PAX West 2019 Hands-on: Indivisible

When I was a kid, I was really in to video games, and I used to spend a lot of time doodling out ideas for what I thought would be cool games (I was a nerd, don’t judge me). One idea I remember clearly having was a cross between a JRPG and a side-scroller. The closest I’ve found in recent memory was the game Exist Archive, but my idea was one that had full platformer elements as well.

Apparently Lab Zero Games peered into my childhood and stole my ideas, because that is exactly what I experienced when I got to go hands-on with their upcoming RPG/Platformer hybrid Indivisible.

There were a few demo stations for the game set up at 505 Games’ booth at PAX, and the one I sat down at started me off about eight-to-ten hours into the game. I was dropped into “Tai Krung City,” a city that, from what I could glean from the dialogue, has been taken over by some evildoer through the use of some kind of drug. There wasn’t much story in this segment beyond that.

Walking forward I found my first enemy. There are a few attacks I can use to stun the enemy on the main map, but coming in contact with it initiates the RPG battle system. The way battles play out reminded me quite a bit of Valkyrie Profile and, well, Exist Archive. Each of the four members in your party is assigned to one of four face buttons on your controller, and you tap the corresponding button to attack or cast magic with them. When enemies attack, they indicate who they are attacking, and you can tap the targeted character’s button to block and reduce damage.

The small twist Indivisible brings to this system is that each character has a number of “charges” for attacks that they can use. In the party I was given, my three attackers had three charges, and my healer only had one. The charges are how many times you can act in a row; I could have a character just hit once then jump back, or use all three at once for a quick combo. Charges only seemed to recharge if I had my entire party wait, so I had to balance between attacks and rest periods so I wouldn’t leave myself defenseless.

All the fights I had were against essentially trash mobs…and they all took much longer than I would expect them to, sometimes up to five minutes per fight. As mentioned earlier, this was around ten hours into the game, so I was facing higher-level enemies, but the battle system just didn’t feel involved enough to justify the length of these fights. Perhaps there are some other functions in the system to speed up fights, but I wasn’t introduced to any of them.

After making my way to one end of the map and reading a short story scene involving some kid in my party and his parents, I then had to backtrack and platform my way into another area. While I was expecting something like Exist Archive, with some basic jumping and navigation, the platforming here in Indivisible is surprisingly involved.

I had to make my way to the top of the map I was in, which involved navigating up platforms and across electrified obstacles. The game helpfully introduced a number of moves I could use: charging a jump to launch myself higher, grabbing on to an edge with my axe, wall jumping, and pogo-ing across the electrified things using a spear, amongst others.

This platforming segment presented a bit of a challenge, especially as I had to chain together a bunch of these moves quickly (again, this demo segment is a significant way into the game). After a number of falls and repeated attempts, I managed to make my way up. Once I had gotten used to the inputs for each move, I found myself able to re-scale this segment multiple times rather smoothly.

I only had about half-an-hour with the game, but if anything, the platforming left more of an impression on me than the battle system did. While I enjoy its take on the Valkyrie Profile battle style, it just felt too slow. The platforming, though, was much more involved and interesting.

This short hands-on with Indivisible left me with a positive outlook regardless. I wish I would’ve had the time to see more of what the storytelling is like, but the gameplay is a really intriguing mashup that doesn’t wave off the platforming portion as just a gimmick. Count me in for the full release.

Indivisible is set for release on October 8th, 2019, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam, with a future Switch version planned.

Screenshots courtesy of 505 Games.