Based on the S. Lem novel, Starward Industries and 11 Bit Studios bring us the 1st-person Sci-Fi narrative adventure, The Invincible. PSLegends got our hands early on the game ahead of its release to bring you our spoiler-free review on launch day!
On This Page
Knowing little about a game before its release is a rarity, but can present you with a whole new experience and more importantly save you from any expectations or hesitations. I got to play The Invincible knowing nothing about the game or the journey I was about to undertake… This 50s-inspired hard sci-fi story-driven game places the story at the centre of it all, and this story had me hooked! With just basic exploration tools at your disposal, can you solve the mystery of Regis III and survive to tell the tale?
So what is The Invincible all about? The story follows the protagonist Dr. Yasna of the space shuttle The Dragonfly, who awakens on a strange planet with no memory of why or what she is doing there. She can recall the other 5 members of the crew of The Dragonfly, and she can recall their mission up until landing on this planet, but after that, it is a mystery!
In time she reconnects with the captain of The Dragonfly, who is still onboard the ship, named Novik. She discovers they’re on the planet Regis III, but that it is not connected with their primary objective. Novik acts as her eyes and ears in the air, and when needed he is her metaphoric crutch and driving will to keep her going. He aids her through the use of probes and satellites to guide her, as Dr. Yasna attempts to discover what happened to the crew, and just what makes this planet so special… the story that follows is a physical, and psychological battle for survival against Dr. Yasna’s inner demons, her physical life support, and at times it feels like even the planet itself. Choices have consequences, you need to remember that!
We have purposely not shared any further details on the story for this game, to respect that this review is dropping on the day the game is publicly available. With the story being central to the game it would be a disservice to share more, however, what I can tell you after having the luxury to play through it, is that the story grips you and throws in some clever twists and turns that you should, but somehow just don’t see coming!
As with any point-and-click, narrative-heavy adventures, the controls are limited and simplistic, and as with most cases that’s a great thing! You’re taught at every juncture which buttons control what, and when you’re interacting with anything the indicators and legends help to keep you from wasting too much time, working out what you’re meant to be doing. Your key tools are all easy to use and serve their purpose, and the map system is accessed through a clever journal. There’s a lot of walking (and driving) as with any narrative adventure however the addition of an open-world map in places can be both a blessing and curse. Now and again you’ll stumble over some added lore and in places those ‘photo’ moments, whether these are enough to excuse the added minutes of walking through empty desert however is down to the player.
It is also worth noting that the developers have created a world full of small yet intentional path choices, often with two or three options leading to the same goal. It adds some additional character decision-making perspective, some choices may feel more important than they are, nonetheless as you progress, and with the weight of some other in-game decisions you’ll make, everything begins to feel very important!
One thing you will note with The Invincible is that you have to be paying attention at all times to fully immerse yourself in the game – there’s a lot of what seems to be background dialogue but then triggers a timed response mechanism (HOLD L2!) which all add to the experience and the interactions with other characters. These timed responses can be unanswered but you’ll likely miss key information and lore by doing so, which will sour and affect your experience playing the game. Even the smallest choices that you make can have ramifications on the game, and you don’t always have the time to make careful, considered choices. The options available will at times have an impact on the story, and the ending!
There are plenty of puzzles to solve, most serving the main game, but some fun additional ones unlock slides to complete the comic book – the main unlockable quest in The Invincible. They’re well worth checking out in the main menu, to follow the chronology of the story.
Whenever we talk about the gameplay I feel it worth noting that there is a repetitive nature to what you’re doing in The Invincible – you walk, inspect, interact and solve puzzles. There is a lot of walking and the game does its best to fill empty space well, but there is naturally time you’re walking with your own thoughts. This game isn’t going to hook everyone, and it is not going to be universally appealing, but for those who don’t mind slower gameplay and like to get their teeth into a sci-fi story with twists and turns, this game will appeal to you.
The Invincible is inspired by S Lem’s novel of the same title, set in the 50’s and written in 1964. The developers have captured this feeling perfectly! There is the hint of a cartoon finish to the game, not unlike that seen in XIII which was also inspired from a comic book, but it is subtle. The graphics are captivating, with some breathtaking views. The effective use of colour only enhances the visual experience, stark contrasts between land and sky, and the reduction of all colour when underground – there is a lot to enjoy.
From an audio perspective, the eerie silences that surround you in between dialogue add a very lonely feeling at the beginning of the game, but you do sometimes find yourself wishing for just a basic chord sequence or something to fill the emptiness from time to time. The clever use of overlays with most dialogue helps to capture that tinny, crackled 50’s radio perfectly. As the game progresses, the ambient sound fits with the physical settings well, but again you find yourself noticing your brain making noise to fill a void more than you’d like.
The Invincible has no less than 11! Endings to witness as a player. These endings are triggered through choices that the player makes throughout, so there’s plenty of scope to return to the game to trigger alternate endings. The biggest challenge with this is how the gameplay up to that ending will differ depending on character choices. I’m saying this as someone who’s not returned to complete the game again, and so I cannot confirm if that gameplay journey feels ultimately any different from playthrough to playthrough. The appeal of unlocking all 11 endings however will drive some to complete the story over and over again, to find out which is their favourite ending… I expect many (myself included!) will just be happy to see the ‘ending compilation’ videos on the internet to save hours of replaying the game!
Page to Screen
The Invincible’s unique approach to story-telling and adaptation of the novel from the 1964 story to a game released in 2023 is exciting but does pose challenges. In 2021, Poland’s government recognised the year Stanislaw Lem Year, so there was always a lot of expectation and pressure on the studios to make sure this game did its work justice.
There were some fundamental changes incorporated into the game itself. Instead of Rohan in the novel, the players follow the story of protagonist Yasna (still on the planet of Regis III) which adds a clever new layer to the game. The crux of the original novel still exists, with the mysteries of the planet following a similar narrative, but again the fates of the crew, and storyboard moments, are unique to this re-telling.
There will be readers out there who love S. Lem’s original novel of the same name as the game, and there will be expectations of page-to-screen adaptations being close. It has to be stated that this game is, in some ways, an original storyline that is inspired by the 1964 novel, and NOT a direct re-telling.
A very clever, emotionally charged original storyline, with plenty of jeopardy, some crucial player choices, heightened drama and multiple endings. As story-driven games go there’s a lot to love about The Invincible. Yes, this game won’t be for everyone but that should not deter people from giving it a go! With colourful visuals, some fascinating lore, genuinely tough choices to make and a vivid exploration of survival, and the psychological effects of what you witness, the developers have achieved a fascinating and gripping game in a way that I never expected.
It’s one of those games that has somewhat undeservedly gone under the radar, overshadowed by a number of the most hotly-anticipated titles of the year all being released around the same time. If you are looking for something different, The Invincible could be exactly what you’re looking for!
- Immersive story
- Meaningful decision-making
- 11 possible endings
- Lots of walking
- Potential to miss information
- Relies on story for engagement