Invisible, Inc ReviewPrice:
PC, OSX, PS4
Klei Entertainment has rapidly ascended my list of favourite developers. Its games are instantly recognisable through both their style and their uncanny ability to encapsulate the very best aspects of whichever genre the developers decided to work in. I liked Mark of the Ninja, I loved
Don't Starve, and Invisible, Inc is another feather in Klei's increasingly peacock-like cap. It somehow blends the turn-based tactics of XCOM with some incredibly tense stealth, the kind you'd normally find in a game like Thief or Splinter Cell.
Invisible, Inc places you in control of an organisation of whip-smart techno-spies. Their business; stealing information from powerful corporations in one of those dystopian futures that worryingly look less fantastical with every passing day. The game starts with your team teetering on the brink of disaster, with just two agents at your disposal and only three days to save your organisation from winking out of existence completely. To achieve this, you must steal whatever you can from the aforementioned corporations, before attempting to break the spine of your aggressors in a dramatic, high-risk finale.
It's worth addressing Invisible's similarities to XCOM from the off, because how it remixes the formula is fascinating. Mechanically, Invisible is entirely different, about avoiding confrontation rather than encouraging it. It's in the structure that the games are similar, split between a series of turn-based, isometric missions where you control your agents from on-high, and a meta-game where you upgrade your agents and decide which missions to embark on by selecting them from a map of the globe.
Invisible, Inc also shares certain semantics with Firaxis' extraterrestrial strategy. Klei's game is all about making tough decisions, which initially exhibit themselves in choosing which missions to embark on during the 72-in-game hours available to you. There might be two missions in close proximity that let you rescue another agent and acquire some powerful gadgets. But twelve hours away in the USA is the opportunity to break into a high-security vault and significantly increase your available funds, which would then allow you to buy even more gadgets. Missions are ranked in terms of difficulty as well, so a tougher mission might yield bigger rewards, but it will also increase the risk of things going awry.
So far, so XCOM, but Invisible, Inc is different in many way. To begin with, Invisible's time-limit plays much faster and is far stricter. Those 72 in-game hours translate into roughly six hours of play, with about ten-to-twelve missions between you and the final showdown. This negates one of the biggest problems evident in XCOM, namely that it's much easier to dip back into Invisible, Inc if you fail a campaign.
And you will fail, many times. Even if you play on Beginner difficulty, the later missions will have you frequently scratching your head and occasionally holding it in your hands. Invisible, Inc infuses its stealth with high unpredictability and mounting tension through a couple of ingenious mechanics. The first is procedurally generated levels, built from a cluster of rectangular rooms containing patrolling guards, watchful cameras, drones, laser-grids and so forth. You're teleported in at a random location, while the rest of the map is obscured by fog of war. Exploring outwards, you must complete your objective and then escape by locating the exit teleporter which is, you guessed it, randomly placed in the map.