I’ve missed the almost forgotten genre of the walking simulator. It wasn’t that long ago that titles like Gone Home, Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture were all big releases, giving players dense narratives in well-realised worlds. Starward Industries has managed to give the genre a new life with The Invincible, not only reminding us why developers like The Chinese Room pumped out walking sims, but also why these games were so engaging. While it takes a while to truly get going, sticking with it will reward you with answers, moments of reflection, and some great writing.
Based on Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s novel of the same name, you wake up on the abandoned planet of Regis III with no recollection of why or how. As astrobiologist Dr. Yasna, you slowly start to uncover the secrets of the planet while working out where your crew has gone. The Invincible isn’t likely to grab you instantly. It isn’t helped by the fact you can’t really run for long without needing to catch your breath. Eventually you’re given access to a means of travel, but in the beginning you’ll curse every time Yasna starts panting.
It’s eerie and unsettling, yet you can’t put your finger on why. As gorgeous as The Invincible is, there’s a sense of foreboding as you walk around. Along with the pace at which you move, climbing can take a while, and areas where you should be able to step up to refuse to let you pass, there’s a fair few concerns you might have with traversal. However, as long as you dig the story, or at least Yasna’s musings as she walks around and her observations of Regis III, you’ll get much more out of it than you might have initially thought.
The Invincible is all about discovery. The more you see of Regis III, be it the strange metal structures or the abandoned camps, you’ll start to piece together the threads of the story. Novik, your CO, is the only surviving crewmate you know of, and he’ll help you over the comms, but you’re all alone. What starts off as a slow burn soon becomes something so much more, and thanks to a likeable protagonist in Yasna, you’ll find The Invincible is an enthralling experience packed with philosophical musings and some wonderfully adapted science fiction.
While the majority of your time in The Invincible is all about exploring and finding audio logs and documents, commenting on your discoveries and avoiding some of the harsh weather and other threats, you do have some tools at your disposal, from scanners to binoculars to cameras, all playing a role in helping Yasna in her mission to find her friends. There’s nothing particularly taxing about The Invincibles’ gameplay, but it doesn’t need to be. If you enjoy a good story and solid acting, then it’s going to be something you’ll want to play.
It’s a gorgeous game as well. Wandering around the difficult terrain as various planets hang in the distant skyline, the brightness of nearby suns shining across the reddish ground, and the attention to detail in Yasna’s gadgets giving it a retro futuristic feel, like Fallout in space. There’s so much beauty in The Invincible, but there’s also a lot of sadness. This beauty runs parallel to the difficult decisions you’ll have to make, and with various locations ripe for exploration, there’s a lot of wonder around every corner.
While it does feel slow at times, the acting is fantastic, and quite impressive for saying you spend most of your time alone. It’s visuals are wonderful, both in the scenery and the tech you use, and while gameplay doesn’t give you a lot to do, it’s enough for those familiar with titles in walking sims where story is paramount. It also has a remarkable soundtrack that elevates Yasna’s journey at all the right moments, and if anything, it’s made me want to delve into the novel that acts as its foundations. It’s a game that gives you just enough in the time you’ll spend with it, never lasting longer than it needs to, all the while offering a story that makes us question the space race and our understanding of what we might simply never truly understand, or are even supposed to.
Yasna is likeable and well-acted
Takes a while to get going