Indivisible – developed by Lab Zero and published by 505 games feels, and plays, in many ways like an interactive anime cartoon. With hand drawn graphics, and crisp attention to detail, there’s no denying this is a beautiful game. From as early as the opening cinematic, I found myself charmed and enamoured by the exceptional 2D visuals, captivating soundtrack, and clean, polished look of it all. But is this merely a case of style over substance? What of the story, and just how well does the gameplay hold up?
You’d be hard pressed to pin Indivisible down into any one genre. To call it an RPG, much less a turn based one, would be doing it a great disservice – as with elements of action, beat ‘em up, and platforming all at play, there’s a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye. This becomes immediately apparent right from the get go when we find ourselves plunged headfirst into a fight against some strange orb-like creature. Whatever this thing is, he sure ain’t messing around, dealing intense amounts of damage to our party of four at a rate that seems designed to instil panic and fear. Consider this a tutorial of sorts, albeit one with very few instructions…
It quickly becomes clear that each of your party members attacks are mapped to a specific button on your keyboard (or controller if you choose to play with one, as I did), and recharge themselves at different rates. It’s turn based combat, but with a very clear rhythmic influence, and it’s likely to take you a while to adjust to. But just when it appears all hope is lost and our team’s about to bite the dust, it’s ultimately the inclusion of a supercharged Iddhi attack (more on that later) that proves to be our saving grace – thus, the battle is won!
‘It’s turn based combat, but with a very clear rhythmic influencE’
Before we can catch our breath, we find ourselves 16 years into the future, and are introduced to a young girl named Ajna, the stories leading lady. It turns out she’s late for her martial arts training, so we’d better get a move on! But not before first speaking with a few of the local villagers and taking in some of the sights. Indivisible’s setting is heavily influenced by East Asian and Arabian culture, and Ajna and other crucial characters stand out against the slightly more muted backgrounds with expressive and vibrant 2D sprite work.
Ajna’s training mentor, it transpires, is her father, Indr, your typical ‘wise old sage’ archetype (he’s even missing an eye so you just know the guy’s been through some shit!). After being given a stern lecture on punctuality, we’re taught some of the basics of blocking enemy attacks (a fairly straightforward process but one that will surely prove crucial in future battles) – before the whole thing devolves into a family argument which ultimately leaves us with more questions than answers. Clearly uncomfortable with discussing the circumstances surrounding Ajna’s mothers death, Indr retreats back to the village. Ajna trails behind, but by the time she catches up, she’s shocked to discover the whole place on fire – cue dramatic music and some serious storyline exposition.
Essentially the destruction of the village, we learn, was an order directed by a mysterious evil warlord known only as ‘Ravannanar’. Though we’re not quite sure of his exact motives or intentions at this point; if we’re Little Red Riding Hood then he’s the Big Bad Wolf, and the rest of the game (or at least a significant portion of it) is a tense race to Grandmas house!
Thankfully, we don’t have to face him alone. Throughout her journey, Ajna encounters an array of different characters who, through means of a special power she inherits early on, she is able to imprison in her mind (or the ‘Inner Realm’ as it’s known) and call upon for help in battle when needed.
Each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and as you grow more accustomed to the battle mechanics, you’ll find yourself enjoying executing combo moves with multiple characters, and utilising their own unique Iddhi moves. The Iddhi system works similar to how limit breaks do in Final Fantasy; there’s a bar in the upper corner of the screen which fills up as your party inflicts damage, and once full allows you access to more powerful attacks or healing magic.
One of the things that might surprise you about Indivisible is just how funny it is! Sure, it treads delicately while dealing with some of the heavier themes of war and loss – but thanks to it’s stellar voice acting and a superbly written script, we’re never left to wallow in these moments for too long. There’s plenty of comic relief from characters like Razmi; an eccentric witch with a thirst for arson. And the game’s not afraid to poke fun at itself and break the fourth wall – freely acknowledging the ridiculousness of a situation in which the voices in Ajnas head are strangers she’s somehow absorbed.
Enemies are visible on the field, making it a case of dealing the first blow and engaging them in battle, or risking being attacked yourself. There is of course often the option to avoid them altogether, but there really aren’t as many foes as you might expect in a game of this nature – so you’ll more than likely want to take on as many as you can. In typical RPG fashion, winning battle rewards you with EXP and thus enables your adventurers to level up and grow stronger.
‘One of the things that might surprise you about Indivisible is just how funny it is!’
Unfortunately, this review wouldn’t be complete without me having to mention what is by far the most disappointing and frustrating aspect of this game… the platforming. Initially, it seems like pretty straightforward stuff, jumping from one ledge to another, or slide-crawling through a tight gap. But not long after Ajna acquires an axe (her primary weapon from that point forward) do the cracks begin to show…
Now I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit that I’ve never been great at platforming games, but surely grappling up a wall shouldn’t require as much effort as it does here? The precision needed to successfully traverse upwards through some of these sections is something I haven’t struggled with since the earliest days of Tomb Raider back on the PlayStation 1. It’s hard to explain exactly what makes it so hard without having played through it yourself, but essentially, precision is crucial; from the initial sprint up to the wall, to each subsequent swing of the axe as you hop from left to right in desperate hopes of reaching that higher ledge. One wrong move and you’ll be forced to watch in horror and dismay as Ajna tumbles 20 feet below, and forces you to attempt it all over again. And again… and again.
It doesn’t help that the frame rate seems to drop significantly whenever I’m forced to attempt any of these sections. She slips. She slides. She does absolutely everything but what I want her to! Were it not for me writing this review, there were definitely more than a few occasions where I probably would have rage quit entirely…
But I’m glad I stuck with it. I quickly grew to enjoy spending time with Ajna and her ever growing group of rag tag friends – and with every twist and turn of the story (however cliche and predictable), I felt truly invested in seeing this journey through to its tense and dramatic conclusion!