Kickstarter has become a mainstay in recent years to launch development of new games, but many often forget just how long that development can take. Most of the time a project goes up on Kickstarter, work on the game is just beginning. It will likely take years before the fruits of one’s donation to the campaign makes it into their hands.
Just this year, backers are finally receiving finished products for projects they helped fund ages ago. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was a recently-released big-name Kickstarter project, finally seeing its release back in June, nearly four years to the date from its funding. We’re also expecting to see Shenmue III next month, and that project was funded back in 2015 as well.
The title we’re looking at today is one of these, a Kickstarter project funded in late 2015 that has finally been released to the world. With how polarizing finished crowd-funding projects can often be, how does this title fare?
Developed by Lab Zero Games and published by 505 Games, Indivisible was released on October 8th, 2019, on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. The PS4 version was played for this review.
All In Your Head
Indivisible follows Ajna, a young girl from a rural village. The game starts with her traversing a nearby forest to meet up with her father for combat training. After a brief argument, they part ways…only for Ajna to find her village aflame shortly thereafter.
In the village she meets a young man named Dhar, who says he destroyed the town for standing in the way of the plans of a figured named Ravannavar. A few early-game developments suddenly force Dhar to team up with Ajna, as she sets out on a quest of revenge to take Ravannavar’s head.
While the plot definitely spirals out from there, the throughline remains relatively straight-forward: entertaining, but hardly ground-breaking. Where the game shines, though, is in its characters.
Indivisible features over twenty playable characters, alongside numerous notable NPCs you’ll be interacting with. Most of them have strong personalities, with a few being borderline one-note, but its the way the personalities interact and clash that makes the story here so entertaining.
The key players here are of course Ajna and Dhar, and they both go through some truly intriguing development throughout the game. Both of them start off rather quick-tempered and hard-headed in their own ways, but the way the events of the game change and shape them really drives what makes the core plot of Indivisible interesting.
That’s not to say the other characters’ writing is any slouch either. Some are definitely given more love than others, but nearly all of them get an established background and personality to make them feel much more than just “people helping you fight.” Of particular note is Razmi, the overly-snarky and cynical shaman who I have decided is my spirit animal.
Unfortunately, with so many characters to balance, a few do fall by the wayside. There are a couple that are clearly optional party members with no personality and nearly no dialogue. Hell, one that I found early in the game never showed up in any story cutscenes.
Combo Into Oblivion
We gave a full run-down of the gameplay of Indivisible in our PAX West coverage of the game, so I’ll keep it brief here. The game is a combination platformer and RPG, incredibly reminiscent of games like Valkyrie Profile and Exist Archive. Battles play out with each character in your party assigned to a face button, attacking in real-time as you tap their respective buttons.
One criticism that I threw at the game after PAX West was that the battles seemed to go on forever. After playing the full release, though, I can admit that I was wrong in that regard. The issue was, I didn’t really know how to play the game during that demo.
While, yes, the core battle mechanics are tapping buttons to execute attacks, there were two things I didn’t know: each character has multiple attacks, and the special attack meter you can build up is incredibly important.
Each one of the aforementioned twenty-plus characters in the game has their own skillset and serves a different purpose in your party. Some are about pure power, others cast magic and/or heal, while a few have more narrow focuses such as knocking down flying enemies or setting traps. As the game doesn’t have traditional RPG trappings like an equipment system, most of your preparations for battle come down to figuring out which team members to include in your party to overcome upcoming battles.
The thing is, while each character has a specialization, it’s not the only thing they do, like my initial impressions led me to believe. Most characters have alternate attacks and skills that can be used by holding ‘up’ or ‘down’ while activating their attacks. I had access to Razmi in the PAX demo and I initially thought that all she could do was puff out fire a few times every turn. In actuality, she can also cast a speed debuff on enemies by holding down, and launch enemies into the air by holding up, making her much more useful.
Also, the aforementioned special meter was something I hardly used in the PAX demo, as it filled so slowly for me that I thought it best to preserve it. As I advanced through the full game, though, relying on that meter was the make-or-break for battles. The key is to get a good combo going; juggling enemies and dealing out massive damage fills the meter faster. Once I had my groove down, I was able to activate special attacks three or four times in every battle.
If there’s one major critique that I can lob at the battle system, it’s that it is much too easy to fall into a groove and get bored. You can figure out a party setup that works to brute-force most enemies and the ideal combo for them, then just repeat that same combo over and over ad nauseam. I did fall into this trap for a while, ignoring the new characters that kept getting added to my party. Forcing myself to experiment with new members and party configurations managed to bring some excitement back to battle.
The other half of Indivisible‘s core gameplay is no slouch either. The platforming aspect of the game isn’t just a gimmick, but rather a fully fleshed-out system that even the RPG battles occasionally use. Ajna learns numerous traversal skills throughout the game, ranging from simple slides to using a spear as a pogo stick. While the game uses these skills as “unlocks” to certain parts of the game a la Metroidvania-style titles, there’s also a number of platforming challenges in dungeons that require you to make use of everything in your arsenal. Having to fluidly switch between different skills to overcome these challenges was some of the most fun I had in the game.
The platforming world is directly incorporated into battle too. Battles take place on the main map. If you start a battle near a ledge, it’s possible to end it early by knocking your enemy off the edge (or having the enemy push you off). Boss battles in particular make heavy use of both systems, often switching between the RPG system and platforming challenges mid-fight. This intertwining of two distinct systems is what makes the core of Indivisible so intriguing and just plain fun to play.
Wonders of the World
Lab Zero is already well-known for their visual style from their previous game, Skullgirls, and Indivisible has them flexing their art skills once again. Vibrant distinctive character designs, smooth and impressive animations, and lush and varied environments are the name of the game here. There was never a moment where I could say I got bored of what I was seeing on screen.
The character designs in particular are probably the most stand-out thing in this game. Done in a cartoon style with a touch of anime influence, every character’s personality shines through in their design. Hell, their battle animations carry their personalities as well, which is an amazing touch.
The voice acting, unfortunately, is a bit hit or miss. The cast for Indivisible has some surprising talent behind it, including Matt Mercer, Xanthe Huynh, and Michael Dorn, with all three of them turning in great performances amongst others. Ajna’s voice actor fits well, but occasionally has some awkwardness in tone. Then there’s a few that are just straight-up not good, such as the character Angwu, who sounds like her actor is reading her script for the first time and doesn’t quite know what exactly she’s saying.
Mind Full of Wonders
Despite a few hiccups, I came out the other end of Indivisible decidedly impressed. Between the integration of RPG and platforming mechanics and the downright beautiful presentation, I can easily say that this game is one of the best that I’ve had the pleasure to play this year.
The only thing keeping it from being perfect is that its battle design can become repetitive and boring if you let it. It is much too easy to fall into a rut, repeating the same combos to steamroll your way through much of the game. If you actually play with the tools the game gives you, though, it is possible to keep things fresh.
Indivisible is a game that I can call an absolute must-play. The game has been a long time coming, and the final result shows that all the time spent in development has been worth it.
Review copy provided by 505 Games for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.