A Preview of The Invincible

Ashley_Buckwell
edited August 2023 in Gaming

The Invincible is an upcoming first-person, hard science fiction adventure video game developed by Starward Industries. The game takes place in a retro-futuristic universe that was inspired by the works of celebrated Polish author Stanisław Lem. A beta demo available on Steam offers players a glimpse into the world of The Invincible, and it is clear the game has a lot of promise.

The Invincible will be the first title to be developed by Starward Industries, a Polish games studio founded in 2018 by several of the developers behind The Witcher 3, Dying Light, and Call of Juarez. The highly talented team at Starward Industries are also joined by indie games publisher 11 bit studios, who will help bring The Invincible to market. First announced in 2020, the game was initially slated for a 2021 release but experienced a number of delays. The game is now on track for release later this year on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.

The Invincible is based on a novel written in 1964 by Stanisław Lem, who was a respected Polish writer best known for his science fiction books. Lem’s works have been translated into dozens of languages, and several have received film adaptations. For example, his best-known novel, Solaris, has been adapted three times: once for a television series and twice for film. His Master’s Voice, another science fiction novel, received a film adaptation in 2018, and Hospital of the Transfiguration, a story set during World War II, was adapted into a film in 1979. Although never adapted for television or film, The Invincible is a landmark work of hard science fiction. The novel explores the perils of space colonization and the very nature of alien life: the forms it may take, whether we would recognize it, and how our prejudices might affect our decision-making when encountering it. The upcoming game of the same name is not a 1:1 adaptation of the book but a retelling centered around a character named Yasna: a female astrobiologist not present in the novel but created fresh for the game.

What is the game’s storyline?

In the game, you play as Yasna, who has just woken up on Regis III after some kind of incident. Yasna and her crew had been surveying the planet, and although their scans had not brought up anything unusual, they knew that the planet must have been harboring something of interest, because of the fact that the flagship of a rival faction was on its way there, and it would not be heading there for nothing. Although not embroiled in a physical war, a Cold-War-esque “space race” between the two factions is presently underway. After waking up, Yasna gets to work searching Regis III for clues as to what might have happened to her crew, who have all died mysteriously following contact with… something. Yasna knows she is a scientist, and she knows she came here with a crew that has since gone missing. However, many of Yasna’s memories are foggy. A voice on the other end of an earpiece, that of her ship’s “astrogator,” helps Yasna along her journey.

The playable demo offers what appears to be an early chapter of the game, with Yasna investigating a rocky valley strewn with abandoned vehicles, wrecked automatons, and the corpses of her fellow astronauts. Yasna collects various pieces of equipment and uses these to locate the members of her crew one-by-one so that she can bring them to a small landing pod. The game features a choice-based system in which Yasna’s decisions and actions directly affect the story’s nonlinear progression. These choices ultimately determine how the story will play out and which of the 11 possible endings players will see.

As a thriller, the game does not contain gore or jump scares; what it has is tension. A foreboding atmosphere hangs about the planet, and you are constantly trapped between a feeling of trepidation and the desire to learn more. As an example of this tension, the game has Yasna early on piecing together a scene of destruction from black box lithographs salvaged from an automated tank weapon. A slow realization is expertly imparted to Yasna that the danger that befell the souls in the recording is still active, and that Yasna is very much at risk. This creates a moment of conceptual peril that works more deeply than any cheap jump scare could and demonstrates what can be achieved with effective pacing. The overall effect is oppressive, but not excessively so: the pull to unravel the mystery of Regis III, and the methodical pace of the tactile, investigative gameplay is enough to provide a regular distraction from the pervasive unease.

Gameplay mechanics

The Invincible offers players an immersive experience with a focus on exploration and problem-solving. As your avatar, Yasna is spacesuit-clad, and this is felt in every movement: this game is no space Lara Croft. Yasna is by necessity slow to climb obstacles and clumsy when operating intricate machinery on account of her massive space gloves. Several instances in the game might lend a video gamer the instinct to run or dodge; however, Yasna’s spacesuit thwarts any such attempts.

The mechanics are relatively basic. You poke around, look at stuff, and fiddle with things. You are practically guided through every step by the disembodied voice of your astrogator who crackles through the radio with reassuring regularity. The playable demo has the distinct feel of a tutorial, and the final release will likely have less of a tight leash on your activities, especially considering that the game has a branching narrative with an emphasis on player choice.

How does the game look?

Fidelity-wise, the game looks great. Textures have a lot of definition, and the bright bask of the sun gives off a feeling of warmth as it bakes the ground. Regis III looks like Mars—red, arid, and dull—and it does this in a way that drives home the desolation of the location. The landscape is littered with analog tech and mechanoids, and the antigrav vehicles have all the curves and flourishes of a 1959 Mercury Park Lane. The various pieces of equipment that Yasna collects are beautifully rendered in a retro-futuristic style. Her scanner, for example, has a warped cathode ray display, chrome beveling, and filament bulbs.

To power the game, which uses Unreal Engine 5, Starward Industries recommend you have an Intel® Core™ i5-10400F (6 core with 2.9 GHz ) or AMD Ryzen™ 5 3600 (6 core with 3.5 GHz) with 32 GB RAM and a GPU equivalent to an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super (8 GB) or Radeon 6700xt (12 GB).

We are looking forward to the release of The Invincible later this year, and considering the quality of the playable demo, we do not expect any further delays. For those who cannot wait, make sure to check out the Xbox Game Pass, and see why Acer is an official sponsor.

Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.

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