Indivisible game review – the year’s most charming role-player
The makers of Skullgirls turn their hand to a mixture of role-playing game and Metroidvania, with a very charismatic cast of characters.
Despite the games industry’s insistence on recycling every semi-famous franchise until even its most ardent fans are sick of the sight of it there are still many great games that have never been given the opportunity to renew themselves on modern formats. Square Enix, in particular, have a whole bunch of titles that never made it past the PlayStation 1 era, from Bushido Blade to Tobal, with the games only able to rely on spiritual sequels to keep their memory alive. That’s the service Indivisible performs for Valkyrie Profile, to the point where it may even be the superior game.
Unlike the other games we name dropped (and Einhänder, we loved that one) Valkyrie Profile did have a PlayStation 2 sequel and a DS spin-off but it’s still a little known franchise for most people – especially in Europe where the first game was never released except as a PSP remaster. But Valkyrie Profile was a unique mix of 2D platforming and an unusual, action-orientated battle system that, until now, has had no modern-day equivalent.
In their wisdom though Lab Zero Games, developer of fighting game Skullgirls, have taken it as the primary inspiration for Indivisible. Except instead of a plodding exploration of Norse mythology this is based around South Asian culture and features a distinctly more amiable cast of characters. Which is an interesting choice because it helps proves how much a funny script and likeable protagonists can paper over otherwise notables holes in the gameplay.
Indivisible is not set in any specific real-world country but includes influences from India to Thailand (and sometimes further afield) in its mythology, locations, and even the use of Sanskrit for on-screen titles. The main character is Ajna, a feisty young chosen one who, upon witnessing the death of her father and the destruction of her village, awakens the power to absorb people into her mind and perform other feats of magic. This comes as much as a surprise to her as anyone else but sets her on a path of both revenge and saving the world.
Absorbing other people into a psychic realm sounds like an odd ability for any video game hero to have but it soon becomes clear why it’s so central to Indivisible. Although Ajna starts off on her own she quickly accumulates a whole band of followers and allies, and so her inner mind becomes a place to chat with them and select them for battle. It also means you don’t have to have a stream of half a dozen other characters following around after her, which would have looked especially silly given the game’s platform elements.
Although Indivisible is a proper role-playing game everything outside of battle works much more like a Metroidvania, with some very tricky platforming that’s often reminiscent of the original Prince Of Persia. New abilities and equipment allow access to different areas and the whole game world is littered with secret areas and items. But while it’s not the sort of thing you’d normally expect to see in a role-playing game the platforming is something that will be very familiar to most gamers; it’s the battle system which is the really unusual part.
No matter how many allies Anja picks up, you can only field four at a time when it comes to a fight. Each one is assigned a face button and activating their attacks is as simple as pressing the button when it recharges after a short delay. At first button-mashing is all you need to succeed but you soon realise that timing your attacks so that there’s always someone on the offense, and ideally creating combos between players, is the best way to go.
The developer’s experience with making fighting games is soon obvious in the way you can link up attacks and juggle enemies in mid-air, as well as the importance of blocks, parries, and special moves. Everyone has their own different attacks and specialities, from ranged combat to healing, and getting different groups working together as a team is a lot of fun.
Despite the disparate elements the whole game hangs together very well, although neither the platforming nor the combat is free of faults. Despite the simple screen layouts, the camera is not the most helpful and by accident or design often forces leaps of faith upon you. And while it depends how much you level up individual characters Indivisible can get disappointingly easy in the later stages, once you’ve mastered the combat and built up your party.
The almost useless map is also an irritation, but these issues are mitigated simply by how charming the whole game is. Anja is great, and so is her voice-acting, but the majority of the other characters are just as endearing. By following a more flippant tone the game does miss out on the chance to take its dramatic story beats more seriously, but the plot still comes across perfectly well and the whole experience feels more fun as a result.
The game’s also a real winner in terms of presentation, with some great character designs and excellent animation. The backgrounds are often especially good, teeming with life and with a great impression of depth despite everything still being 2D. Lab Zero Games are obviously big anime fans and while the number of fully-animated cut scenes are limited the game never feels cheap and the soundtrack, by Secret Of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta, is equally good.
Indivisible has its flaws but it’s a very difficult game to dislike thanks to its cheerful storytelling, gorgeous graphics, and (almost) unique mix of gameplay elements. We don’t know if Lab Zero Games are going to continue to switch genres with each new game they make but they certainly know how to create an interesting role-player, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Indivisible review summary
In Short: An agreeably peculiar mix of role-playing game and Metroidvania but whose best feature is its charming visuals and one of the most endearing cast of characters seen in a long time.
Pros: Wonderful graphics and soundtrack help to create a unique game world full of fun characters. Metroidvania elements work very well and the battle system is enjoyably unusual.
Cons: The combat and character progression is unbalanced enough that the game can become disappointingly easy by the later stages. Some camera issues when platforming and a terrible map.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release Date: 8th October 2019 (Switch TBC)
Age Rating: 12
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