How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. You have some choices on where to go next, but the game is divided into zones that only become connected after it doesn't matter. The zones themselves are Metroidvania reminiscent and there is ability gating.
Primary Challenge: RPG Style Battles
Time to beat: ~18 hours
Review Info: Indivisible was played on Windows PC using the Steam version
Buy Indivisible if you like…
- Emotion heavy stories
- Quirky Characters
- Colorful Animated Graphics
- Turn Based Combat Systems
- Slower Platforming Challenges
▼ Review continues below ▼
As a full disclosure, the game crashed on the final battle, so we ended up watching the ending on YouTube. I’ll talk about it some more in the review below.
I feel like I have to mention this, even though it’s slightly irrelevant to the review itself. Since the release of Indivisible a lot of drama has come out about the owner of the development studio and the result was that the studio was shut down after most of the team quit. This has led some people to decide to boycott the game because of course only its current owners will enjoy the revenue. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should do that; you can look up the details of the studio’s collapse and decide for yourself. There is clearly a lot of passion that went into Indivisible however, and knowing a lot of artists myself, I know that for many just having their work be seen is enough for them – it would be a shame if their efforts were ignored because of forces they can’t control. With all that said, just that small insight about the troubles looming over Indivisible’s development explains a lot. This game feels unfinished. The writing could have used a few more edits, the combat and level design could have used a lot more testing, and technically speaking the gameplay barely functions at times. None of that matters though if you’re here for the talents of the voice actors, the gorgeous animated sprites, and the emotional impact of a story that eventually gets really good. Indivisible could have been great, and maybe for some imagining what could have been is enough to elevate the game into something worthwhile.
In Indivisible you play as a young girl named Ajna who has the strange ability to suck people into her brain. I should probably explain that a bit better – she doesn’t like.. physically slurp them up like with a straw or anything, it’s more like their spirits and bodies get absorbed into her consciousness. Individuals that become a part of Ajna in this way can be re-materialized physically at any time, or you can go and speak to them within Ajna’s inner realm. This allows her to carry an army of colorful characters around with her, and they conveniently appear to fight at her side any time she enters combat. The first party member you acquire establishes that Ajna’s ability can even force people to fight for her against their will, which of course has some hilarious sub-textual implications. Weirdly enough though this only happens once and with only one character, so like many other aspects of Indivisible’s story, logical consistency isn’t exactly a priority.
For the first half of the game, Ajna just sort of does things. She’s impetuous and emotionally driven, and frankly it would be annoying if the game wasn’t also so completely whimsical. There’s one point in the game where Ajna jumps off a cliff and when one of the party members questions the wisdom of this action she responds that she’ll probably be saved by a bird or something – and she does get saved by a comically fat bird. It’s all so random. Even the characters you meet are about as diverse as it gets. One party member is an underaged genius of biology who keeps a cute creature in her hat, another is a turban wearing short guy who unravels that turban and uses it as a whip. It’s sort of like if you just randomly browsed Deviantart one night and just grabbed whatever OCs looked nice and threw them into a game. I’m not saying that the art style isn’t visually consistent, but if there is any sort of world that Indivisible creates, it’s one where natural socioeconomic factors don’t really seem to matter. Where the setup does get annoying is that it seems like most of the NPCs in the game are Kickstarter inserts of some flavor. They’re all drawn in Indivisible’s attractive art style, but I could still recognize some of the characters, and most of them would seem out of place if the game wasn’t so consistently inconsistent. This also makes it really hard to parse which NPCs are actually worth talking to, and it does make the game feel more like browsing an art forum. If you like browsing art forums then this could be definitely be a plus as practically every town is a museum of ideas. Indivisible really doesn’t want you to take it too seriously, because if you do you’ll probably be waving your hands at the screen and slapping your forehead all too much. As for myself, I kept a bottle of acetaminophen close by.
The art style is beautiful and all, but what really attracted me to Indivisible personally was its combat system, because I am a pretty big fan of Valkyrie Profile which this game seems to copy. While exploring the game’s world is Metroidvania-like, combat itself is pseudo turn-based much more like a JRPG. Basically how combat works is you have four team members and their actions are tied to each of the face buttons on your controller. When a party member’s action points are filled up you can push their corresponding button to make them perform an attack. By pushing multiple buttons at once you can make party members gang up on whatever enemy you’re targeting, and by doing so you can combine attacks for additional damage or break the enemy’s guard so you can start doing normal damage. Something that makes Indivisible different from Valkyrie Profile – and part of the reason I don’t think Indivisible is a straight analog for those fans – is that Indivisible includes a timed defense system for when enemies attack. If you push the corresponding character button right as the enemy’s attack hits, it’ll actually heal you. One problem with this defense system is that it’s not always easy to tell which character you need to block with when it happens, so it’s usually just easier to hold down the buttons for reduced damage, or use the shoulder button to make everyone block at once. Exacerbating that issue is that the combat doesn’t clearly shift between attack and defense phases, so sometimes I thought I could spam my character’s attacks, and I ended up doing a block shuffle instead. The combat design seems to want to take turns between the enemy and the player, but characters all have a speed stat which determines how fast they get action points back, and it feels inconsistent to say the least.
The speed stat isn’t the only aspect of the game that seems to lack balance, but with over 20 playable characters you can mix and match, a lack of balance shouldn’t be too surprising. Every character has up to three actions they can perform without using resources by holding up, down, or nothing on the d-pad when you push their button. Depending on what role that character is supposed to be fulfilling they could be buffing or healing the party, or on the offensive they could be doing heavy attacks to break guards or attacks that can knock enemies into the air for further combos. There’s a huge amount of potential to these mechanics and if Indivisible wasn’t so obsessed with cramming as many characters into the game as it could, the combat could have been a brain twisting delight. Even just removing the timed defense mechanics could have helped it a lot, and Indivisible could have focused on comboing character abilities together. You can do all that if you want, and it’s fun to do it, but it’s really unnecessary when just picking four heavy hitters and going to town works just as well.
Maybe the most disappointing thing in regards to the combat is that the game just sort of gives up on it entirely by the end of it. The enemies in the final area are weaker than enemies in areas previous, and the final boss is more of a story based affair rather than a culmination of the challenges you faced up to that point. The entire final boss encounter takes 20 minutes of intentional repetition until you reach the penultimate challenge, at which point the battle system is just dropped for something else completely different. Because it’s different and because the game doesn’t spend much time training you for it, you’re sort of forced git gud or come back and do the whole 20 minutes preceding all over again, since while the encounter has checkpoints it isn’t an actual save point. Unfortunately for us even “git gud” wasn’t an option, since the game just decided to crash on us during our fifth attempt or so. Considering how close we were to the end and the 10-20 minute cost of trying again – with the possibility that it was just going to crash again on the second try – we just decided that our time with the game was “good enough” at that point. This wasn’t the only time we had technical issues, so the crash didn’t come completely unexpected. It could have been because we were playing multiplayer, or it could have been just the PC version on our specific set of hardware, but whatever it was, the camera often lost track of the action or glitches messed up what we were trying to do. Setting those factors aside though, even from a pure game design standpoint Indivisible seems to have a bit of an identity crisis when comes to whether it wants to focus on its combat.
Because Indivisible forces you to multitask as part of its combat system making it actually challenging would reduce the audience that Indivisible could appeal to. But even if it was challenging it already has a way to mitigate the difficulty built in. Indivisible includes a local multiplayer option which assigns any number of those party member face buttons to other players. This takes some of the multitasking burden off of player one, and you can more easily pull off some interesting shenanigans as a result. There are even some characters that basically do nothing except support the party, so if you have that one friend who can’t play video games, just toss them a controller and make them push that one button and enjoy the benefits of spending time with them. Indivisible doesn’t need to be even easier, but it’s actually a pretty fun game to play with friends. The most fun my friend and I had was tackling higher level content early and actually succeeding thanks to our cooperation. The optional boss we fought would one-shot us if we didn’t get perfect timed defenses – and by the way this was the first time in our playthrough where timed defenses really actually seemed to matter. After a decent amount of time getting good at the boss’ pattern, the challenge potential of Indivisible became really apparent, making even more of a shame that the game didn’t have more content like that.
Playing multiplayer is fun during combat, but outside of combat it’s a bit wonky to say the least since while Indivisible is balancing 20 different plates with its combat system it also attempts to do some tricky platforming challenges. The platforming is fun at times and it gets better as you get more movement ability upgrades, but precision is not something Indivisible’s engine excels at. Most actions you make have unusual delays when you make them. For instance one of your first movement upgrades is slamming an axe into the wall which Ajna uses to hoist herself up to gain some vertical lift. The slamming motion correctly has a pause to signify impact, but when you’re trying to move through level geometry, the awkwardness of the axe gets old pretty quickly. It also doesn’t help that because Ajna is a sprite on a 3D background that it never feels like the axe connects exactly where you might expect it to. The further ability upgrades you get are much the same way, and even the ones that don’t have a “game feel” requirement to pay tribute to have awkward delays as part of their action. These kinds of visual stops aren’t absent from the better precision platformers out there, but in Indivisible the delays feel just a bit too long especially when you’re backtracking to previous areas. When you’re playing this game multiplayer, one or more of your brain slave NPCs are assigned to the other controllers where they can jump around alongside Ajna. The second player platforming is afforded much more freedom of movement compared to the first player at the cost of not being the center of the camera. Whenever Ajna gets a new movement upgrade, the second player NPC turned PC gets a watered down version of it or they just get more double jumps. This makes platforming much easier for the other players, and while they can’t carry Ajna along with them, they can access the game’s secrets with little risk to Ajna herself. It’s so much better for the other players that if you have a second controller, you may want to use it as a cheat if you ever need it when playing by yourself. Platforming can get frustrating for all the wrong reasons later on, and even when it’s not frustrating the repetition made me want to get it over with as quickly as possible.
The slowness of the platforming bleeds into my opinion of the general exploration, since the two are sort of inseparably connected. There are zones in Indivisible that are mostly great, or at the very least actually resemble a finished game with some nice challenges. Exploring Tai Krung City and the Iron Kingdom for instance presented a good variety of platforming challenges and some well hidden secrets that made the activity feel mostly rewarding. Other areas have a ton of dead ends and sections that feel like they were rushed for a deadline, and it’s a complete slog to navigate those mazes just trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do. The final area of the game is of course one of these “unfinished” areas, understandably so since it is the last part, but Indivisible serves as a lesson that you may want to work backwards from your ending as much as you can just in case your studio happens to implode. The fact that the primary reward for exploration are these red gems sort of compounds the issues here. Collect enough of these gems and you can upgrade your attack or defense permanently, but since it gets more expensive every time, the last attack upgrade takes a whopping twenty-five of these gems to purchase, which is a heck of a lot of gem gathering to get to. Smaller, more frequent rewards would have made it more worth it to gather all the gems since the impacts would be sooner. After we got our final attack upgrade I sort of just stopped seeking the gems out, since it wasn’t likely that we’d find another 20 gems to get the final defense upgrade without spending more time than we wanted to or without using a guide. Backtracking through platforming challenges and the occasional enemy that we weren’t able to dodge can also make exploration somewhat tedious, but there’s more than just gems to find. Some of the unlockable characters are hidden away in events you’ll miss if you don’t go looking for them. The characters you start with really are good enough, but Indivisible isn’t just about the gameplay. As airheaded as the story can sometimes be, it never ceased to be entertaining for me, and seeing what kind of weirdo the next character might be was a better reward than any unneeded power increase.
The story is where Indivisible could possibly redeem itself from all of its other issues. I’ve already talked about how bizarrely unfocused it is, and mentioned a few parts where it’s just kind of stupid. But it’s like a good kind of stupid. Indivisible is all about feelings. It’s about friendship and heroism and all that candy coated stuff that we see in children’s cartoons all the time. At about the point where the gameplay starts to drop off and become the most repetitive though, the story sort of takes an unexpected turn. In spite of how everything seems to just go Ajna’s way, often in the dumbest way possible, the game actually manages to provide a perfectly logical explanation for all of it. Ajna actually has a character arc and watching her grow from the game’s events is actually pretty well done. In spite of all of the randomness and low stakes from a physical harm standpoint, there’s fragility in the actual relationships between the characters, and by the end I was actually kind of sad to see them go as ready as I was to move on from the gameplay itself. After all was said and done I think Indivisible presents a meaningful narrative, one with some valuable lessons you can draw from it. There are plenty of questionable conclusions you can come to from what the game presents (like maybe “enslaving your enemies can turn out pretty good as long as the ends justify the means”), but ultimately what Indivisible left me with was something heartwarming.
There’s a lot about Indivisible that makes it tough to recommend. If you’re like me and were intrigued by the Valkyrie Profile-esque combat, I’m afraid to report that I was left mostly unsatisfied. Besides that the platforming is slow and cumbersome, and the sheer amount of external references in the game are almost cringe worthy. On the other hand, playing this game with a friend was quite fun for many parts of it, but the thing that made it the most worthwhile was surprisingly the game’s narrative. It’s so ridiculous at times that my friend and I were laughing out loud, sometimes with the game, but mostly at the game. Every event surprisingly serves a purpose though, and while Indivisible could be described as the broken tragic result of studio pressures, the value of that narrative could not be broken. Tania Gunadi does a great job voicing Ajna, and the rest of the cast all give performances that show genuine passion for what was being created. If you can get past all of Indivisible’s other issues, those things are still worth seeing. Getting that value does take some commitment and an open mind – plus 18 hours of your time – which may understandably be too much for some. I for one though am glad I had the opportunity to see it.
Indivisible has a framework for a good system, but it seems afraid to show off its full potential, although admittedly with so many characters that potential is a bit of a balancing nightmare
Platforming seems sticky, so you have to be deliberate, which isn't necessarily bad although sometimes it seems like your controls don't work properly. There are some good challenges though and at parts it's rather fun
Finding all of the red gems is fairly fun to do, but backtracking into areas you've already been can be slow and you'll run into a lot of event gates that make it feel like it's more trouble than it's worth
Puzzles are fairly rare and forgettable, if there are any in this game at all
The narrative is a mess, but it's a beautiful mess. The overall message is meaningful, so if you can overlook its plethora of logical inconsistencies there's a lot of emotional value.
The characters and animations are striking, and there are some wonderful fully animated cutscenes. The sprites can clash with the duller backgrounds however, and this can mess with the precision of the platforming sometimes.
There are some fantastic tracks to enjoy, although the impact of some tracks are lessened by overuse
The game has some missables which technically adds replay value, but that's not necessarily the best reason to replay any game. Otherwise there is a host of different characters so you can try different party builds on subsequent playthroughs
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