Ahh, the world of finance – where the rise to the top could be as fast as the fall downwards. Join Ferios Capital, one of the hottest financial service companies around. Do everything it takes to bring down your rivals – in the name of a shiny new promotion and a grand party at your mansion.
The self-proclaimed “unabashedly political” French developers Power Struggle Games have put together this satirical simulation. The game offers anyone, regardless of background, the experience of the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations of the world of finance. Are you ready for all this day-trading drama?
Story – The “Fun” in Finance
In the game, you get to live out your fantasy Wall Street criminal. Right off the bat, the game is a hilarious satire into the world of big finance and the lifestyles of the rich who spend money to earn money. Despite the humor, capitalistic horrors abound as you use unsavory methods to get ahead in life. There is an abject horror that you feel after seeing that waves of lobbyists to bring down a stock’s price resulted in a local civil war with real consequences. Worse still is the fact that this is headline news the next day, and none of your colleagues do much more than look up from their four towering monitors.
As a player, you have a variety of tools at your disposal to reach your daily goals. Other reasons you might have:you want to score more are to beat your rival, get promoted, spend more money on luxury. Or you could just give in to the plain addictive nature of gambling it all. Other than that, anything you do within the game hardly has any consequences (unless you’re really bad at your job, of course). The game really pushes you to win. Any choices you might find yourself making don’t really affect the narrative.
I found the party-ing sections and the continuous melancholy over how people interact with you in the face of your success. A real The Great Gatsby moment in games, if you will. The human desire to be popular amongst peers goes hand-in-hand with the journey to success, and the game does give snippets of the other NPCs you interact with. There’s your abusive boss Corbin who makes sure you understand what it takes to come out on top. There’s Harper Ward who you sit across and gives you expert advice on how to win at your job. There are several bonkers rivals who fancy themselves top dogs – making it extremely satisfying when Corbin asks them to leave when you out-hustle them. These out-of-touch characters are really gave the Ferios office some personality.
If there was something I was baffled with the story, it was the ending. As I kept playing, I expected another plot point to be neatly tied up. I realized that the chapter titles and some of the dialogue were being recycled. The writing up until then has been good, chuckle-inducing, and thought-provoking. That’s why so it was strange to see the conclusion play out like that.
Even through its shenanigans, The Invisible Hand is a game with a message. The creators of the game aimed to expose the terrifying greed encouraged by the industry. However, it’s still a bit of an undercooked attempt to deliver that reality. There definitely could have been greater world-building done to make the gravity and the glamour of the setting have an impact on the players.
Gameplay – Corporate Child’s Play
Maybe everything you know about Wall Street is how it was trashed by Redditors just a few months ago. Not to worry, you won’t feel lost in The Invisible Hand. The sheer amount of screens and numbers flying across the screen might be intimidating, but that’s just the start.
The game explains the two simple actions of buying and selling at long and short positions. You learn how to read and understand the information that is presented to you on the screen. You have the Trade Feed running on one side and historical information for each stock on the other. To get a leg up on the competition, use the news (not always reliable), or use insider tips (very illegal). As you sit on your desk, time flies by – a real-time second for every in-game minute. Timing is very important in the game, and this title lets you control its flow. Approach the break corner of the office not for some water cooler chat. Drink some coffee to speed up time, or tea to slow it down.
The gameplay does capture the fine balance of luck and skill (and nefarious lobbying) that comes with trading stocks. It was fun to remember all the interconnectivities between stocks, countries, and products. It becomes detective game-level chaotic when you start taking notes for your next strategy. You can play it straight or outfox the other players of the game. You will see that big risks gain big rewards, as well as a single mistake costing you everything. As the game gets tougher, you’ll find yourself more eager to pull no punches and give the day everything you’ve got. The game offers and fun and satisfying experience, allowing you to learn the ropes before you start destroying the competition on your own.
Of course, what good is earning all the cash without spending it? There’s a mini-game section where you can buy properties and raise their value with cars and luxury furniture and decoration. You can choose to rent them out or sell them – or you could continuously host parties there! Parties are where you can gain insider tips and cash bonuses. It’s an interesting way to get players hooked on the glitz and glamour (and the sinking feeling that comes with it), so it does add to the experience.
While The Invisible Hand has successfully game-ified the stock market experience, it does little to keep the challenge interesting after the campaign. When the story has run its course, a few more rounds are fun, but you’re really motivated by the goals set by the game. Still, it is an enjoyable simulation and great for players who love these kinds of puzzle games.
Audio and Graphics – Uncanny Valley
As someone with an abandoned background in finance, I cannot tell you how eerily The Invisible Hand captures the world of clinical offices in high-rise buildings. The simple graphics were a good choice to keep the office space soulless. There were nice touches of paperwork and desk photos around. The ads displaying out-of-touch luxuries and other announcements were really fun to look at. I feel like I’ve been inside this office. I think there could have been more done visually to reflect the player’s rise to the top, just to make the potential downfall hit harder.
Another thing that I admired is the effective UI being used for the two main screens you look at for the entire game. They provided a screen that would be overwhelming to read and look at to people who not savvy with the biz and made it a comfortable learning experience. After a while, you will be reading it like a pro.
The game’s soundtrack and sound cues go smoothly alongside the events in the game. It almost feels like you’re in one of those movies. It does a good job of setting a scene.
The Invisible Hand was reviewed on PC via Steam, with a key provided by Evolve PR.