Invisible Inc. Early Access Preview
Dev/Pub: Klei Entertainment
Two weeks I’ve had this game. Two weeks.
And it’s only now, as I write the review, that I get the joke that ‘Invisible Inc.’ sounds like ‘invisible ink’. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m going to put it down to too much seasonal Diazepam to keep me snuggled up, versus the unrelenting bangs and whistles of fireworks season. Still, two weeks; I won’t feel bad if you feel like you need to consult a second opinion.
Invisible Inc. is a stealth game – a game of sneaking and sudden, violent electrocutions. It is a game of finely balanced risk and reward gameplay, that delights in giving you just enough rope to hang yourself and then watch you topple over, legs kicking futilely with the adrenaline of overconfidence. How does it do this? With the clever mechanic of a reverse time limit.
You take your small group of infiltrators to various locations in an attempt to procure a whole load of cash, weapons and anything else not nailed down. On arrival, the environment’s security system learns that there is a threat, but it needs a while to track it. A race against time begins where you can see the security system ramping up around you, but – as the Operator – it’s your job to get as much loot as possible and get your team out. Thing is, you find the level exit really quickly – but do you leg it with a satsuma or hang around to get the sweetest plum?
Naturally, you’ll want to hang around. Well that’s just fine but all the time that security system is getting more and more agitated. First extra cameras turn on, then more guards come and then elite guards show up who really know how to show your team a bad time. So, now how much do you value your skills? How close do you want to push it? Are there any potential rewards that are worth the loss of a member of your team? That’s up to you to decide.
In any case, all your quick reactions and battle-hardened twitch shooting skills count for nothing since Invisible Inc. is turn based in a similar style to Shadowrun Returns or – to a lesser extent – XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I say lesser because the focus in Invisible Inc. is on stealth, not body count. The game actively penalises you for going on a kill crazy rampage both in terms of shortening the amount of time before the super guards show up and also by taking some of your spoils in the form of ‘clean-up costs’ which is really a fine for cold-blooded murder. Nothing too hefty, it’s only $50 or so, similar to a minor traffic violation.
Cold-blooded murder is fine for the guards at the places you visit however. Their guns will chew through your agents like a hungover man with a sausage and egg McMuffin. Lose your team on the job and it’s game over for you, chum. Yes, if you’re not a fan of high-stakes and permadeath you’re going to have to learn to love it to truly embrace Invisible Inc. There’s no save scumming, even on ‘Easy’ mode, so every choice counts. It was actually refreshing to play a turn-based game that doesn’t rely on RNG that uses this format. You have to be thoughtful and careful, but with some forward planning you can avoid getting screwed over. Indeed, with the exits to the level always easy to find, it’s only your own greed that gets your agents killed in most cases. I loved that, it felt like a deliciously evil game mechanic that caused me to look at my upgraded, augmented guys, lying in a pool of their own blood and be forced to say, “Good game, Computer. Well played.”
So, turn-based, permadeath, upgrades and enhancements, procedurally generated… so many buzz words. The good news is however that all of these things come together to make a game that is very fun to play. A game that allows for cerebral challenge as well as a smidgeon of ‘sod it, let’s just try and leg it past them.’ There is some narrative to hang the gameplay on but it’s not really integral to the game itself. As this is still in Early Access there may well be some developments in this area, such as multiple short campaigns to play through but what is here is more than enough to justify the modest price point.
Invisible Inc. is a well turned out, professional looking product that keeps up the good record of the studio whose other games include the intriguing Don’t Starve. Go and see if you can get your hands on some of that grubby corporate money, it’s probably not even theirs to begin with.
Invisible Inc. is available on Early Access for £11.99 on Steam.