Lab Zero Games, the developers behind cult classic Skullgirls, invited me for a play session of their newest game Indivisible at Anime Expo this past weekend. To my surprise, the Indiegogo crowd-funded success turned out to be one of the best experiences I had playing games at the convention – if not the best.
The title is a 2D action RPG that follows the story of a girl named Ajna on a quest to track down the warlord who destroyed her village, simultaneously discovering more about herself and the world around her along the way. What was most striking to me from the get-go was the premise. Though it sounds pretty generic at first blush, the creativity that realizes it on screen is striking, as the East Asian inspiration that the game draws from is very apparent and unique. This being said, the game doesn't entirely borrow influence from the region and instead combines it with the developer's signature Skullgirls art style, making for a real attractive incentive to keep playing to see what's next.
Though the demo I sampled at AX wasn't entirely representative of the final game, the multitude of characters I discovered to join my party – and each one's cool design – made for a real treat, too, as it made me want to swap party members if not to see how they'll benefit my battles with enemies, then to see the cool animations they'd do, too. It was a Pokemon-esque experience, in a way, though I imagine that this won't be the case when the game comes out next year, as the discovery of new party members will most likely be further apart (though there will be over 20 characters included).
Aside from aesthetic detail (did I mention that the backgrounds are gorgeous, too?), gameplay has shown noticeable improvement since the short prototype Lab Zero released as part of their Indiegogo campaign two years ago. Who you have on your team is vital in determining the tide of war, and party members can only be switched in and out outside of battle. The instant I switched out my healer for a mage, for example, I was done for. This is unlike the experience I had when playing the demo initially, as button mashing got me through a lot here. Skill and a clear grasp on how the system works (it's very akin to Child of Light) will ultimately see you through the game.
That said, I did have some gripes with keeping up with all the action going on onscreen. In my time playing there were up to seven or eight meters filling simultaneously on screen, and as I went to attack with one character, another would be attacked by the enemy. Though this could be a limitation of my own eyesight, this indicates to me that Indivisible won't really be a title for casual RPG players, and that it more readily fills a niche among veterans of the genre. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but something that less seasoned gamers may have trouble adjusting to.
Another gripe I had was the exclusion of a weapon wheel for Ajna, which limits the game to a more class-based system. Perhaps a consequence of time, I feel like there's missed potential to add an extra layer of depth there without relying too much on swapping out characters. When in comes to platforming exploration, giving Ajna more weapons to interact with the environment could make for an interesting prospect, too.
Overall, Indivisible was a game that i had a ton of fun playing at Anime Expo, rivaling the enjoyment I had with titles like Ni No Kuni II and Dragon Ball FighterZ. It's a unique dive into a genre I loved growing up as a kid, and I can't to see what's in store when the final product hits next year.
Indivisible is currently slated for a Fall 2018 release on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. You can still contribute to the game here.