Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: 505 Games
The fuel for a hero’s adventure is typically losing everything. Then, the hero goes through three stages Departure, Initiation, and Return. Even today, these beats are in many of our favorite fantasy and adventure fiction. I feel like Lab Zero Games approached this type of journey in their latest title, Indivisible. Even if unconventional in premise, this team has created a unique place for themselves in this genre. What players get is an adventure that blends game mechanics and story elements that might just very well make it the standout RPG of the year.
The hero’s journey in Indivisible begins by introducing Ajna, the daughter of a great warrior who had previously sealed away a great evil before she was born. She’s eager to learn all she can from her dad, but their time’s cut short after someone attacked her village, and a man named Dhar took her dad’s life. Ajna wastes no time facing Dhar, but then something sparks within her that transports him into her mind. This spiritual version of Dhar is more or less trapped here, and they cannot physically harm one another. Figuring that Dhar was following orders, Ajna decides to go straight to the source and take him out, which happened to be a warlord named Ravannavar.
This impulsive attitude of Ajna plays out throughout most of the game’s story. She rarely wants to take the time learning things, and this ends up affecting the people around her. Throughout her journey, she meets others who are motivated by their curiosity and willingness to save the world. What’s most important about these characters is how they each go out of their way to teach Ajna something about growing up, whether it be patience or focus, Ajna is continuously learning.
Ajna must journey alongside her father’s murderer, and this creates many awkward moments in dialogue. However, like Ajna, Dhar has some growing up to do too. They’ve each suffered a strange upbringing, and this gives them a way to connect. In retrospect, each character in the group fills some role of Ajna’s personality that helps her make decisions. However, it goes even deeper than this, and the group teaches Ajna to understand common sense things as she discovers a world outside of her own.
The thing about Ajna is that she is exceptionally complex. She is so quick to help others but does so using the first idea that pops in her head. Her eagerness to save the world often clouds her judgment, but I feel this was her way of distracting herself from the terrible things that have happened in the past few days for her. In reality, she is only 16. She is stubborn, impulsive, and naive, but that also makes her fearless in the face of danger. Her other qualities are caring, curious, and witty, which shows in nearly every scene of dialogue.
Gameplay in Indivisible is a cross between RPG and 2D platforming. Ajna can travel left to right through the world and must traverse various obstacles to get to the next area. The game borrows some elements of a Metroidvania in that regard where players can travel back to previous areas to unlock new paths.
Throughout the game, Ajna acquires new abilities and skills that help her get through these areas. Elements like a high jump or clinging to the wall are just a few of the ways she can get around. However, late in the game, they become more practical, like the ability to freeze enemies to get past them. Platforming sections rely heavily on skill and knowledge of Ajna’s abilities. The game makes this easier on the player by rolling them out slowly. However, one feature missing is a dependable, fast travel option, which gets unlocked in some capacity late in the game. There is a lot of back and forth in this game, and sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was find my way back to the ship.
When encountering an enemy, the game enters a battle screen, which takes place where you are on the field. Players choose a party of four characters into battles, who take on one of the four face buttons on the controller. Each character has several attacks they can use in a fight. These attacks refill each turn. However, Lab Zero brought their fighting game knowledge to this title by incorporating combos into the game. Each character has a high, mid, and low attack.
These attacks range from building up strength to healing the party, but they are most useful when executing combos. The party can be sent out at any time they have an action available. However, chaining together combos weakens the defenses of enemies to cause more significant damage. Defending in the game is also something players have to keep in mind. When targeted for an attack, the player can Defend at the right time to negate some of the damage. Defending and attacking fill up a gauge that can be used to execute special attacks in the fight. Using these attacks makes it easier to manage large groups of enemies as well as break guards.
The issues with the battle system are that they can be a little too long at times, especially when you are trying to rush to your goal. Level grinding was never an issue for me, but after 15 hours, you start to avoid the battles as much as you can. Thankfully, the developer incorporates abilities to help you get past them at almost the exact point where they are overstaying their welcome. The boss battle, on the other hand, are all consistently fun and incorporate a mix of 2D action with the RPG battle system to make each of them unique.
Indivisible is simply beautiful. I can’t express more just how great it is to explore this game’s world. Each town and dungeon offer new things to see and encounter. The game even has some easter eggs for fans of Lab Zero, like a true to life illustration of art director Mike Z in a bathing suit. There’s so much charm in every scene of this game that makes it a joy to experience.
The level of creativity found in the game’s features transitions into the game’s writing. The writers knew what to do to make these characters enjoyable. The relationships between the characters only benefit because of it. What compliments the writing is the English audio direction. Each voice actor in this game gave a standout performance that gave these characters life. With such a huge cast, you are sure to have at least one outlier, but it was tough for me to choose a favorite because they were all just so good. Furthermore, the music in this game is beyond amazing, and it inserts you in the adventure as it sets the pace and tone of each new area.
Indivisible goes about the hero’s journey by taking some unconventional paths. The game’s story grabs the player for a full-on adventure mixing genres that probably shouldn’t work. What comes out of it, though, is one of the brightest and endearing lead protagonists that I have had the honor of watching grow in a game. Ajna is what holds together everything that makes this game so grand. The constant flow of new abilities and characters and the complex nature of events tied with a turn-based battle system and platforming are what make Indivisible a must-play title.
It’s been about over four years since Indivisible’s announcement, but I would have to say that the wait was worth it. Do yourself a huge favor and play this game.
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