I have never backed a crowdfunding campaign. Not Kickstarter, Fig, Indiegogo or whatever other “service turned verb” exists in my life. When the demo for Indivisible launched in 2015, I played it and came very close to breaking that streak. While it didn’t end up happening, I was more interested in this than for any other game that hit those services. The blend of RPG and fighting mechanics felt solid to me, and I really wanted to see more. Now that the game is upon us, I got a chance to check if my hopes held up.
This is the Story of a Girl
You play as Ajna, a young girl who lives with her father and trains to become strong. One day Ajna’s village is invaded, her father is killed, and she finds out she has the ability to absorb people and have them hang out inside her mind. She starts on a quest for revenge, setting out to kill the emperor who ordered the destruction of her village. Along the way, she accidentally lets a monster with the ability to destroy the entire world loose, as one tends to do. Now she must team up with the many people she meets and try to put a stop to the threat she created.
The story is perfectly serviceable. Your basic ho-hum, average JRPG story. There’s really very little to say about it. It exists, it does a perfectly fine job of moving the plot forward as needed, and that’s about it. However, the writing seems to constantly and awkwardly shift tones between “comedic” and “serious” in a way that doesn’t mesh well. One character actually completely unironically says “this world is imperfect, if only I can recreate it in my own image.” The problem extends to the litany of characters that Ajna meets over the course of the story. There’s such an obscene amount of them that most don’t get any sort of development beyond a few basic personality traits. A lot of the cutscenes are just new characters showing up, making a bad joke, Ajna absorbing them into her head, and then only poking back out to make inane, often non-sequitur comments at random times. You’ll pretty quickly learn which characters actually get development, and which ones exist simply to pad out the party.
Conversations with random NPCs are similarly weird non-sequiturs. Often, I couldn’t tell what was genuine world-building, what was weird jokes, and what was obvious backer rewards. One NPC told me it was his goal to kill all dragons outside of a city’s walls despite the lack of any dragons. Another talks of finding the perfect piece of corn, while a third talks like a mysterious anime villain and reveals he’s actually just a mass of spirits possessing a body and refers to himself in the third person. One particularly weird conversation saw a character named “Alpha” first complain that he’s locked in somewhere, then asked me to find his “secret coffee room” and tell his cat he’d be late, then suddenly shifts tone to a deadly serious “you must always keep moving forward no matter what” speech, then his sprite dissolves. What on Earth was this? Is it a touching tribute to someone? My best guess is that one of the game’s backers thought it’d be funny to include some random in-joke. This is the tone of almost every NPC. Weird in-jokes by backers.
While a lot of the characters may be a jumbled mess of uselessness story-wise, they all contribute to the combat in unique and exciting ways. The basic ideas aren’t too different from classic JRPG series Valkyria Profile. You have a party of four characters, each with unique attacks and fighting styles. While they sit idle, they charge up actions, each letting you use one attack. Every time you hit enemies, you fill your Iddhi bar, which alters attacks further. When enemies attack, you can spend a bit of Iddhi to block them. If you manage to time the block perfectly, you recover the lost Iddhi and heal for a small amount of health.
At first, I felt underwhelmed by this system. Many of the early encounters feel like little more than waiting for my actions to fill, using a single attack, and repeat. It wasn’t until I began to stock up multiple actions and got access to even more characters that I jived with Indivisible‘s combat system. There’s a real joy in knocking enemies in the air and finding ways to juggle them, or trapping them in long chains of interesting attacks. Likewise, there’s something nice about having to be paying attention to when enemies attack and making sure I can get the block timing correct.
A lot the combat’s fun comes from the sheer number of characters you find throughout the game, and how each one feels genuinely unique. You start out with just Ajna, who’s combat options allow her to hit enemies with her ax, smack them into the air, perform a double hit, or spend some Iddhi to unleash a flurry of punches before swinging. Gunslinger Latigo can shoot at enemies and reload between attacks, Nuna can plant saplings as traps or spontaneously grow trees to knock enemies into the air, Ginseng can mix up a potion to heal the party (and smack the enemy in the process while healing), Kushi can use her giant eagle to change how she attacks enemies, while Phoebe can just knock an enemy into the air and then straight up suplex them. Each character brings a totally new dynamic to the party and I loved experimenting with all of them.
Mario Would Cry at This Mess
It’s a shame, then, that the other major focus of Indivisible is straight-up terrible platforming. It plays like a 2D Metroidvania platformer, with Ajna getting more traversal abilities as she advances. At first, all she can really do is wall jump and use her ax to propel her up further. Later on, she can use a spear to pogo over threats or stick to the ceiling, acquires a bow that can turn enemies into platforms, and even air dash. It’s a pretty varied set that opens up a lot of options to explore the world in theory.
The problem is that none of this is actually fun. The precision required for the platforming in Indivisible is far beyond the control that the game actually gives you. A lot of the platforming segments far outstay their welcome, lasting up to 20 minutes. They’re often full of segments that require rapidly switching between several skills in timeframes the game just doesn’t feel designed for at all. It also doesn’t help that objects like spike traps seem to have super wonky hitboxes. Several times, I took damage despite being above or to the side of said traps. When some traps teleport you back to the start of the segment, this only compounds the frustration.
Indivisible‘s boss fights try to combine elements from its combat and platforming into one cohesive whole. This usually sounds better than it actually is. For example, an early boss ran away every time it lost about a third of its health. At this point, you have to platform and dodge laser blasts. Not a bad idea, but the platforming isn’t good enough to make this much fun. Another boss never fights you directly. You have to avoid his attacks in the platforming segments, then hit him when he’s vulnerable, which gives you a few rounds in combat to deal some damage. At least I knew what I needed to do during these fights, which is more than I can say about other sections.
It Gets Worse
Indivisible dives into weird design decisions that I can’t figure out for the life of me. One dungeon constantly teases a giant sandworm, both by having characters hype it up and giving you glimpses of it. When you get to the end, you get to fight some never before mentioned wizard while the sandworm attacks you in platforming segments. The game implies you need to fight this sandworm, but you actually need to fight this random wizard. It’s conveyed extremely poorly. Several times during the fight, the wizard’s health suddenly filled back up. I often felt like I was doing the wrong thing.
There’s a bunch of equally confusing moments as well. One boss fight has you up against a pair of giant monsters while the party falls through the air. However, the action was zoomed out so much that I just couldn’t see any UI elements. I had no what my party’s health was at, or if they even had full action points yet. More than once I ran into enemies that did obscene amounts of damage for reasons unknown. This would usually be 20k+ damage, when blocked, at times when my tank had about 7k health. I couldn’t really grind levels to make my characters better either since Ajna is the only character who actually levels up. I never noticed her stats getting better at any point, or even anywhere I could go to check her stats. Everyone else had a mystery heart with a number, but what that actually means is beyond me.
At least there’s some lovely art, making the game a visual treat. Indivisible‘s character design is fantastic, and the locations you explore are downright gorgeous. There’s some fantastic work done on the animations too, and watching each character fight is delightful. Unfortunately, the art sometimes makes it difficult to tell where you can and can’t go. Doorways can look like walls, making me question if I can actually go somewhere I need to be. During one platforming segment, a pair of gray walls were placed so close to each other and with a gray background that made it nearly impossible to see the gap between them that you needed to use to wall jump. During one fight, the camera zoomed up and totally obscured my entire party with a ceiling.
Indivisible Review | Final Thoughts
It’s an absolute shame that all these things bring down Indivisible, because this is a game I really wanted to enjoy. However, the fantastic battle system and lovely art simply can’t save it. A boring story, terrible platforming, and confusing moments do a lot to hurt the game. Some of this may be able to be fixed up over time, and I’m really hoping that future expansions or sequels can really improve the formula, but for now I’d have trouble suggesting going for it.
TechRaptor reviewed Indivisible on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Xbox One and PC, with a Nintendo Switch version coming later.