The Invincible by Stanislaw Lem is one of those books that helped lay the foundations of sci-fi tropes when it was written in the 1960s. Elements like artificial swarm intelligence and microbots owe some of their conception to the works of Lem. Adapting the novel into a video game provides an interesting opportunity, with Starward Industries aiming to bringing this iconic work to a completely new audience.
If you’re expecting The Invincible to be an all-out action adventure game then you will have to adjust that perspective. Taking on the role of Yasna, a Commonwealth biologist, players are transported to the surface of Regis III. It’s a world that holds mysteries and drama, the first of which is figuring out how Yasna ended up on Regis III and where the rest of the crew she’d been travelling with have disappeared to.
You’ll start with getting your bearings and learning about the equipment you have, inspired by retro sci-fi and analogue technology. For example, Yasna’s beacon tracker doesn’t have a screen, but features a circle of dotted lights that flash as you get nearer to a target. There’s also a telemeter, showing objects in green and acting as a pathfinder in certain areas of the game.
Much of The Invincible is walking and talking, exploring the various areas of Regis III as you progress on Yasna’s journey to uncover the mystery. There are some puzzle elements within the game, such as the aforementioned pathfinding, but they’re not that difficult. Instead, much of the interaction with the world is Yasna commenting on things, the situations she finds herself in and making connections between her discoveries and relaying them back to base.
In some ways, it could be viewed as a ‘walking simulator’, but the story does have choices to make which impact how events unfold and it is a very well written story, offering a suitable selection of twists and turns. The way it is delivered is excellently handled as well, with the acting conveying the wonder of new discoveries, as well as the panic when things are not going right.
You will walk, and occasionally drive, to different areas. The traversal is very good and you can sprint for a time, but Yasna does run out breath quite quickly. There are also a couple of major set pieces that rack up the action, but for the most part this is more of an exploration game, with some philosophising and discussions about various themes. One playthrough took around seven hours, but you can replay to unlock different paths in the story with different endings.
One of the real stars of The Invincible is Regis III itself. The environmental design is fantastic. Even though much of the planet is essentially a desert, Starward Industries has made its locations and vistas stand out with great sci-fi flourishes. There is a lot of colour on this planet, and it expands to the other visual elements including the tools, and campsites looking great. The Invincible really captures the retro future vibe, and there’s a great attention to detail – Yasna’s helmet fogs up a bit as she exhaled, for example.
There were a couple of bugs during the playthrough, including the game not loading into a new area freezing on a black screen, which meant restarting the game, or getting stuck on scenery that forced me to reload a save. Another issue was with the vision in some of the darker environments, with Yasna’s helmet having quite a bit of dirt that it could be difficult to see. They’re all relatively minor hiccups, and can hopefully be patched out soon.