Review: Invisible Inc.18 Oct 2016 4
Review: Invisible Inc.
Released 06 Oct 2016
Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based tactical game with a focus on stealthy gameplay. It was created by Klei Entertainment, the makers of Don't Starve and was originally released on Mac and Windows back in May of 2015. It finally made the leap to iOS this month and was well worth the wait.
The game is set in the year 2074 after a host of too-big-to-fail mega-corporations have done away with national governments and taken direct control of the world's affairs. These corporations have immense assets and armies of security. Invisible, Inc. on the other hand is an intelligence and espionage agency and the game's namesake. It has attracted the ire of the corporate hegemony which took the nearly unprecedented step of pooling assets to put an end to the agency. The game starts as the Invisible Inc. headquarters is being overrun, most of its agents killed, and its assets seized or destroyed. All that remains is the agency's indomitable leader, two agents, a powerful computer AI known as Ingonita, and you.
You play as a handler of covert operatives in the field. You must guide your two-agent team through a series of missions to build up the assets and experience necessary to infiltrate a corporate facility and implant Incognita in their computer systems. Apparently her housing in exile isn't up to snuff, and is kind of like putting a beluga whale in a coy pond. Bottom line: she will not survive more than 72 hours without an upgrade. There aren't many suitable locales, and the risk is worth the potential rewards for an agency with few options.
If this all sounds a bit like the plot of all the Mission: Impossible movies, well, that's probably intentional. In fact, go ahead and queue up the M:I theme song to listen, it should serve as the perfect ambience for the rest of this review. The world and narrative may not be super original, but it doesn't have to be. It does a nice job of setting the stage and applying a sense of urgency to the overall campaign.
THE GAME PLAY
Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based game and uses action points (AP) for each of your agents much like in Templar Battleforce. The game is played on a grid where you have a birds-eye view of the corridors, rooms, doors, furniture and of course your agents. Moving one square on that grid costs one AP. Other actions, like peaking around a corner, also cost AP. Some actions, like opening or closing doors, do not cost any AP (quick tip: always close doors, it can take away security line of sight to your agents). You assign actions for your agents and then end your turn at which point the enemy takes its turn.
Decision making is key in Invisible, Inc. and you have to decide the best path forward. There is no way you can force your way through missions and hack and slash enthusiasts need not apply. You need a good game plan and teamwork between agents, coordinated by you, their operator, is critical. As you encounter enemy security, for example, you have a choice: engage or evade. Your agents start with a neural disrupter, which can knockout a guard for a few turns, but when they come to they are on the alert and start seeking you out. Alternatively, you can attempt to sneak around guards. Sneaking in general is a ton of fun and I especially enjoy stealthing up right behind a guard and pickpocketing his access card and credits (the game's currency).
Attacking is often unavoidable and ups the game's security level. Security level increases each turn as corporate security becomes aware of your presence. As the security level increases things become more difficult: firewalls get harder to break and additional security guards arrive to track down your agents.
Agents have four different skills: Speed, Hacking, Strength, and Anarchy. Speed ties directly to how many action points the agent has. Action points are good the more you can do each turn the better. Hacking is also critical and is the ability to make use of Incognita to turn off security cameras, break through computer firewalls, and hijack computer terminals. When you access Incognito you flip to a different screen that provides a view of the electronic equipment within range with which you can tamper. Handily, it also shows you the position of security guards and is a pretty clear way to find the exit as well. Hacking costs power and you gain power at the beginning of each turn or by hijacking an enemy computer terminal.
Strength affects the agent's ability to drag around unconscious guards and carry more items on their person. The latter becomes pretty handy when a mission objective is to recover stuff. Anarchy is all about the ability to pickpocket guards. The better you are at it, the more of their credits you can pilfer.
There are five different levels of aptitude for each skill and your agents will start out with areas of speciality. As you play, you're able to level up agent skills using credits. You steal credits from the corporations and their security personnel. Credits can also be used to buy new and better tech (weapons, equipment, augmentations, etc.). Improving agents and dropping them into the next job is really fun, and Invisible Inc. definitely has the "just one more mission" thing going for it as a result.
The pacing of Invisible, Inc. is excellent and once you get the hang of it you can move quickly through turns. The speed-of-play dovetails nicely into the urgency of the overall narrative. In each mission you have a primary objective. It might be to find important information or steal an object of great value. It might be to rescue an important captive or just steal some credits. The objective drives your game plan, but even once you've secured your primary objective getting out alive is often the most difficult, and most fun, part of a mission. Things can go sideways in a hurry and staying one or two rooms ahead of the pursuit and narrowly escaping a tough spot provides a huge thrill.
These thrills are frequent as the game is plenty challenging. For this review, I played on the "beginner" setting and had my hands full until I got a better handle on things. I got to the point where I felt like I could up the ante on the difficulty and have little doubt the higher settings will provide an appropriate challenge for any player.
Invisible, Inc. is well designed, looks great, and plays even better. It is fast-paced and exciting with a tightly woven, if fairly familiar, narrative. If you loved XCOM and Templar Battleforce you'll love this game. If you are a fan of turn-based tactical games this is absolutely in your wheelhouse. If you dig high-tech, high-stealth, full-of-thrills gameplay go buy this now on iOS.