Lab Zero Games shocked players with Skullgirls. The look, feel and amount of character the small roster had was impressive and lead to a lot of support. Sometime later, they announced their next adventure would be a Metroidvania style RPG called Indivisible. This was announced a little over four years ago and after getting to experience it a number of different times, remained a title I’ve been looking forward to. With good previous experiences and an excellent history, is it another hit or was early success possibly a fluke? Here’s our Indivisible review.
Indivisible follows Ajna, your average teenage girl, on her quest to defeat Kala, following some unfortunate events in her village. Due to those events, she learns of her mysterious power, that there is more to the world than meets the eye and meets a wide variety of interesting characters that aid her on her journey.
The bigger story isn’t defeating Kala, learning about the history of the world or even saving everyone, but the struggles of growing up and becoming mature. Throughout the adventure, the overall theme what Ajna wants to do, compared to what others think she should do. This is best presented at the mid-climax when she is told she is not ready and still charges headfirst into danger and ultimately ends with her finding her place and accepting who she is. It makes for a solid journey, it just isn’t particularly new territory. A lot of stories follow similar themes, some of which handle it better and worse, with more of the story going to fuel this narrative than the looming threat of Kala or the problems those around her face. Even if the story has some problems, the gameplay is a bit worse.
At no point does it feel like Indivisible knows if it wants to be a Metroidvania game or an RPG similar to Valkyrie Profile. This confusion hurts the experience, as there are legitimately tough platforming and battle sections, resulting in a rough product. And, to make matters worse, there is almost too much emphasis put on skill.
Where action RPGs force players to deal with the dynamic situation and turn-based is all about the long game, Indivisible takes the worst of both elements to make a generally bad experience. Part of the problem is every phase is a shockingly routine. If you’re attacking, odds are you’re going to stick to the same basic moves, though certain characters have some neat things to shake things up. Enemies are about the same. Most hostile forces will stick to two or three attacks and it’s largely your job to master the timing to block. If you’re able to time it perfectly, you heal for a certain amount, with a normal block being a slight reduction in damage and messing up the block is quite painful.
Often times it’s easier to block instead of going for the perfect block, though certain design choices make that tricky. A good example of this logic can be seen in one of the first sections. It shares a path with one of the last places you go in the narrative and likely has enemies at that end game level instead of the three or four you’re currently at. The problem is actually pretty simple. These enemies will hit you for absurd numbers like 25,000, when you have a mere 2,000 health unless you perfectly block each and every attack. It’s a scramble to block, revive and recoup in a battle that you can only really win because stats don’t really exist in Indivisible.
Almost everything hinges on your ability to play, plan, predict and counteractions. Perhaps the most annoying choice is that there isn’t really a sense of progression. Contrary to Disgaea, where you can get fancy weapons, better armor, states that the game can’t even fully list and the ability to get so powerful you can one-hit some of the most threatening foes, your options are finding collectibles for augments or leveling Ajna. Collectibles are shockingly limited. You can increase the number of attacks, gain additional defense (no amount is given beyond one to five shields) or, on my platinum run, a level 48 Ajna with some characters that have 30 to 73 hearts.
What makes this frustrating is that there is never really a sense of progression or really consistency. It didn’t matter if I was fighting enemies at the start of the game or the very last battle you face, allies did the same attacks. The only thing that actually changed was the amount of iddhi (special), which in some cases changes the attack, and the characters I could use but once I had someone it was the same thing. But, when push comes to shove, it never really feels like a different game, though I did notice eventually battles were much shorter.
In fact, often times the hardest parts had nothing to do with the combat and were actually mechanics. A number of platforming sections reminded me of all the fun I had trying to platinum Guacamelee 2. These tasks weren’t impossible, there was just a lot of things you had to do in a short period of time. For instance, one of the last collectibles I got required a specific leap, an upward attack to break a wall, doing multiple wall jumps to get up to the next section, using your spear to pogo across spikes, using a special arrow to put flowers on a spike ball, getting on top of the ball, repeating the process without falling and then jumping off a cube that broke in a couple seconds to get the collectible. Best of all, landing on the spikes below restarted the section, even if you had more resources to reduce the strictness of timing, it was still tricky and this was just one section that really made for a good explanation than a difficult to perform the feat.
Bosses, without question, were only difficult due to mechanics. Despite the final boss being the worst offender, with attacks that can reduce 80 percent or so of your health, even the first real one suffers from this problem. There is nothing that makes the spider boss difficult besides avoiding all the side stuff and figuring out what to do at that moment. It will spawn enemies that you need to kill, appear for brief instances, which is your prompt to attack it, spit poison at you and more. Nothing about these fights are impossible, most rely on skills like perfect blocking, yet it isn’t fun spending three minutes fighting a boss and then losing because the random poison droplets were in a bad place or you didn’t get enemy adds in a nice formation so you get attacked from behind one too many times.
Worst of all, some of the ideas feel incomplete, a problem the world map and how to play both suffer from. The legend says there is a notification for player location, incarnations, collectibles, story, quest, and saves. Of these, I’ve seen collectibles, saves and my personal location but never once have I seen the main story or quest, despite having a pretty good idea of where these are located. Even when I leave the spot I literally know is required to progress, it does not appear on either map. One of the characters I did not unlock, Zahra, I know the location of and does not appear as an incarnation or quest. Just for this review I personally ran around Tai Krung City to find Ren (another playable character I didn’t have), found him and unlocked him following a battle all with none of this appearing on the map. Perhaps it’s just the PlayStation 4 version that lacks it or maybe it’s an upcoming feature, though it’s just one in a long series of helpful things that are currently missing.
As for how to play, every character besides Ajna is given a how to play page. However, it’s missing critical information and objectively useless in the grand scheme of things. Razmi, a girl I identified with and never removed from my party, has a rather basic one that explains she has a glare that slows enemies and can heal. What it doesn’t reveal is, unlike the prototype (or so research of that indicates), her two and three iddhi moves are not more powerful heals but outright attacks. When I accidentally did her three iddhi move, instead of seeing my forces receive a substantial heal, there was this giant laser and I was baffled how this wasn’t stated. All it says for Yan is that she gets a bonus for aerial attacks, yet she seems to lack an iddhi move. Phoebe tells you she is good at mobility and has a passive throw, yet her iddhi attack rushes the enemy and seemingly does nothing. I am sure it has some function, a parry, possibly a specific time to use it or something, yet the how to play does not deem this information useful. These are just some of the characters I played as, though I am sure there are other examples.
To further this problem, tutorials and key details are either excluded or only put on the intended path. So, if you’re like me and explore, if you fight an enemy that blocks or can only be damaged with uppercuts without ever encountering them, it will seem impossible until you either try every attack and/or give up, whereas going the right way will actually give you a tutorial. Oh, you break a block by using certain iddhi moves or certain characters can do a down and then up attack to break it, yet until you go that way these enemies seem impossible. Another fun mechanic is certain enemies are not just immune to, but actually heal when Razmi and Hunoch attack them, despite there not being a listing that explains what enemies are immune or how this mechanic comes into play. I think I might’ve saw one explanation in passing that ranged attacks don’t work, yet I recall arrows flying at these enemies killing them, it’s more magic based attacks that they’re immune to. Though I don’t really any enemy being the opposite.
Look, Indivisible isn’t an awful game, it just makes too many poor choices to count. Once you get over the art style, it’s a long series of having the same fights and countless things missing. Between incomplete maps (they even show locations you could potentially go, but are completely unable to go to), how to plays that leave out critical information, enemies that have a whole book of rules you never get to see and boss battles that are long and easy to lose because you didn’t realize you had to do this or that, it feels like Indivisible is still in an incomplete state. Especially when I didn’t even touch on some awful design choices like making the maps interconnected and how you can force the game to load during tough platforming sections because you moved too quickly. So, unless you really like the artwork or want an RPG where it’s more skill than a tactic, you’ll probably like Indivisible. But, for everyone else, I simply cannot recommend this title.
[Editor’s Note: Indivisible was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]