Ramblings On… Invisible Inc.

The door clicks open and the guard, resplendent in his white and black uniform, hits the floor before he even has chance to draw a breath. Banks steps over him, her trench coat opening a little about her knees, and glances at the camera. The light still flickers, it still pans the room in slow motions, the whir of a motor the only sound disturbing the room. Internationale knows what she is doing, a loop of old footage replayed for as long as they needed it.

Shalem follows her in, rifle held casually in long, pale hands. Deckard had vanished, no doubt into one of the many adjacent rooms from the corridor. Shalem nods at her, his thin lips twisting into a smile of approval at the shot. She ignored him, already moving towards the next door, crossing the tiles with quiet speed. Internationale steps in, kneeling beside the guard to rifle through his pockets. She knows better than to make her triumph audible, but she still waves a wallet and a pass card in the air, to attract Shalem’s attention.

He nods at her, and they follow Banks across the room. She is peeking through a doorway, the metal heavy in her hands as she peers into the darkness beyond. The red lights of sensors glitter evilly, and she fancies she can make out a pair of lights towards the back of the room, display cases for the Corporation’s treasures.

The sound of mechanical whirring reaches her and metal stabs at the floor a few inches from the doorway. The drone, shaped like a great insect with a blinking red light in place of a head, patrols past the doorway and comes to a stop directly behind it. She curses and settles back on her haunches; Deckard had the EMP and he was nowhere to be seen. Shalem and Internationale take their place on either side of the doorway into the corridor, and she lifts the guard’s arms to drag him over the smooth floor. She guesses they will just have to wait and hope Deckard didn’t get himself killed.

Klei have a proven track-record; unleashing such games as Shank, Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve. Early access is a thing I tend to approach with some consternation, that little blue box on the Steam Store so often acting as marker for games that are all but unplayable, games offering only the very basic of mechanics which are likely to be abandoned before a v.1.0 update is released. There are examples of the opposite being true, of course, and it is impossible to mention Early Access without the triumph that was Don’t Starve, the game getting bigger and bigger for the loyal fanbase over an acceptable period of time unlike, say, other Early Access titles (Dayz, cough, cough).

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Them are some dapper-looking SoB’s right there!

I don’t have a problem trusting that Klei are going to continue with Invisible Inc; I would have been happy with the content it already contains. Let’s be honest, it isn’t like I am likely to ever finish the Story Mode; the game is so loin-tensingly hard that I haven’t been able to get past the second day out of three.

The only issue I have had with the game, that I hope to be fixed at some point, is the fact that full screen mode, on any resolution, cuts off large portions of the screen so that it is unplayable unless I use Windowed Mode, but that is not so great an issue as to detract from the enjoyment of the game, merely a minor annoyance.

Previously titled Incognita, Invisible Inc is a procedurally generated turn-based stealth strategy game (is there an acronym for that? One better than PGTBSSG anyway,) and it is both a Hell of a lot of fun and simultaneously makes you want to pull your hair out as you forget to put one of your operatives on overwatch and a invincible drone comes barging through the door.
Your team begins with two operatives, (two more can be unlocked when you gain enough experience from retiring your agency, which you should expect to do often,); Deckard, the most suspicious looking man in the world (think James Eldridge from Spaced, and you’ll know what I mean) and Internationale, a kind of cyber-punk who clearly took some fashion tips from David Bowie. The other two are Banks, a former bank robber who I like to imagine is only working with the Agency to keep herself out of prison, and Shalem 11, a gunman who looks like a sickly version George Orwell (so, just Orwell then, amiright?) I would expect other operatives to be added a later date, and I can’t really see a reason why some limited aesthetic customisation couldn’t be implemented, it isn’t like these characters have intricate backstories which are essential to the plot of the game. (it isn’t like there IS much of one.)

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There are a hell of a lot of places you can visit and, thanks to the procedurally generated aspect, you can garauntee that no two areas will be the same.

They each have their own unique starting equipment, but they don’t really translate to much more than an aesthetic, as any operative can be given any equipment, so long as they have the necessary level in that skill. There are four skills, one for each of your operatives to specialise in, if you so choose; Stealth enables your character to move further in a turn, increasing the Action Points they possess, Hacking and Anarchy dictate which items your operatives can use and Inventory increases the amount of items they can carry, fairly basic stuff then, but it is the items which are the key between a successful mission and an ignominious defeat.

Weapons; from neural disruptors (Tazers) to dart guns and rifles, paralysing serums to be injected into the unconscious to make certain they stay down for a few extra turns, Medi-gel for the inevitable moment one of your operatives finds a bullet hole in their chest, EMPs, items to help with hacking or traps to place before unwary guards, the variety isn’t huge but it is varied enough to add an even deeper level of strategy to the game. You can also buy augmentations to add permanent upgrades to your operatives, such as giving them additional AP whenever they use an item, kill a guard or knock them unconscious.

The missions are, equally, varied enough to keep the game interesting. You can rescue operatives from detention centres (and they will join your team if you manage to get them out alive), vaults filled with lockboxes and cultural artefacts, building plans to open up additional mission and security centres to steal the priceless trophies of the Corporation. It would be nice if the game managed to implement a kind of ‘Freedom Fighters’ mechanic, where your actions in another area affect those in another. If taking out servers in one building could weaken the electronic defences in the next, or you could steal enough wealth that the Corporation has to employ a few less guards in the next building.

There are various corporations in the game, each with their own favourite type of unit, so that if you come up against certain ones, they will deploy drones and armoured sentries in place of the average guard. SENEKA, for example, favour floating cameras and Droideka-looking things which, when they’re armoured, are an absolute nightmare to deal with.

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When you mess up, you mess up big. It’s good to get everyone a gun as early as you can. The unconscious wake up again; the dead don’t.

The game is simple, with no particular innovation over other examples of the genre, say, XCom, but it is addictive. It is hard, not Dark Souls hard, where one dies from the game’s terrible handling and awkward camera angling, but State of Decay hard, where the player’s operatives die because they leave it too late to leave the building and, eventually, trap themselves. Greed is the thing which will kill the most players in this game, God knows it’s already wiped me out enough, and therein lies the genius. I keep coming back to it, not because it’s new, not because it is particularly unique, but because I know every time I die it is my own fault and, as a tentatively self-titled Gamer, I can’t deal with the knowledge that this thing has beaten me.

I’m having fun with it but, honestly, I don’t know if it is the kind of game I will keep installed on my hard drive until judgement day, or if I’ll even play it again after I’ve managed to beat it. It is still in Early Access, so no doubt additional content will drag me back when it gets closer to completion, but it already feels like a mostly completed game and besides adding more variation to mechanics already implemented, I can’t see any major changes Klei are likely to make.

I’d recommend giving it a go, it is addictive and fun and often rage-inducing, for all that said rage is directed at yourself, and it’s worth the money simply for the refreshing challenge.

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