“The Invincible” emerges as a captivating creation from the Polish studio Starward Industries. This production weaves an exceptionally intriguing science fiction narrative that poses profound philosophical questions while leaving ample room for imagination and personal interpretation. Set in an atom punk ambiance, inspired by the 1950s illustrators’ vision of the future, “The Invincible” is a stellar adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s renowned novel of the same name.
We delve into the story through the eyes of Yasna – a tenacious, inquisitive, and remarkably charismatic scientist. The tale unfolds as she awakens from an accident with no recollection of the event. Yasna quickly pieces together her location from her notes and embarks on a journey to a nearby camp, where her research team should be. The partial amnesia troubles her, and she discovers that some of her equipment is either damaged or missing. While amnesia in storytelling might seem cliché, in “The Invincible,” it serves a fascinating purpose and showcases the creators’ artistry.
The story in The Invincible is brilliant
Upon reaching the camp, Yasna encounters peculiar phenomena – the team has dispersed for unknown reasons, and the only person remaining seems utterly bewildered and unresponsive. Here, the first moral dilemmas and opportunities to shape our protagonist’s character arise. Meanwhile, fleeting memories of the time before the accident begin to surface, gradually revealing her backstory. The subsequent events are, to some extent, crafted by the player.
Gameplay in “The Invincible” primarily revolves around environmental exploration and extensive dialogues via radio with our supervisor, Novik. These conversations feel incredibly natural and effectively build the atmosphere and immersion. Importantly, we are always presented with various dialogue options that influence the demeanor and attitude of the main character. Decisions of varying significance are made at every turn, with the potential to significantly affect later events. Much depends on our choices, including the survival of crew members, and often these decisions are neither straightforward nor trivial. Even though the main storyline is relatively linear, the developers have successfully created an illusion of significant impact from even the smallest choices.
The game astonishes at every turn. A sense of unease and uncertainty accompanies us to the very end. Trust is a recurring test, as our confidence is repeatedly challenged. Moreover, Yasna, a scientist accustomed to logical explanations, is confronted with phenomena that defy her understanding of the world. The game raises numerous philosophical questions about humanity’s role in the universe and teaches us that sometimes it’s best not to meddle.
The developers have interspersed the gameplay with enjoyable diversions that break up the standard world exploration. We frequently utilize intriguing tools such as a telemetry device, a specialized locator, and a telescope. These devices, like the entire game’s aesthetic, are designed in the atom punk style and fit perfectly within this setting. It’s a pity that “The Invincible” didn’t leverage these tools for more complex environmental puzzles – there’s some tinkering required, but it’s impossible to get truly lost. It feels like a missed opportunity, as the game seems to beg for it.
Later in the game, we also get to drive a rover, which, again, is primarily introduced to break up the walking and enhance the mood. The limited visibility inside the rover heightens the sense of unease. Such interludes positively affect the gameplay’s dynamics and add a layer of depth.
The incredible atmosphere wouldn’t be possible without the solid graphics. While it may lack the technical prowess of the most beautiful games on the market, the artistic side of the production more than compensates. Despite the sterile planet, locations are diverse and rich with details. The various bases and camps, which can be freely explored, look fantastic. We also encounter numerous robot devices that seem plucked straight from a futuristic vision of yesteryear.
Lighting plays a significant role in “The Invincible.” The creators, with an artist’s touch, manipulate colors, volumetric effects, and post-processing to deepen the mood. The visuals are not just there to impress but also adapt to the story’s progression and changes occurring within our protagonist.
The sound design deserves its own mention; it is, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant. The composed tracks fit the events perfectly, and the ambient sounds are meticulously crafted. The story wouldn’t have had the same emotional impact without the fantastic voice actors. Their performances made me fall in love with the characters, and Yasna’s humming a tune under her breath remains etched in my memory.
The Invincible on Steam Deck
Lastly, a few words on the technical side – I tested “The Invincible” on both a powerful PC and the Steam Deck. The optimization has come a long way since the earlier demo versions, allowing the game to run quite decently on less powerful hardware. There are occasional hiccups, but they didn’t significantly affect my gameplay experience. There’s a range of settings available, including resolution scaling with AMD FSR 2.
With medium graphics preset, the game runs at pretty stable 40 FPS. At lowest possibe, The Invincible can go up to 45-50FPS.
“The Invincible” may not be for everyone, but is that a flaw? From the outset, it’s clear the game was crafted with heart and passion. This applies to every aspect that engages the player, piques their interest, and builds the overall mood. “The Invincible” is a true synthesis of an intriguing story with numerous plot twists, fantastically crafted characters, original scenery, and an absolutely superb soundtrack. All these elements combined create an immersive masterpiece that was hard to put down for a solid six hours. And that’s not all – the next day, I eagerly returned to explore alternative paths and view different endings. Minor technical issues, a somewhat slow pace, and generally limited interactivity didn’t dampen my experience, though I hope the creators will go all out in the future. And now, I have no choice but to dive into the book. Starward Industries has created a small work of art.