Indivisible is an upcoming project from Lab Zero Games, the same team that brought us Skullgirls. With this game, the action RPG formula is bolstered by a few key fighting game design elements. The side-scrolling perspective, the importance of timing in battle, the need to juggle separate systems in concert and managing the block command all find a home here. Unlike other games that have tried similar experiments, Indivisible has taken these disparate gaming worlds and blended them together with fluid, natural ease.
The story is focused on Ajna, an ass-kicking tomboy whose world is upended after her home is attacked. She awakens to a new power, one that allows her to gather ‘Incarnations’ to aid in her fight against evil. Said Incarnations function like party members, additional arms in her attack force which are simultaneously controlled in battle. The preview build was light on story, though it offered an in-depth look at the combat system.
“The story is focused on Ajna, an ass-kicking tomboy whose world is upended after her home is attacked.”
Combat is where this game really shines. The entire preview build functioned as a sort of organic tutorial, wherein an extra layer of potential inputs was introduced one at a time. Once I reached the end, I was simultaneously controlling four different characters and their attacks. Each member of your party is mapped to one of the four face buttons on the controller. If you’re holding up or down, this changes what sort of attack that character performs. What follows is a rhythm of sorts. Everyone’s attacks slowly recharge after they’ve been used, allowing you to rotate between characters as they recharge. An extra layer is introduced when you have to start defending. Then you get a special meter to monitor. All of this settles into a smooth, graceful dance. Attacks, defense, and specials roll into one another until you’re able to use all three without any gaps. I was given access to enough different characters that I had a little agency over how battles played out. Everything went pretty smoothly until I encountered the preview’s final boss.
Here my new powers were tested to their limits. Defense, something previously added to my little dance when I could be bothered, was now a critical, life-saving element. Healing had to happen at every opportunity. I had no revival techniques, so someone was lost for good if they went down. This beast had enough health that I was able to test the effectiveness of every special. After getting wiped out several times, I learned some important lessons and took down the boss. The most important lesson? Experience and leveling up are fanciful illusions, at least in this build. Victory comes through practice and skill, or not at all.
“Every character animation is smooth as butter, the monsters are full of personality and the attacks look great.”
In this way, Indivisible rises above so many other action RPGs of all colors. Sometimes I love level grinding and sometimes I hate it, but a hybrid game is almost always better without it. I had my back against the wall, I was getting absolutely creamed and I needed a way out. So I back-tracked through the stage, looking for more opponents to boost me up. I was out of luck. Enemies that fell, remained fallen. The whole level was empty of monsters. I had no choice but to get better. The lovely thing about this game is that you can do that. Your movements can be polished, your defense timing can improve, your choice of attack matters. When my progress against the boss began to drag, I knew that I wasn’t using the right moves. When the rhythm of combat falters, you’re making mistakes, and it’s up to you to correct them.
All told, I’m impatient for this game to come out next year. Not only is the combat system a delight to play with, but the graphics are gorgeous. Every character animation is smooth as butter, the monsters are full of personality and the attacks look great. Traversing the world is a joy, with all of your dashes, jumps and ax strikes landing perfectly. Leave it to a team famous for a 2D fighting game to nail the controls. I’m excited to learn more about this world I’ve been briefly introduced to, and every character I’ve met so far has been delightful. Keep Indivisible on your radar, this one is going to be fantastic.
*** A PS4 code was provided by the publisher ***