After the success of the zany fighting game Skullgirls, the developers at Lab Zero Games set off to make a new title: Indivisible. If you look at its $2-million IndieGoGo campaign, you’ll see that it’s being pitched as an action RPG. However, after having played it at PAX West 2019, it goes far beyond that. The end product combines some of the best aspects of multiple genres, creating a delectable curry that’s rich in variety.
The Indivisible Mixing Pot
The soup of this Indivisible curry consists of an action platformer with Metroidvania influences. The main character, Ajna, runs and jumps around a beautifully hand-drawn world inspired by Southeast Asian culture. She can use an axe to climb walls, and for the higher jumps, she slingshots herself up by using a surprisingly bendy spear. That same spear can be used to bounce off hazards in a pogo-like fashion.
Every platforming mechanic came off as something that was earned throughout Indivisible. The hands-on demo I played was roughly eight or so hours into the story, so it’d make sense to have some newly gained movement abilities by that point. It took a bit of getting used to, especially since I was thrown into the deeper end of things. In practice though, the platforming is pretty satisfying. It requires deliberate, measured actions from the player, and some bits required relatively precise inputs. Maybe it’s Lab Zero’s history with Skullgirls, but it reminded me of pulling off combos in fighting games. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem punishing. If you failed a jump, you could always try again until you nail it.
Combat in Indivisible
However, no curry is complete without a menagerie of ingredients, and that’s where the combat comes in. The system pulls from fighting games and RPGs to create one of the most engaging, varied combat rulesets I’ve ever played. It’s flashy, it’s cerebral, and ultimately, it’s incredibly rewarding at every turn.
To start with, you build a party of up to four characters. Your four face buttons correspond to each unit, and you can modify their actions with directional inputs, much like a fighting game. For example, Ajna’s attack has her swing her axe once. Down-attack results in two swings, while up-attack launches foes in the air. The other three characters in your party have three attacks of their own, and that’s only the start of where it gets complicated.
The combat isn’t strictly turn-based, instead using a sort of active-time system. As you idle, your characters and enemies earn actions. These let you press the face buttons. When an action is in effect—enemy or friendly—everyone’s timer stops. In a way, this simulates high-end fighting game combat but slows everything down to make it digestible. If you like to attack a lot, you’ll constantly be pausing your characters’ action buildup, mimicking a sort of rushdown style. Alternatively, you can turtle, blocking attacks until everyone has all their actions so you can unload all at once.
In the 30 minutes I had, I worked out a few (sloppy) combos that probably don’t even scratch the surface of Indivisible’s depth. Nonetheless, it seems like the game rewards these bigger combos. For example, Baozhai’s attack makes enemies vulnerable to more damage, which makes her down-attack far more fearsome. Then send in Ajna to jab twice, followed by a launch with her up-attack. Finally, follow up with a well-timed down-attack from Phoebe, who leaps in the air to grab launched enemies and dunk them to the ground. Wrap up the combo with a few more hits from Phoebe or your fourth person, and you’ve got yourself some meter to work with.
But Indivisible isn’t a Fighting Game
That’s right, there’s meter in Indivisible. The resource is called Iddhi, a term in Buddhism that refers to supernatural physical powers. It’s an apt description, since you can expend meter to execute your characters’ supers. Their effects vary, ranging from high-damage attacks to healing spells. Alternatively, you use Iddhi whenever you block, further reducing damage. Your playstyle determines how you want to use your meter. If you like to take things slow and steady, blocking a lot will keep you safe. For more aggressive players, maybe taking the full brunt of a hit or two is worth saving your meter for the climactic finish.
At this point, you might have noticed the few fighting game terms I’ve used to describe this action RPG. That’s the weird yet beautiful thing about Indivisible. At its core, it isn’t a fighting game. It’s a platforming adventure with an action RPG combat system that heavily leans on fighting games. Yet, you don’t need to be good at Tekken or Street Fighter to enjoy Indivisible.Having that expert experience might help you grasp the combat better, but Indivisible takes things slow enough for anyone to enjoy. It provides a level playing field for new folks and experts alike. With more than a dozen characters to work with, there’s enough variety to last the entire story. Hell, even if it had just four characters, this is a curry I’d be addicted to until the credits roll.
Indivisible releases on Oct. 8 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. A Nintendo Switch release is planned for some time after the initial launch.