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access_time October 12, 2019 at 11:00 AM in Microsoft by David Poole

Review | Indivisible

Back in 2015, developer Lab Zero Games (the makers of Skullgirls) announced their new RPG, Indivisible. Later that year, an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was launched, and after a bit of struggling, the game reached its goal and was picked up by 505 Games. Now, in 2019, Indivisible is now available to the public with high aspirations and hopes. With games like Bloodstained gaining success after a Kickstarter campaign, does Indivisible live up to the hype? Well it probably depends on how you look at it.

Indivisible centers its story on Ajna, a young girl full of spunk from Ashwat village. After an attack on her village, she accidentally discovers a power to absorb others into a realm inside her head. With the goal of revenge, she treks out to fight a villain with a palindrome name. Along the way, she absorbs even more unique and unusual characters, and her adventure becomes much bigger than she could possibly imagine. Telling much more will go into spoiler territory, but it’s a fantastic story overall. It helps that the writing is very entertaining too.

While the story focuses on seeing Ajna grow as a character, the game has a central theme of unification. Finding more characters increases Ajna’s strength both physically, and mentally, and it prepares her for her destiny. She makes mistakes and she acts selfish, but she still has a good heart and does what she thinks is right. Her arc in the game is arguably one of the stronger character developments in recent games. It helps that the supporting cast gives a lot of diverse input, providing a lot of differences in opinions.

As mentioned before, Indivisible is an RPG, though it also has Metroidvania platforming elements. Taking things a bit further, the platforming utilizes practically every trick and method a platformer can offer. While this offers a game with challenging navigation, much like indie darling Celeste, it also creates a high barrier to leap over. Even experienced gamers will likely have trouble in some of the segments, which means those that aren’t good at platformers may be alienated. For those that just wish to enjoy the wonderful story, they may have trouble here.

The platforming isn’t the only challenge to overcome. Combat plays similarly to games like Project X Zone or even Valkyrie Profile. Battles will commence by attacking enemies on the map, changing the gameplay to a combo-based fighting system. Each character is assigned to a face button, and pressing their button, with or without input from the left analog stick, will perform an action. While offense is rather easy to grasp and fun, the defense can become a challenge at points. When enemies attack, players can block by holding the character button, and timing it right will result in a perfect block. While it starts out easy, some enemies have unique patterns and attacks that require a perfect block to avoid lethal damage. It takes some practice to get the timing right.

While combat takes practice, it offers some of the most unique mechanics in an RPG yet. Over time, players will gain the ability to attack multiple times with each character. Characters can attack whenever they have charges, and pressing their corresponding button will use a charge. This means players can make strategies by building up charges and spending them at the right time to unleash powerful combos. Charges won’t recharge during attack phases, so players have to be smart with how they use their attacks. There’s also the Iddhi gauge, which allows for even more powerful abilities. The best thing about the combat though, is that each character controls very differently.

Indivisible is home to a cast of over 20 characters to recruit onto Ajna’s team. A character like Naga Rider focuses on air combos while Phoebe relies on air grabs to deal heavy damage. Leilani wields a chainsaw that deals extra damage when holding down her attack button. Lanshi is a large dog that accepts petting and turns it into powerful attacks. Zahra will play a song that charges power known as Iddhi, and only perfect blocks will keep the song from interrupting. In a lot of ways, each character feels like a fighting game representative, offering unique attack patterns. The characters not only play differently, but they also have their own individual identity in their character designs.

No playable character looks the same, offering vastly different aesthetics that feels reminiscent of older RPG parties. On top of that, players can eventually change the color patterns of their characters to one of four options. Making them this way helps to give players freedom to create a party that really suits them. Having a great voice cast helps to make their personalities shine even more. With acting veterans like Matt Mercer, Zehra Fazal, Michael Dorn, and more, it really adds to the presentation. Tania Gunadi also does an excellent job providing the voice of Ajna, giving a character with heart, but also attitude. It’s worth mentioning that the music is pretty great too, giving each moment a fitting theme.

Going back to the platforming gameplay, as Ajna journeys to various lands, she’ll pick up many abilities. Some abilities will utilize weapons, like using an axe to hang on walls or using a bow to stun enemies. Others will be like extended dash sequences and corkscrew slides. While building up Ajna’s skillset it mostly a great experience, the game could use a bit more explanation. It took me quite a bit to figure out I could jump and maintain a corkscrew slide. This also applies to characters too, as character ability sheets will only talk about two or three moves. It takes some experimentation, but those that reach the end will feel like an expert when they have an arsenal of skills to use.

Visually, Lab Zero Games brings their brilliant hand drawn artwork and animation to Indivisible. Not only do character sprites look good in motion, but they fit so well with the gorgeous backdrops. The little details in this world make for a living painting that just begs to be explored. Add the occasional Studio Trigger cutscenes and even the colorful static paintings in cutscenes, and you have a very pretty game. That doesn’t mean there aren’t little visual glitches here and there. The most common one came from foreground elements appearing in scenes early, but it’s a minor issue.

While this is a Metroidvania, the game could use a few improvements in the traveling aspects. While there are ways of warping between areas, the locations aren’t exactly convenient unless they involve the narrative. There are tons of save points throughout the map, and it would be nice to be able to warp between them. Even if it was only select save points, it would make it much less of a chore. This would be especially helpful when trying to collect Ringsels for upgrades. There are also odd pacing choices made with certain platforming segments. One particular area goes on just a bit too long, and though it’s a fun challenge, it starts to overstay its welcome.

Being that the game was crowdfunded, there are a lot of little added details. There are tons of NPC’s that represent various backers, games, and more. Their dialogue tends to be rather silly, but it adds a certain charm to the game’s diversity. Guest characters like Shovel Knight and Shantae will drop in later updates, though it begs the the question if there will be content to make use of them. Either way, this project was clearly a huge undertaking, and it’s a success in most aspects.

When it comes down to it, Indivisible is a game with a ton of love and effort. It may not be for everyone, but it has a clearly visible charm to it that gives it a bright glow. The story is excellent and gives the player a proper journey with a strong character arc to follow. It’s just unfortunate that some might not be able to see that due to a high level of skill required for platforming. Either way, Indivisible is yet another big game for crowdfunding, setting new examples of what can be done. With great and unique characters, beautiful animation and a fantastic story, Indivisible makes for a strong adventure.

Final Score: 7.5 out of 10

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