The timing of The Invincible was, perhaps, unfortunate. Or maybe it’s the name, I don’t know, but the fact that Invincible, Amazon Prime’s highly anticipated animated show, just released is at least somewhat funny as these two have almost nothing in common. A serious, spooky sci-fi story and an unhinged deconstruction of the superhero genre are as different as they can be, and there’s no Berbeinheimer effect to save either of them.
Thankfully, I am one of the weirdos interested in both. As an admirer of Stanislaw Lem’s works, I long waited for a decent adaptation, and The Invincible looked just that. Great visuals, good voice acting (although no matter how I tried, I couldn’t change the voices to Polish on my PS5), and a decent story all sound great. Even more interesting is the studio: it’s the first game by Starward Industries, founded in 2018 by a group of creators who were instrumental to the success of several AAA franchises, including The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Dead Island, Dying Light, and Call of Juarez.
The game starts strong, although it throws two of the big no-noes in my book: a comic instead of a cut scene and another amnesia patient as a protagonist. But fairly quickly, I was won over by gorgeous visuals and captivating sci-fi mystery. This game would probably work great as a VR experience.
Sadly, those are the best parts of the game. And after a few hours, you start noticing all the parts that don’t work: weak animations, shaky camera, and unclear instructions. Moreover, the game is slow, trying to stay realistic but ultimately only infuriating the player. There’s a lot of walking. A. Lot. I shudder to think just how much of a game there actually is without all the traversing.
And yet, I kept playing, liking the characters and the eerie vibe. Another strong point is the fact that your dialogue choices actually matter, which makes it an interesting adaptation. I can’t say that the quality of endings is at Lem’s level, but, well, it’s good that your choices actually matter.
I like the idea of adapting the work of an acclaimed sci-fi writer — god knows we need more games with an actual story (I am still reeling after Starfield), but The Invincible is ain’t it. As a game, it’s slow, tedious, and just isn’t as fun as a good read. And yet, I am sure it will find its audience: it’s a game that knows what it is, and it never strays far from the initial idea. It might not be for me, but you might find something you’ve been looking.