The atmosphere of retrofuturism: The Invincible review, adventure game based on Stanislaw Lem's novel

By: Vladyslav Nuzhnov | 04.11.2023, 10:36

The Invincible is the debut game by Starward Industries, a Polish studio founded by industry veterans who have developed Dying Light, Layer of Fear 2, Witcher 3, and others. The Invincible is based on Niezwyciężony, a 1964 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. Stanisław Lem is a Polish futurist writer who is also known for his novel Solaris. Lem has influenced the science fiction genre with his philosophical and innovative works. In the game, we, in the role of astrobiologist Yasna, find ourselves on the planet Regis III, where a small crew was supposed to conduct a quick study and leave the planet, but everything goes wrong and now a new task has been set - to survive, because no one was ready for what is happening on Regis III. The game was created in a retro-futuristic design inspired by 1950s illustrations, which makes the project stand out from the crowd. However, The Invincible lacks gameplay, because most of the time we just walk or drive, so you shouldn't expect variety in this aspect. But if it is the story that is important to you, then this game has something to offer. The gg editorial team went on a dangerous expedition and will share their impressions to help you understand whether The Invincible is worth buying.

3 Reasons to Buy The Invincible:

  • One of the few games in recent times to use the retro-futuristic style
  • You are a fan of Lem's novel and you are interested in how the game turned out
  • As a child, you dreamed of becoming an astronaut or a scientist

1 Reason Not to Buy The Invincible:

  • Monotonous gameplay

Fast Forward:

Plot: Not Everything and Not Everywhere is Created for Us

The crew of the Dragonfly ship has finished one of its regular missions, but in space they receive data about the planet Regis III. Curiosity takes over, and they decide to stay for another 13 days, explore the mysterious place, collect useful information and then return home. It seemed like what could go wrong? Yasna, our protagonist, along with the crew chief Novik, stay on board the ship, while four other scientists descend to the planet. At some point, however, Yasna ends up on the planet herself, but she doesn't remember how it happened. Finding her equipment and a map with the camp marked on it, she makes the only right decision - to go there and re-establish contact with the team. The girl reaches the camp quickly, but at first she doesn't find anyone except the robot assistant. Entering one of the tents, Yasna sees only one crew member, but he doesn't react to anything, just mutters under his breath. The girl establishes a radio signal with Novik, who is the only one left on the Dragonfly, and the duo decides that they need to find the others and figure out what is going on. This is where the main plot of the game begins.

The camp where Yasna arrives

I hadn't read the book, but after completing it, I had a desire to fix it. The story turned out to be interesting. Most of all, it holds the player with its mystery. Regis III doesn't have mutants, zombies, and other popular enemies that can be found in stories about mysterious and uninhabited space. Everything is much more interesting in The Invincible. Also, most things are explained from a scientific point of view, and you start to believe that everything is theoretically possible. In addition, the plot is not always linear. From time to time, Yasna makes choices that affect the events. So what I saw, you may not see, and vice versa. And it seemed that we have already seen a story about a lonely person who either travels somewhere or solves secrets dozens of times, but it still works because Starward Industries has implemented the concept competently. However, the only thing I didn't like was the lack of strong chemistry between Novik and Yasna, because the former is almost always in touch with her, but I didn't feel the same emotions as in the conversations between Henry and Delilah in Firewatch (because from time to time you draw analogies with these games). But otherwise, it's a good story, which constantly makes you ask yourself philosophical questions and look for answers, and it's interesting to watch the events until the credits roll.

Deserted and Sandy Regis III

The game Regis III turned out to be very atmospheric. There is mostly sand and rocks on this planet, but there are still enough interesting locations where you just stop and start looking at everything. Yes, the world is mostly empty and uninhabited, but it should work that way, because neither this planet was supposed to know people, nor the people of this planet. Therefore, it existed as one of the 1000 unexplored places. And that's how you should perceive it in order to better immerse yourself in it. I also don't know if it was the authors' intention, but with each new location on Regis, I thought about how many interesting things our Galaxy hides. It made me want to go on some kind of space expedition in real life. Although, of course, knowing all the nuances of the game, I would never fly to the real Regis III.

Beautiful landscapes of the planet Regis III

Gameplay: Unrealised Potential

Let's be clear, if you need a game where you need to do much more than control your character or his vehicle, then I don't recommend buying The Invincible. Personally, it's okay for me to play a project from time to time that doesn't offer anything radically different in terms of gameplay, but this is not for everyone. Still, what does the game require from the player during the 7-10 hours of playthrough?

The number one task is to get from point A to point B. For example, you need to get to the base where one faction used to be. Once you reach it, the research process begins. Most often, it comes down to looking in every corner, finding something and discussing it with Novik. But the gameplay could be made more interesting, and the authors have even laid the foundation for this. Yasna has a small inventory, which includes binoculars, a map, a radio, a locator, a metal detector, and flares. The first three we use all the time, but the other items are the most interesting, but we use them only a few times. The potential of all this is great, but we have a feeling that we haven't done it all.

Yasna learns part of the story from the photos that are stored in the works

Later on, we will also have a ride-on bike, which will allow us to move faster and explore the planet better. As mentioned above, you won't find anything special on it, but we've encountered some interesting situations, so you can't go anywhere without a car.

The Rover that finds Yasna

Sometimes we will be attacked. Those who have played the demo or watched the developer videos know that these are mostly robots. These situations are interesting, sometimes there is even tension. But I wanted just a little more action moments, as well as puzzles, which are practically absent. The game would benefit from more dynamics. Although if you had to spend a maximum of 4 hours to complete The Invincible (as in the aforementioned Firewatch), it would be enough, but the game takes at least 7 hours.

Yasna will have to survive several encounters with cold machines

Therefore, everyone has to decide for themselves. If an interesting story is more than enough for you, you can safely pick up Starward Industries' debut project. But if you are not ready to accept the lack of variety in the gameplay, you should look for another game. If you have doubts, there is a demo version on Steam.

Sometimes Yasna will not travel alone, but her companions are not living creatures

Immersion in the Game World: Visual and Audio with Good Optimisation

I was playing the game on PlayStation 5 and the game kept 60 fps all the time. Also, the game never crashed. However, there were a few minor bugs when the character had no animation, some textures were soapy and wouldn't load, or there were sound issues when I heard Novik very quietly on the radio. But you should keep in mind that I have a press copy where such little things happen (and there are not many of them), and the developers are aware of most of them and plan to fix them, so you may not see some of them in the release. Although there was one critical bug, which I'll talk about later. But in general, the game works well.

WOW Atmosphere of Retrofuturism

Visually, the game can be described in three words: "Wow. Retrofuturistic visuals are not the most popular in games, and this project stands out. Anyone who has seen at least one atomic-punk illustration understands what the game is like. It was very interesting to look at all the objects, robots, vehicles, costumes, and more. You want to touch every object you come across. The Invincible skilfully transports you to an era where you have never been, but conveys its entire atmosphere. The atmosphere in the game is one of its strongest aspects. A lonely person on a lonely planet in a retrofuturistic wrapper hits the player, and now you've been standing outside the camp for 2 minutes looking up at the sky, where you can see another mysterious planet, and such moments in the game are beautiful.

Retro-futuristic visuals of the game

I would also like to note that after certain plot twists, the Comic Book section is updated, where you can look at the events in the form of an old comic book. This is a rare phenomenon in games, so I really liked this element.

One of the pages of the comic book

Soundtrack as Deep as Space

Brunon Lubas was responsible for the compositions, and they further enhance the atmosphere. Mostly deep compositions are heard, symbolising the vastness of space and the mystery of Regis III. Although sometimes there are more dramatic ones that convey the state of Yasna, who is so desperately trying to fight for her life, the lives of others and at the same time to deal with the mysteries around her and not to cause even more trouble.

What We Didn't Like

There was a moment when at the end of the game I needed to climb up to the ledge, but there was no indicator that allowed me to do so. I walked around, there was nothing, and I decided that I needed to go somewhere else if I wasn't allowed to go there. After walking around Regis for 30 minutes, I realised that something was wrong. After all, during the entire playthrough, I never had any problems with navigation, and I never got lost. When I restarted the game, the indicator appeared, and everything worked as it should. I hope that others will not encounter such a problem, but if you also have a feeling that something is wrong, it is better to restart the game immediately.

5 Things to Know about The Invincible

  • The Invincible is the debut game by Starward Industries
  • The game was created based on the novel of the same name by Stanislaw Lem
  • The story tells about the crew that got to the mysterious and dangerous planet Regis III
  • The gameplay of The Invincible is the weakest element that offers almost nothing interesting
  • Most of all, the game stands out for its atmospheric retro-futuristic style
The Invincible
Genre. Sci-fi adventure
Platforms. PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Number of players Single player
Developer Starward Industries
Publisher 11 bit studios
Time to complete 7-10 hours
Release date November 6, 2023

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The editors would like to thank Evolve PR agency for kindly providing the game for review