STAFF REVIEW of Indivisible (Xbox One)

Thursday, November 7, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Indivisible Box art You’d never guess that Indivisible is only Lab Zero Games’ second main release. Best known for their 2D brawler Skullgirls, they branched out and made something completely different this time around with a RPG that completely surprised and impressed me, in all the best ways. A solid blend of RPG, action and adventure, Indivisible impresses most with its spectacular hand drawn art. Watching the opening cutscene alone, you couldn’t be faulted if you thought Indivisible was based on an actual anime, that’s how impressive the art style is. If you’ve played Skullgirls previously, it’s similar in visual flare, but has certainly been improved with this new title.

The narrative centers on a young teenager, Ajna, daughter of a remote town’s leader whom is killed when they are attacked by an enigmatic person. Of course this not only turns Ajna’s life upside down, but it awakens a mysterious power that’s been lying dormant inside her. It’s here that she sets out on a quest of revenge, and while its base is a story we’ve been told a million times previously, it becomes much more involved and interesting as you progress and lasts much longer than I anticipated.

For starters, it seems Ajna is part diety, harnessing an extremely powerful force within her which also sets her up for trouble, as Lord Ravannavar is looking for people with such power, unable to find many until now. The story begins quite slow and run of the mill, but once you start to meet new companions and unveil some of the larger elements to the narrative, it changes from a simple story to a much more engaging and emotional tale, full of great writing, interesting characters, humor and great gameplay to top it all off.

The world itself has a good amount of lore and character, but the writing really shines with every new companion she meets along her journey. While in most games, secondary characters are just that, not really given a lot of time to have their personality shine through and have much character development; not with Indivisible though. Sure, the main narrative focuses on Ajna’s quest, but her friends and companions along the way get their fair share of screen time and spotlight, give you enough time to become attached and form your favorites.

Due to Ajna’s unique powers, she actually absorbs these “incarnations” into her head, only to come out during battles. An odd setup, one that I didn’t get right away, but simply go with it and it’ll make sense given the narrative. You’ll eventually have quite the large amount of ‘friends’ to choose along the way, allowing you to bring four into battle, all of which have their own combat styles and abilities, so there’s plenty for you to experiment with.

My personal favorite throughout is easily Razmi, a pyromaniac who wears her dead tiger’s corpse on her head like a headdress, constantly making hilarious comments and one liners. There’s a handful of others too, all with their own personalities and quirks that really make them stand out due to the fantastic writing and accompanying voice acting.

Indivisible is one part RPG and combat and other part Platforming, making for an interesting hybrid. Given that it’s played 2D, it falls best into the Metroidvania genre, where you’ll explore an area, but have many sections blocked off or inaccessible until you come back later on with new abilities and knowledge of how to progress. Combat itself is in real time, but is quite unique and challenging, something that I really enjoyed once I wrapped my head around how to execute it properly.

Your party will consist of four members, each of which are mapped to one of the face buttons on the controller. The amount of actions each character can take at a time is shown with the number of button icons are below their health bar, beginning with just two. How you execute the real time combat is completely up to you. Spam all the buttons and everyone will fight at once, though as you progress, you’ll need to be much more tactical as you venture on versus harder enemies.

Simply pressing a button will have that character attack, but each also has different attacks and abilities when combined with a press of the Up or Down on the D-pad as well, so you need to think strategically, as some attacks are purely for damage while others are for setups or air launch combos. This is the basis of the combat, but each character has their own strengths, weaknesses and utility. This is where you’ll need to experiment with the well over a dozen characters to find the team that works best for you. While I found my perfect team early on to mid game, some might opt to stay with the beginning four or constantly change it up as new teammates are added along Ajna’s journey.

There’s also a Super meter that fills as you land attacks or take damage. This meter has multiple levels, and expands as you progress, allowing you to unleash special moves, with the power based on how many bars of your Super meter you want to use. With a ton of characters and unique attacks, there’s plenty of depth within for you to find exactly what you like. Combat isn’t simply about attacking though, as it’s in real time, and enemies will also be aggressive towards you as well. When they do, you’ll see a red ring around the base of the character that is being targeted. If you’re able to perform a perfect block by tapping the button that said character is tied to just as the hit lands, you’ll absorb a share of the damage. This will need to be perfected once you start making it throughout Ajna’s journey and take on some of the massive bosses. Some of the bosses will also attack the whole group at once, which can be blocked, but depletes your Super meter as well.

Combat will be confusing at first, as you’re really only taught the basics and simply left to figure it out yourself afterwards, but becomes quite rewarding and engaging once you figure it out. If it become too overwhelming, pressing ‘RB’ will allow you to slow down time, allowing you to choose which enemy to focus on, or simply take a quick breather and figure out what order you want to setup your attacks with.

The other main component to Indivisible is its platforming sections. Much like any other Metroidvania title, you’ll constantly have areas you can’t reach or access until you come back later with new abilities or powers, allowing you to venture further. Simply starting out with her mother’s Ax, Ajna will be able to use it to smash certain walls or hang onto walls before wall jumping higher. As you progress you’ll earn new weapons that allow for more mobility to reach new areas. The spear lets you spring vault to higher areas or bounce on deadly spikes. Your bow and arrow will allow you to hit targets that toggle platforms from a distance, or even coat a wall of spikes with flowers that can be jumped on.

There’s a surprising amount of abilities you gain as you progress, much more than I was expecting, but it keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting. Once Ajna begins to unveil her hidden powers from within, you’ll be able to traverse quicker and with purpose, constantly on the lookout for Ringsels. These are floating red crystals, that when enough have been collected, can increase your offence by adding more attacks, or defense. This adds a purpose to exploring more of the world as you traverse, though many will be hidden quite well.

My only real complaint actually has to do with these prominent platforming sections. Yes, they break up the gameplay and makes sense given the genre, but this is also where I had the most frustration from many deaths from mistimed jumps or hitting the spikes below. Some of these sections are timed with crumbling platforms, so you need to be precise and perfect in many of these sections, which can be frustrating at times. Many boss fights also mix up the combat and platforming as well, so there’s no escape from it.

By far, Indivisible’s most impressive feature is its art, as it’s beautiful in every way with completely hand drawn visuals. When you get to witness the full blown cutscenes, the quality only goes up and I swear it could have been taken from an anime I’d never heard of before. I can’t even imagine the amount of work that’s gone into every animation and character, and it doesn’t go unnoticed with the beautiful color spectrum and smooth animation, even if there’s the odd framerate dip now and then. The audio is just as impressive, though nowhere near as memorable really aside from the wonderful voice acting across the board. Every character’s personality really shines through due to the great voice over performances from everyone.

Indivisible starts out with a typical trope about revenge, but grows into something much larger and meaningful by the time the credits roll, all due to the excellent writing, fantastic voice acting and simply great gameplay overall. While many games can be great, few are memorable, and Indivisible is one that I’ll be thinking of for some time. You’ve earned a new fan Lab Zero Games.

Overall: 9.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.8 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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