Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
Being unobtrusive... and looking good doing it.

Being unobtrusive… and looking good doing it.

Appropriately, Invisible, Inc. is a wonderful piece of skill. What it is: A fast-paced, mid-budget tactical stealth game with limited scope. What It Feels Like: A grand spy version of XCOM, featuring a small elite team of agents desperately on the run from a massive conspiracy to destroy them, as they scrape together the resources to turn the tables. That’s one of the most remarkable tricks a smaller strategy game can pull off, and Invisible, Inc. does that…most of the time.

Hacking terminals for justice

In the core, Invisible, Inc. can be seen as “Stealth XCOM,” complete with an isometric viewpoint, fast movements and a small strategic layer of role-playing style character development. But Invisible differs from most other tactical games by focusing on time pressure rather than perfect strategy.

The urge to be fast exists on both the tactical and strategic layers of the game. Tactical, Invisible, Inc. keep the pressure up by regularly increasing the security and awareness of the targets you infiltrate. Each mission takes place in a procedurally generated building and has one of a few goals: to break into a vault, find an experimental weapon or free a captured agent. The smaller scale of the game backfires a bit here, as infiltration targets all tend to look and feel the same, especially early on, before different high-level enemies appear depending on the specific business target .

Guards of varying abilities patrol the corridors of each building, and more are summoned if you take too long. Most methods of taking out guards are non-lethal, and those guards begin patrolling more aggressively once they recover, increasing the pressure. Killing the guards instead activates heart rate monitors which leads to the game adding even more pressure.

So an ideal infiltration involves quickly hacking into the important computers, taking out guards and moving them to irrelevant areas, and clearing a path to the exit. You only have a handful of agents at a time – you start with two and can eventually get four. They can hide behind doors in ambush or sneak behind enemies who are distracted by another agent. At higher levels, you might be able to throw up holographic cover or kill guards with an augmented agent and a powerful sniper rifle in a way that doesn’t increase security.

However, it is much more intense when things are not going ideally. Then the considerations become even more serious. Guards go into overwatch when they see a cop. Can you duck for cover or take them out from behind? Is sacrificing an agent so the rest of the team can live viable? Or do you have to use one of them Invisible‘s more smart features and rewind to the previous turn? By turning that rewind into a game mechanic, Invisible works to solve one of the big problems of tactical games: the problem of reloading saved games to get better results. By making it part of the game system, Invisible makes players complicit, reducing frustrating decisions about whether or not to rescue scum.

Around the world in 80 hours

Applying this intense pressure at the tactical level wouldn’t work if the strategic layer didn’t support it. For the most part yes. The story is crucial here: Invisible, Inc. is an organization that fights against the corporations that have taken over the world. Those companies stole Invisible’s AI, Incognita, and you only have 72 hours of power, so you’re looting company locations until you find the means to reverse fortunes.

The crucial in it Invisible, Inc. is that there’s only a certain amount of time, and most of that is taken up by traveling between locations – chances are you’ll see maybe ten levels, at most, in a single campaign. In other words, they’re fast, and because they’re so fast, the game’s rapidly escalating difficulty works. unlike XCOMwhere starting a new game involves a huge investment of time and effort, Invisible, Inc. is designed to reboot, unlock new characters and hacking tools and reboot. If you win, it’s fast. If you lose, it’s still fast.

This ensures high-stakes decision making, based on the best traditions of both strategy games and roguelikes, where every choice should be interesting. The time pressure, even as a turn-based abstraction, makes it easy to get into the aesthetic of Invisible: a superspy running around a room, wirelessly hacking electronics and siphoning their power; another spy sees a room full of enemies, takes them out one by one, gaining speed each time.

Look cool, play cool

The whole process is aided by the silky-smooth animation and character design for the spies; watching Decker in his fedora and trench coat grab and subdue an enemy is a delight. The opening animation and framing device for the story also does a great job of introducing the game world and style (I previously played in Early Access where the game felt pretty empty thematically, but I was shocked by how valuable the new cutscenes and dialogue were to clarify things). The music is pretty nice too – and a few Deus Ex-style flourishes really help to create the cyberpunk, anti-corporate mood.

Invisible, Inc. struggles a bit when speed gets less oppressive. On the strategic layer, in terms of character development and inventory management, it can struggle. There are many options for character enhancements, items, hacking tools, and character upgrades, and it’s not always clear which one is the best. Sometimes they don’t even seem to work, as was the case with an augmentation I had installed that was supposed to take out nearby enemies, but could never get it to fire. The net effect of this is that experimenting with new strategies is discouraged – instead you tend to get the augmentations and items you know and ignore the rest.

Not that playing in your comfort zone is a bad thing. One of the pleasant side effects of Invisible, Inc.The speed and pressure of the game is that it’s easy to predict how long a campaign will last, how long a mission will last, and you’ll be rewarded even if you fail. This means that, despite the pressure and difficulties, Invisible, Inc. is a surprisingly relaxing game. In the imagination it is big. In reality it is small – that’s a trick.

The good:

  • Fast and fun
  • Consistent, interesting tactical decisions
  • Beautiful animations
  • Clever use of difficulty and time pressure

The bad:

  • Repetitive environments
  • Character progression too vague

The Ugly:

  • Why is this increase not working?

Pronunciation: Buy it

By akfire1

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