in that direction (and there’s a real retrofuturism to the robot assistants; though Atomic Heart’s concept was much more effective). There are also comic panels that open up as the story progresses, and that’s also appealing, but it has to be said that visuals alone don’t make a game. How often have we seen something very beautiful, but then everything else is unpolished? The most recent example was The Order: 1886 on PlayStation 4. Its visuals were far superior to what was on offer at the time, but the game was over in a flash and there was no sequel…
You shouldn’t expect non-stop action in the gameplay, and the pacing isn’t particularly fast (except for the fact that you can get to the end in six hours, and you can still cut some of that off…). It’s a walking simulator. The alien planet has to be explored, everything is imbued with the work of Stanislaw Lem. But it is different because it introduces additional characters and dares to touch the story. This is a risky step, but fortunately it was not a mistake, because the philosophically reflective story is deeper. During the dialogues between Yasna and Novik, our protagonist looks back on the events, and she has to, because she has to come to terms with her loneliness and the events that have made it worse. These conversations also provide background information, as we learn more about the Dragonfly’s mission, but also what information the Commonwealth has about the Alliance.
This is accompanied by solid voice acting. The game isn’t great though, as the pacing of The Invincible is lousy. Oh well, something big is about to happen, the game builds up to it, and then all you get in the end is the equivalent of a fart. The stakes seem high at the beginning of the story, but then the concept breaks down and the tension dissipates. There is no danger, no consequence, and therefore no momentum behind it, nor is there anything positive to say about the choices we have to make, except that they can be used to gain trophies or achievements. The ending may not be to the liking of the audience either, and the replayability factor is not very good either.
The Invincible gets a very weak seven out of ten for a good adaptation of retrofuturism. On PlayStation 5, it’s at most six and a half out of ten because of the graphical bugs. I recommend buying the game at full price only for Stanislaw Lem fans. Everyone else should wait for a sale. The comic bonus is nice, but it doesn’t carry the game on its back, and it’s better that it doesn’t. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this become a PlayStation Plus Essential game in 9-12 months.
+ The harder sci-fi style
+ The dub
+ Possibly the comic extra
– Not sure many people will play again
– Its pace and narrative are flawed
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Developer: Starward Industries
Release: November 6, 2023.