The name Indivisible may be familiar to some of you, since the original prototype demo was released way back in 2015. That prototype was a novel way of pitching a studio’s work, a move which saw Lab Zero’s title garner significant interest despite being at such an early stage in development. It didn’t hurt that the team were responsible for the critically acclaimed Skullgirls and clearly drew on their fighting game prowess in designing the game’s combat. Four long years later and the full game is finally with us, complete with a dizzying roster of companions, a distinctive artstyle and a unique blend of Metroidvania and JRPG. Despite the long delay between the prototype and the full game though, Indivisible has been worth the wait.
So often genre is the easiest first step to introduce a game in a review. Comparing a new game to others that have gone before saves a lot of words and immediately flags up the title to interested players. This doesn’t really work for Indivisible though, as it’s a veritable cocktail of genres, combined to produce a refreshingly diverse game that constantly throws new and challenging gameplay elements your way.
The background and storyline of Indivisible is far more familiar though, presenting the classic JRPG staple of a young protagonist with mysterious origins eventually discovering that they are the chosen one who must save the world from a catastrophic evil. Whilst this is in many ways a cliché, the writing in Indivisible is knowing enough to draw attention to, and make good use of, the conventions of the story. Ajna is a likeable lead character, and her growth throughout the game is more developed than is often the case. What seems like a predictable narrative begins to take on surprisingly emotional and psychological depth as the game progresses.
Indivisible’s world is traversed through the aforementioned Metroidvania approach, with hidden areas, sections opened up through new skills, and a surprising level of platforming skill required. The various areas seem relatively small at first glance, but the game requires you to return to each as you unlock extra skills and the maps are surprisingly complex with shortcuts aplenty. The map isn’t as clear or useful as in a straight Metroidvania though, which can add a little frustration when working out where to go next with your new power. There is a fantastic sense of progress though as later skills enable you to zip around the map with ease, avoiding the previously tricky platforming sections. This, coupled with the frequent savepoints and the lack of any real penalty for death, means that you rarely feel bogged down.
As with most JRPGs a large part of the game revolves around battles with monsters. Indivisible adds a fantastic combat system to make these battles far more enjoyable than is often the case. Every character you recruit has their own set of moves and skills and the possible combinations between team members is huge. I counted 20 allies towards the end of the game – and I may have missed a couple since many are related to side quests – although I did find myself largely sticking with a core set in the late parts of the game. Balancing status effects, damage output, healing, and speed means that there are almost certainly particular combinations that will work especially well. For my part, I combined the ever-present Ajna with a healer, an aerial expert, and an additional melee expert to great effect.
The combat itself involves each character being set to one of the face buttons with both attack and defense contextually controlled. The ways in which this seemingly simple setup allows for juggling, stunning, and status based attacks is particularly impressive, with some enemies requiring specific approaches to be defeated. Unlike the standard grindy battles of many JRPGs, combat in Indivisible is an active process. It’s therefore a shame that battles become so easy late on in the game. Once I hit Level 40 most battles could be completed in a matter of seconds, with the shift to a battle screen taking longer than the fight itself. It could be that I managed to fall on a combination that was especially effective but it did remove much of the early thrill of the battle system. The exception to this are the boss battles which often involve an interesting mix of the platforming mechanics and the combat.
Indivisible is a substantial game too. There’s a good fifteen to twenty hours of content, not including looking for hidden collectables to power up your attack and defensive capabilities. The narrative pushes you along at a decent pace too, with double-crosses, setbacks and backtracking ensuring that you have to really explore the full extent of the game’s various locales. The quality of the writing ensures that the various companions have a real character of their own, with them often commenting on your actions in humorous ways. The diversity of the companions is also a welcome aspect, although some of the costume design veers a little close to self-parody.