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Review

Review: Indivisible

2019 has seen the release of mul­ti­ple long-awai­ted crowd­fun­ding pro­jec­ts. From the suc­cess­ful launch of Blood­stai­ned (dis­re­gar­ding the Switch ver­si­on) to the disap­poin­ting Child­ren of Mor­ta, it’s good to see the­se games final­ly be released in some form. As ano­t­her hea­vi­ly delay­ed crowd­fun­ded tit­le, Indi­vi­si­ble had a lot to live up after all the­se years. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, beau­ti­ful art­work and uni­que mecha­nics are not enough to hide the gla­ring flaws pre­sent in every aspect of the game. 

Eschewing the long-win­ded ope­nings of many other RPGs, Indi­vi­si­ble bla­zes through its ope­ning sce­nes. Ajna, a young girl with a short tem­per, loses her father to sol­di­ers of a fana­ti­cal regime wit­hin 10 minu­tes of the game star­ting. From the­re, she somehow mana­ges to absorb her father’s kil­ler, along with others she meets during her jour­ney. Her goal is initi­al­ly to defeat the one who orde­red the sol­di­ers to attack, though it soon chan­ges into a quest to save the world. The speed at which Indivisible’s sto­ry is told felt refres­hing at first, set­ting up the main character’s goal wit­hout drag­ging things out. It quick­ly beco­mes appa­rent though that the game has trou­ble tel­ling an inte­res­ting and con­sis­tent sto­ry in this short amount of time.

Our main issue with the game’s sto­ry is that most events are never given enough time to deve­lop into anything enga­ging. One dam­ning examp­le of this is the afo­re­men­tio­ned kil­ling of Anja’s father, which is the start of Indivisible’s incon­sis­tent tone throughout the main sto­ry. She only grie­ves for her father brief­ly, and ends up being incredi­b­ly quick to for­gi­ve the one that kil­led him. Most sto­ry beats fol­low a simi­lar struc­tu­re, having some­thing hap­pen and then briskly moving on. One sec­tion of the sto­ry later on does try to jus­ti­fy the speed at which things hap­pen, but it’s not long befo­re it falls back into the same rus­hed style of sto­ry­tel­ling. It’s hard to real­ly care about most of the cha­rac­ters when you rare­ly spend time with any of them, out­si­de of a few core mem­bers of your par­ty. 

Adding to the rus­hed fee­ling of the game’s nar­ra­ti­ve is a lack of mea­ning­ful NPCs and side­quests. Most towns are just fil­led with cha­rac­ters cho­sen by back­ers of Indivisible’s crowd­fun­ding cam­pai­gn, lea­ding to a lack of cohe­si­on in NPC the­mes. After reaching the first main town, we deci­ded to start tal­king to cha­rac­ters in an attempt to learn more about the area. Howe­ver, most NPCs have litt­le to say other than one-liners or some­thing unre­la­ted to Indivisible’s world. Towns end up fee­ling lifeless becau­se of this, beco­m­ing are­as to dump ran­dom cha­rac­ters in rather than a way to fur­ther the game’s nar­ra­ti­ve. 

Explo­ra­ti­on and batt­les also suf­fer from some odd design choices and clun­ky con­trols. While we may have com­pa­red Indivisible’s sto­ry to other RPGs, pro­gres­si­on is hand­led in way that is clo­ser to a line­ar metroid­va­nia. Ajna starts off with a basic dash and jump, with new move­ment abi­li­ties allo­wing her to explo­re more of the map. In theo­ry this should lead to some inte­res­ting plat­forming, but many of the­se abi­li­ties feel clun­ky to use, espe­ci­al­ly when you have to chain them tog­e­ther. Han­ging for cei­lings is the worst examp­le of this, due to how incon­sis­tent it can be. A lot of the move­ment opti­ons you unlock can also feel red­un­dant, like the move that lets you do a hig­her jump or an aeri­al dash attack when you’ve alrea­dy unlo­cked some­thing simi­lar befo­re­hand.  

When it comes to batt­les, thing don’t seem so bad to start with. Using a batt­le sys­tem that’s some­what simi­lar to the Val­ky­rie Pro­fi­le series, you take con­trol of four cha­rac­ters that are tied to your controller’s face but­tons. As time pas­ses, each character’s action points fill up which can be used to attack enemies. Actions play out in real time, allo­wing you to com­bo dif­fe­rent attacks tog­e­ther using your ent­i­re par­ty. Hol­ding up or down as you attack will chan­ge the move that is used, ope­ning up more com­bo opti­ons. It’s an easy to under­stand sys­tem that starts off enjoy­a­ble as you unlock more cha­rac­ters to use, but the lack of real depth beco­mes a major issue.  

Some enemies have gim­micks like shields and resis­tan­ces to ground attacks, but the­se can be igno­red when you use an iddhi attack. This uses a meter that builds up from attacking enemies and blo­cking attacks, and the rate at which it builds is so fast that you’ll always have it avail­ab­le for a fight. Fights also beco­me easier as you pro­gress fur­ther through the game, and we had litt­le trou­ble defea­ting most enemies by just mashing but­tons when every character’s action points had fil­led up. This lea­ves the cha­rac­ters with spe­cial gim­micks at a dis­ad­van­ta­ge, sin­ce there’s litt­le rea­son to use them over the simp­ler par­ty mem­bers. 

Even Indivisible’s fan­tastic spri­te work is held back by the rather dull envi­ron­ments. Cha­rac­ters and enemies look gre­at, each having detail­ed spri­tes and ani­ma­ti­ons, along with a small hand­ful of sty­lish­ly ani­ma­ted cuts­ce­nes. Mean­while the 3D are­as are repe­ti­ti­ve and unme­mo­r­able, lacking any impact com­pa­red to the 2D visu­als. Some are­as do at least have some inte­res­ting back­ground songs to back them up, but the most memo­r­able the­mes are tied to batt­les. It’s a shame too, sin­ce Lab Zero’s pre­vious 3D work on Skull­girls was actual­ly qui­te good, offe­ring some dis­tinct loca­ti­ons even with the rela­tively simp­le models used. The PS4 ver­si­on also suf­fers from occa­sio­nal stut­te­ring when loa­ding new are­as, but this is not com­mon enough to be a major issue. 

Each of the­se unavo­ida­ble pro­blems with the main aspec­ts of the game cau­se the over­all expe­ri­ence to beco­me dull after a few hours. Con­stant back­tracking is requi­red for most of the game, and even when you unlock fast tra­vel it’s not very use­ful com­pa­red to other games. Batt­les also lose their mea­ning, from both the lack of dif­fi­cul­ty and a rea­son to fight in the first place. Level­ling seems to have litt­le impact on the dif­fi­cul­ty of batt­les, and the big­gest upgrades you can get come from items found during explo­ra­ti­on or just going through the sto­ry. There’s very litt­le here that makes Indi­vi­si­ble an RPG, and even less than can keep your inte­rest through the rus­hed sto­ry and weak batt­le sys­tem. 

Conclusion 

Indi­vi­si­ble has many inte­res­ting ide­as, but never mana­ges to com­bi­ne them tog­e­ther in a mea­ning­ful way. Com­bat is flas­hy but lacks the stay­ing power of other action games, and explo­ra­ti­on is mar­red by lifeless are­as and some clun­ky move­ment abi­li­ties. While patches may be able to work out some of the­se issu­es, the many fun­da­men­tal flaws Indi­vi­si­ble has will always hold it back from being tru­ly enjoy­a­ble. 

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