It’s increasingly rare that a video game I know next to nothing about will just pop out of nowhere and steal a few weeks of my life away from me. That’s probably a good thing considering how bad I’ve become at keeping a schedule on this website. But thanks to Xbox Game Pass; the gift that keeps on giving, I stumbled upon a game from Lab Zero Games that grabbed me up and kept my interest: Indivisible.
Coming from the development team behind Skullgirls and featuring animation from Studio Trigger, Indivisible combines the themes of a metroidvania style overworld with a pretty unique take on turn based combat I’ve not played before.
The story it a pretty classic JRPG fantasy tale, one that blends traditional fantasy with southeast Asian mythology. To be honest, I could give or take the actual content of the story. It’s mostly stuff I’ve seen before, mainly focusing on the main character; Ajna’s tale of heroism and redemption as facts about her origin come to light along the bumpy way.
For large parts of the game, I found Ajna to be pretty unlikeable, charging through the game’s locations with a holier than thou attitude and weird pride in her own stupidity. It wasn’t till I realised the game was telling a story of personal redemption from the halfway point that I started to warm to it, which is pretty embarrassing on my part considering how heavy handed it all was.
Speaking of which, by the time we get to the game’s end and the scope and stakes of the story has increased absurdly, I ended up getting Evangelion or Gurren Lagaan vibes from the tone of the ending and how it all played out. What with Ajna confronting a god-like being who wants to erase all life on the planet and start over.
Despite being a California based development team, there were heavy anime themes within this game’s story, based on the Trigger animated transformation sequences and the way the story plays out. But as I’ve already said, the story wasn’t really what drew me into the game, it was decent, and the character fun all the same though.
If anything I found myself rushing through the story to get to the next chunk of gameplay. Not really helped by the pretty uneven voice acting of Ajna herself. At times she sounded like a lively, but stupid teen, but would suddenly develop an eastern accent that felt much flatter coming out of the character. Almost as if she couldn’t manage both at the same time. I ended up just reading the dialogue and skipping the voice acting for the most part anyway.
Like Skullgirls, the game’s look uses hand drawn sprites that exist in a polygonal world. It gives the game a unique look with environments that have some real depth to them. One odd curiosity to me though are the hoards of characters that fill the world that all look completely unique, but never really amount to anything.
After the fact I learned that a good chunk of this game was funded through crowdsourcing. That was when it dawned on me that there must have been a backer tier that allowed people to include their own OCs into the game. Not that this bothered me or anything.
It’s just… when there are so many unique and detailed background characters littering the world, it kind of distracts from which characters that are supposed to be important, and can detract from the feel of the world when none of the characters actually have any sense of cohesion to the world. It’s distracting.
It’s some weird personal thing for me I guess, but between this and the game being packed full of references to other indie games like Shovel Knight, I feel like games of this level are getting a little too cute with this cross pollination of their little “indie-verse” these days. And it kind of takes way from the the story of the world rather than adding anything to it.
Ah yes, the combat. The thing that grabbed me close and tugged me to its chest with reckless abandon. This is how how it works: when encountering an enemy in the overworld, the game swiftly transitions into a classic JRPG style combat screen, only each character in your party is assigned one of the four face buttons on the controller.
While there are a ton of characters that can be recruited throughout the game, you can only use four of them at any given time. With each individual exclusively controlled by the face button that matches the position in the diamond where they find themselves. Each character is totally unique in their abilities, their moves varying when holding either up and their face button, down and their button or the input on its own.
Some character can also burn a super bar that gives them extra abilities on top of that. It’s the wide array of powers and styles available to these characters that really intrigued me once I got past the initial hump of the game. It adds a real variation to combat, some characters need to charge and then spend those charges to get the most out of their attacks. Others set up traps that can be used to block incoming attacks or others juggle characters in the air to combo with other characters.
The one downside to all this variation is that the game doesn’t do a great job explaining the full extent of each characters abilities, giving a single sheet that sums them up while leaving some of their powers completely unspoken until you discover them yourself. It wasn’t until I encountered a guy who allowed me to enter a training mode that I was able to play with and learn these new characters myself as I acquired them.
While all these characters and their powers were cool, I got the feeling that the game wanted me to synergise them with one another, but honestly I never felt like it was really necessary. While each character had their own mechanics and hidden states I needed to keep track of, having them attack together or separately never seemed like something vital I needed to do. I’d just attack and burn meter whenever I could, and that got me through the game.
The game is not without flaws, the biggest I found were some performance issues that came during cutscenes and transitions between the game and the animated cut scenes that happened during major story beats. Although that might have come from me being impatient and reading the text faster than the voice actors could deliver it out of their mouths.
My other issue being the obfuscation of vital mechanics, mainly when gaining new party members and during the unique boss fights where you needed to do something very specific, but the game never lets you in on it. I had to look up how to beat two bosses because the game never decided to tell me I needed to do something hyper specific.
Complaints aside though, Indivisible is a cool game that grabbed me mostly due to its broad cast of characters and how they placed into the engaging active battle system. The open world traversal is good too, feeling very metroidvania by the end as you make full use of the tools and powers you acquire along the way to get from point to point.
I ended up liking the game more than I expected to. If you’ve got Game Pass and this sounds interesting, then I’d recommend giving it a look. By the time you get your third character you realise how diverse and interesting the combat can be, and if it’s not grabbed you by then, I’d say it probably won’t.