Imagine a game where a young girl, a pirate captain, a super hero, an enemy soldier, and various others team up –both willingly, and unwillingly in some cases — to take down an evil entity threatening to destroy the world. Maybe this sounds familiar, but the twist is that all these party members reside in the young girls head once they join her. This is 505 Games’ and Lab Zero’s new platforming RPG hybrid, Indivisible, or at least a very basic description of the story.
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Nintendo Switch TBD)
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Available on the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, and Steam
Indivisible has you play as Ajna, a hotheaded but kind teenage girl from a small village. When her village is attacked by an evil army and her father is killed by an enemy soldier , she goes on a quest to avenge him, eventually expanding into the much larger aforementioned quest to save the entire world from destruction.
The first thing you might notice about Indivisible is the striking visuals, which were all hand drawn. While hand drawn games aren’t anything new, Indivisible‘s vibrant backgrounds, well-illustrated cutscenes, and colorful, well animated characters in each area help breathe life into it in such a way that you have to see it for yourself to believe it. With such an impressive visual style, it compels you want to experience what the actual gameplay is like.
Being an RPG, Ajna is the first character you control in battle, but it doesn’t stay this way for long. Many other characters join Ajna on her quest, creating a party consisting of up to 23 different characters (some are optional) all with their own distinct personalities, although only four at a time can be used in battle. While in battle, face buttons are utilized as each character’s attacks with each of them corresponding to a different button, and combining them with different directional buttons will change them. These attacks can be used a select number of times before they have to recharge, meaning characters may have to defend themselves if they’re being targeted and are waiting for their attacks to recharge. Luckily, characters can easily block attacks with the corresponding face button.
In addition to several standard attacks, each character also has a special technique they can use. Some characters also have different methods of attacking, for example one character may have a certain command be for them to charge up before they’re able to attack, or another may have to time their attacks a certain way to perform a continuous combo. In addition to attacking enemies. when said enemies target one or multiple characters in the party, you can block to decrease or prevent the damage dealt. When attacking or blocking successfully, an energy meter fills with spiritual energy called Iddhi, draining when characters get hit or block all together at the wrong time. Once the Iddhi meter has at least one bar filled, you can have a party member perform a stronger attack, which obviously deals more damage.
There are a handful of different enemies throughout Indivisible, and as such you have to utilize different methods to defeat them. Some enemies have to be juggled with aerial attacks to lower their health, others have to have their armor broken with specific combos first before being damaged, and some are healed by certain attacks depending on what character you’re attacking them with. While at first this can be tedious due to how long battles can take, as you learn how to properly take them down and gain new party members over time, it becomes easier and provides some variety to combat that could get exceedingly stale without it.
You can’t swap between party characters in-battle, so you have to try to plan accordingly when you see a specific type of enemy in the over world. The one exception to this is that most bosses start off with a platforming section and switch back to it from battle after a certain amount of time has passed or damage has been dealt. Boss fights are the best part of Indivisible, and make those seemingly tedious battles with lesser enemies worth it. As I previously mentioned, each boss has a platforming section, and you have to figure out when and/or how to hit them so your party can drain their health until they make you return to the platforming section, repeating the cycle until said boss has been defeated. Regular enemies can also be damaged outside of battle when encounter, and with certain enemies and techniques you can decrease their health to the lowest point possible then only have to hit them once or twice in battle before they fall.
Since fighting enemies will decrease the health of characters when not properly blocked, they have to be healed during battle, especially if their health is low. A few characters have attacks which heal the party, while Ajna can fully heal and revive the party when the Iddhi meter is completely full, and she is capable of this both in-battle as well as in the over world. Items are non-existent in Indivisible, so you never have to worry about buying health or mana potions. Healing attacks and Ajna’s power both provide a great alternatives to items, never having to go out to find or purchase any, and never worrying about any kind of inventory being full.
Leveling up is more simplified than in other RPGs, because you never have to worry about stat distribution or managing which attacks each character has. Ajna is actually the only character who levels up, while other characters increase their hearts when Ajna becomes stronger, which act as a damage multiplier that augments their strength. Additionally, Ajna’s strength and defense can increase by collecting ringsels throughout the world. Increasing Ajna’s strength will grant more action points, while increasing defense will lessen damage from enemy attacks when blocking.Some ringsels are more challenging to reach than others, so it really depends on how much you want to collect them. I only upgraded my attack and defense a few times and it never seemed to make too much of a difference. With how many you have to collect each time (five, 10, 15, 20, etc., with attack upgrades being more expensive than defense upgrades) going back to collect all of them never seemed worth it since you lose them if you die before you get to the following save point, and I normally only picked them up if I was heading in their direction anyway or if I found a secret area that happened to have one. A challenging and fine collectible for completionists, and If you’re struggling to get a grasp on the gameplay and haven’t used any then you might want to at least once or twice, but otherwise they’re not entirely necessary..
Between battles, there’s plenty of platforming and Indivisible manages to switch between the two gameplay styles seamlessly most of the time. In the beginning, the platforming is relatively basic and consists of things like jumping, wall to wall climbing, hanging, dashing, and sliding. As you progress, you gain new techniques which help you get through more difficult platforming areas. One problem with the platforming is that it could feel finicky at times, so if your technique is just a smidgen off you might miss your target and will have to start over from another platform. This becomes most apparent as you approach the second half of the story, with more techniques to manage and proper platforming often becoming a life or death situation. This is where save points, of which multiple are spread throughout each area, come in handy. A minor problem I found was that the ability to defeat an enemy can also depend on where you encounter them. If your party ends up in a position where they can hit the enemy but the enemy can’t reach them, it offers a great advantage. On the other hand, if you encounter a enemy in such a way that you can’t hit them in battle or the majority of your party keeps falling off the corner of a platform, then it becomes a problem, although when far enough away the battle will usually be interrupted and return you to the over world. Not the most major setbacks,but could use some quality of life enhancements.
Some of the biggest problems I found with Indivisible were the map and the lack of specific types of fast travel. While there are markers which show you where to go for stories, quests, ringsels, and characters, I felt that I rarely saw any story or quest markers until later. The map also doesn’t show boundaries as clearly as it could have, and a more clear mark which shows when you don’t yet have the ability to get past certain obstacles would have been a helpful addition. The only fast travel is between areas in the second half of the game, and there’s no way to fast travel between save points in one area. Since you know how to get around those areas by then, it’s not the worst omission, but it would have made backtracking through previously explored areas more of a breeze and could help players skip battling enemies when they’re just trying to reach the boss.
There are also a number of sidequests in Indivisible that unlock specific things, such as a new party member or a special costume. The problem the comes with sidequests is there’s no kind of list to keep track of them, although if the character is with you then they’ll remind you if you talk to them in Ajna’s inner realm, otherwise you might just have to write it down to remember it if you want to complete it. Since the main story of Indivisible isn’t very long, these side quests give you an opportunity to get to know other characters better, which is great for those who don’t have as much dialogue in the main story, but again you may forget unless you’re trying to one hundred percent complete everything.
The music of Indivisible, while well-made due to involvement from Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta, never stood out to me much. It’s nice to have such a high quality soundtrack in the background, but I never felt like it helped convey the emotions of different scenes as much as it could have. On another note, while I thought all the party characters were great, I felt like there should have been more to the story. The story seemed to rely on a lot of common tropes, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I always wanted it to go deeper when it didn’t, especially in regards to a particular character who’s important at first but is seemingly thrown aside later. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have a few surprises, but those happen rather early on and made me expect more out of the events that played out.
I’ve been following Indivisible since 2015, and it seems almost surreal to say that I’ve now finished the full game. It has a few small hiccups here a there, and it manages to make up for it with all of its other quality features. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it for those who prefer turn based RPGs, but I think it’s the type of game everyone should at least try once even if it’s not their style. The combination of beautiful hand drawn visuals, decent background music, and the responsive gameplay excellently mixing platforming and RPG elements is the quality indie games should strive for. While battles can feel tedious and the platforming can be frustrating, the boss fights and quirky characters are what make it all worth it in the end. Indivisible has definitely proven itself as worth the wait even if it hasn’t seemed to reach its full potential.
Indivisible is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version will launch in the near future. Extra content such as guest party characters from other indie games (such as the titular character of Shovel Knight)is also planned.
Review code provided by the publisher.