The Invincible (2023) Game Review – A laboriously slow walking simulator

A laboriously slow walking simulator

The Invincible has all the hallmarks to be a great game. This is a title that lives and breathes by the aspirations of the 60’s sci-fi novel of the same name, and for the most part it does a pretty good job of it. But boy does The Invincible make you work for it. The core gameplay loop here is not only monotonous, it’s laborious and, at times, painfully boring. Almost every individual facet of the gameplay has an issue attached to it, and while the graphical pop-in, repetitive music and our protagonist’s constant humming can be forgiven somewhat, even something as basic as the walking suffers.

To backtrack a bit, The Invincible is a space-faring walking simulator, devoid of combat or exploration. You’re essentially moving through different tunnelled map sections (despite the illusion of a larger world), connected together with little cutscenes or moments of black-out to keep the illusion going that this is just one big, expansive map. Walking across the expansive maps cannot be understated, and the repetitive environmental design, not to mention the lack of variety in locations, does this game absolutely no favours.

The story is a basic one; you’ve crash-landed on this plant, Regis III, and you’re plagued with the oldest writing clich√© in the book – amnesia.¬†Your protagonist, biologist Dr Yasna, slowly starts to string together what’s happened via flashbacks peppered through this 6-8 hour adventure. Now, to be fair the amnesia trope works in the context of the mystery being delivered here, and it allows us to experience the story alongside Yasna, which slowly fills in the gaps over what’s going on and how she’s led up to this point.

That story can be as simple or expansive as you choose. If you’re thorough, you’re likely to unlock a few bonus flashbacks or extra panels on your “comic strip” to browse through. There aren’t really any collectibles beyond this per-se, although the game does try to give you multiple branching paths and a couple of dialogue options to keep things fresh.

However, much like the amnesia trope, this game also makes the mistake of misaligning choice for “there’s two paths (or dialogue choices) and they both lead in the same direction, off you go”. Midway through the game, you’re given a choice of going a shortcut or a straight road, into enemy territory. It’s an intriguing choice… until you realize both just spit you out at the exact same point. The only difference is that one way requires you to walk, and the other to drive.

Stamina bars in games are poor at the best of times, but when your main source of travelling is heading over an empty expanse of sand, sprinting more than a few seconds forward will see your helmet fog up and you’ll be reduced to a crawl to catch your breath. This is made worse if you choose a certain selfless act early on, with an ensuing tunnel section taking about 15 minutes longer than it should. Sure it’s realistic, but it gets old, fast.

This is a problem that’s only exacerbated by every individual movement you need to take. In order to climb a wall you’ll need to tap up. Then, you’ll need to hold R1. Then you’ll need to tap up again. Then move over to the next handhold on the left, hold R1 and tap up. Each of these have a 2 second animation attached to them. This isn’t a quick process either, this is a slow, laborious slog with Yasna grunting and heaving with every movement. Eventually you’ll make it to the top, and the chances are Yasna will stop to catch her breath too.

That’s just one example of the slow gameplay, and doesn’t even touch on the “puzzles”, which include turning a few knobs to highlighted sections, cycling through data-logs or pressing R1 when the game pops up with dialogue prompts.

There’s an awful lot of dialogue here too which is good, but there’s no option to skip forward a line. If your character is in the middle of grunting, sighing or yawning, you’ll need to listen to the entire audio clip play out before you can continue on. Then it’s off to press R1 on the next object to start the dialogue chain again.

Sometimes this can be in areas that require you to highlight four or five different items in turn, and you’ll be hovering over the next item, just waiting for Yasna to finish talking before pressing R1 again. Some will undoubtedly read this review and write it off as the woes of a hyperactive gamer needing some bang bang shooty action every 5 minutes, but as a huge fan of slow-paced games like Firewatch and Soma, this pales by comparison.

The thing is, even when you get to the very end of this 8 hour adventure (which is basically 4 hours sprung out to 8 if you count the treacle walking and managing your stamina), the game presents you with dialogue choices for your final outcome and then just ends.

For a walking simulator, you’d think that Starward Industries would have at least nailed down the walking. Instead, it’s arguably one of the worst parts of The Invincible. Walking sims can be great if they have an interesting story (which this one does, in fairness) but with such laborious, sluggish mechanics to accompany that, this is way more of a chore to get through than it should be. It’s likely that most people are going to be turned away from this one long before the final credits roll.

 

The Invincible releases on 6th November 2023 worldwide on Consoles and PC!


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    5.5/10
5.5/10

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