The development of Indivisible was not without highs and lows. Though a not-insignificant sum, the $960k pledged during its 2015 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was still far short of the $1.5m goal, and this was on all-or-nothing stakes. Fortunately, a 20-day extension was granted and Indivisible finally crawled past its lofty target, setting a record for the most raised on the crowdfunding platform. Had it not reached that, it may have never existed.
With an original estimated release date of early 2018, the game suffered multiple delays as Lab Zero came to terms with the ambition and scope of their project. But four years since its Indiegogo campaign, Indivisible has finally reached the finish line. And I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, all of that persistence paid off.
Indivisible is an RPG, but one unlike any I’ve ever played. Coming from the developers of Skullgirls, it has some fighting game sensibilities, such as the ability to block in real time, build up combos and fill a special meter. Its other hook is your ‘Incarnations,’ a roster of 20+ incredibly diverse characters that can be freely swapped between your party of four. Add this to platforming level traversal and a dash of Metroidvania systems and it goes without saying that this is a truly experimental melting pot.
It may be surprising, then, that the narrative is so formulaic. You play Ajna, a rebellious girl growing up in a small village. When the village is invaded, you set off into the world to avenge this attack. It’s not long before you’re embroiled in the fight to save the world from an ancient colossal power as the ‘chosen one,’ however, using the previously dormant power of your own. Sound familiar? If you’ve played any JRPG ever, I imagine it does.
Still, this is hardly a deal-breaker. The anime and RPG tropes used so heavily here feel like soul food of the genres at this point, a comfortingly familiar backdrop to the action. And what it lacks in storywriting creativity, Indivisible more than makes up in other areas.
Take the unique, loveable cast of characters. From the grouchy witch goth Razmi who wears a full tiger skin she regularly converses with, to the gratingly chipper botanist Ginseng & Honey who’s obsessed with biology, to the saccharine Thorani with floor-length hair who can control water, it’s a real ragtag team of personalities.
Even better, every character feels different to play, with some harbouring pretty fun and unusual mechanics. Take Thorani, for instance, who splashes puddles everywhere as she fights. When she’s thoroughly soaked the battlefield, she can then ‘activate’ those puddles to damage any enemies standing on them whilst healing allies.
Each character is mapped to a face button. Tap and they attack; hold and they block. Where the DNA of Skullgirls reveals itself is in how important timing is – you can juggle enemies in the air for instance, and block at just the right moment to deflect more damage. With each character having several moves and specials to combine in near limitless combinations, combat is a real highlight.
The fact that fights feel much more active than a classic RPG, combined with the fact that enemies don’t respawn, avoids the monotonous grind that can set in with many of its peers. The boss fights even mix hazardous platforming sections into the equation – though these can often be frustrating, a couple of notable examples killing me off right near the end when I’d almost defeated my adversary. My other grumble is that a few fights do still manage to outstay their welcome, with some enemies sporting colossal health bars.
Though Indivisible’s platforming isn’t quite as strong as its combat, it’s no slouch. Levels are large and demand the use of wall jumps, sliding, climbing with your axe and other abilities you unlock to let you pass through previously inaccessible areas, Metroidvania style. Encounter an enemy and it seamlessly transitions into battle right where you stand (and you can even land a few cheeky hits beforehand).
This shift does unfortunately cause issues on occasion, with characters struggling to move across particularly awkward terrain in order to fight each other. Once, I had to completely restart the game as an enemy had gotten hopelessly stuck and trapped me in the battle.
Exploring Indivisible’s world is made all the more enjoyable by its wonderful handcrafted animation. Levels are exquisitely detailed in places, with multi-level parallax scrolling providing a real feeling of depth and visual interest. Fully animated cutscenes are sprinkled throughout, adding to the high production values.
A good proportion of the dialogue is voice acted, too, something of a blessing and a curse in anime RPGs. Embrace the high-energy, somewhat hammy and overwrought performances and you’ll have a good time.
There’s the age-old truism that an RPG doesn’t properly get started for several hours, and Indivisible is not one to buck the trend. Once you reach a certain port town, the game opens up more, you become more powerful and battle variety improves. Thankfully, this only takes a handful of hours rather than the tens of hours games like Final Fantasy XIII are infamous for.
Indivisible is a fresh RPG hybrid with a lot of heart and new ideas. Its original combat is bolstered by a frankly brilliant variety of characters, and the high-quality animation welcomes you into its world. It’s not without its lulls and frustrating moments, but Lab Zero have a crowdfunded success on their hands here.
[Reviewed on PC]
James, our deputy editor, loves a deep action-adventure game, RPG or metroidvania. In addition to making sure everything on the site is as good as it can be – scouring for typos, tweaking headlines, finding the fanciest images – he’s also in charge of the reviews section.