As someone who works a full-time job in addition to freelancing, I don’t really have the time for RPGs at the moment. Considering I grew up playing the classics, this is a constant source of disappointment. The most time I get to spend with one is during the review process, which is one of the main reasons I played Regalia. While I didn’t have high expectations for that crowd-funded title, I have been looking forward to Indivisible. The latest from Lab Zero Games has long been in the works, but it has finally arrived.
As is par for the course, Indivisible stars a heroine with good intentions, but questionable judgment. Raised and trained by her strict father, Ajna has always been something of a rebel, and it’s that rebellious attitude that drives her forward when her village is besieged by an invading army. Soon, she finds herself on a quest to stop an ancient evil she unwittingly unleashed upon the world. Along with some friends she gathers along the way, Ajna will need to tap into her inner strength in order to save the day.
For the first few hours, Indivisible seems disappointingly straightforward. The colorful cast helps move things along, but Ajna’s journey seems too simple. The more you play, though, the more you begin to see the cracks — just because you’re doing what you think is right, doesn’t mean it actually is. Ajna has good intentions, but her hot-headed nature tends to get in the way. What starts as a traditional battle against a big evil turns into a meditation on atonement and redemption. These themes help ground the story in a way that its more supernatural moments cannot.
Best known for their hit fighting game Skullgirls, Lab Zero Games’ journey into the world of RPGs may seem odd. However, the developer has transitioned itself pretty well to the genre. Not by sticking to established standards, though — they’re doing things their own way. Instead of a traditional turn-based engine, the studio opted for a more action-heavy set-up. In the past, they’ve remarked that they were inspired by Valkyrie Profile, and it shows. That one wasn’t the only older game they borrowed from, though, as they looked to Skullgirls for ideas and inspiration as well. The final result is a combat engine that blends the action of a fighter with the low-key patience of an ARPG.
The battle engine still adheres to most turn-based mechanics, but it does give you more control. When you get into battle, each member of your party is assigned to a face button. As long as they have attacks ready, you can use them in any order you wish. Ideally, though, you’d want to blend them together in a way that will stack hit points. For example, one magic-type character can create puddles of water that damage enemies. With those traps set, you could then use someone with a heavier attack to push them in. That’s just a single example — there are numerous other combinations at your disposal.
While it’s fun to roll out new teams in Indivisible, it’s almost unnecessary. Once you find a lineup that works, your best bet is to just stick with it. 10 hours into the campaign, I had locked down a team that was not only strong but also highly supportive. This, unfortunately, made the remaining 10 or so hours kind of a breeze. I was able to trap enemies in a nigh-constant circle of death. It’s impressive, but I would have preferred it if the devs pushed for you to switch things up more often, even if it was solely to force the player into trying out new strategies.
In addition to being a combination fighter/RPG, Indivisible also throws platforming into the mix. When you’re not in battle, the rest of the game is essentially a full-on Metroidvania. Ajna explores decent-sized cities and islands with a healthy number of secrets hidden among them — optional boss battles, side-quest items, and power-up gems are just a few of the things you can seek out. Indisivislbe doesn’t half-ass these sections either. It’s essentially an entirely new game when you’re out and about.
The fact that Lab Zero Games was able to mix all of these disparate genres into a package that is not only functional but enjoyable is a major accomplishment. Obviously the platforming isn’t as in-depth as others in the genre, but it’s more than serviceable, and it consistently keeps things interesting by introducing new mechanics for you to try out. Later on, you eventually learn how to bounce around like Scrooge McDuck. That being said, there is a good amount of backtracking to deal with. It’s an unfortunate low point of the genre, but it’s one that probably could have been avoided with better pacing.
Backtracking aside, Indivisible is packed with personality, which clearly shines through in the gorgeous visuals. Beautifully hand-drawn by the team at Lab Zero Games, it’s easily is one of the best looking 2D releases in recent memory. The sprite work is excellent, and the character designs are all memorable. From the common enemies you beat up to the friends Ajna makes, each one feels entirely unique. The environments add a lot to the experience as well. They are detailed enough for you to want to stop and look at when you get some downtime. It really makes the world feel lived-in and alive.
Considering the time and effort spent on the title, it’s nice that Indivisible turned out as wonderful as it did. Lab Zero Games managed to successfully thread together three different genres into one enticing package. It’s full of personality, gorgeously designed, and most importantly, a blast to play. Considering this is the studio’s first dive into the world of role-playing games, it’s hard to imagine how it could have gone any better. If they ever decide to take another crack at the genre, I’m hoping we won’t have to wait another four years to get our hands on it.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by 505 Games.
Cobbled together from three disparate genres, Indivisible is a uniquely fresh experience that was well worth the extended wait.