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Indivisible Review: Punch, Kick, It's All In The Mind

Indivisible turned quite a few heads when it appeared back in 2015. While it took a little while to reach its crowd-funding goal, there's no denying that the early demos from the team at Lab Zero Games had a lot of potential for a genuinely interesting RPG.

Lab Zero Games was founded by the company behind the fighting game Skullgirls, and they were aiming to bring something unique to the role-playing genre. With its combo-based combat system and colorful art style, Indivisible can join games like Shovel Knight, Night In The Woods, and Hyper Light Drifter in the rare category of crowd-funded games that not only got made, but were actually worth playing.

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I Hear Voices In My Head

Indivisible's story doesn't necessarily break new ground. It centers around a girl named Ajna, whose father is training her to become a great fighter. Then a mysterious military force shows up, burns her village to the ground, and murders her pop. Unsurprisingly, she promises to avenge her dad and find out who's responsible for this atrocity. What is surprising is that when she finds the soldier who was ordered to kill her father, he vanishes in the middle of their fight, and it turns out that he got sucked into Ajna's brain. Somehow, her head is host to an entire dimension, and each time Ajna meets a new friend or ally who agrees to help with her quest, they wind up stuck in her head as well, only able to come out when she's engaged in battle. Now, with a whole bunch of new companions willingly or unwillingly trapped in her literal mind palace, Ajna sets off to find the leader of this army and put an end to their evil plans.

It's a wild premise that could have come off as too silly or hokey, but what makes it all work is the fact that Indivisible is shockingly hilarious. The writing is tremendously strong, and it manages to make light of most of the anime or JRPG tropes it's tossing out, while also throwing some emotional punches. You get a large cast of characters here, and almost every one of them is likable and fun to hang around. There's a decent chance that players are going to fall in love with Razmi, whose passion for burning things combined with her apathetic sarcasm and aversion to boredom has made her one of my favorite characters from any game this year. Ajna is also quite lovable, as she comes off as the typical headstrong, plucky, somewhat dim, but eagerly optimistic protagonist that you've probably seen in many an anime. Although she does seem a little too chipper for someone who literally just buried her father.

The Mind Is The Deadliest Weapon... Besides A Sword

Good jokes and fun characters are nothing without some gameplay to back it up, and luckily, Indivisible offers a pretty compelling spin on the turn-based RPG. Taking a few cues from fighting games, the combat is based on combos and direction. You get a party of up to four fighters and they each have a button assigned to them. You can then attack by pressing that button on its own, or you can alter the action by moving up or down along with it to do a crouching or juggle attack. Some characters will also have certain abilities, like how Ginseng & Honey's up attack heals the party, or Razmi's down attack inflicts a slowing effect on enemies. You can block enemy attacks, and if you time the block right you can further reduce the damage taken. Blocking and attacking also builds up a special meter, which can then be used for an ultimate attack by one of your characters.

Using all these skills can lead to you chaining together some wicked combos, which can cause immense damage to your enemies. The great thing about having so many characters to choose from is that you can experiment with different teams and see which party members complement each other for the best combination. Plus, the game is incredibly lenient with you if you fail, only shooting you back to the closest save point or just a little before the last battle, so you can just tool around with your team with little downtime or frustration.

The entire system keeps you on your toes and forces you to think carefully as you approach every fight. Not every enemy functions the same way, as some require you to figure out how to weaken their defenses to defeat them. Some will need to be juggled to take damage, while some require a lower and then a juggle attack before they can be hurt, and so on.  Indivisible never gets especially difficult, but despite that, it's still satisfying to play.

This is all wrapped in a beautiful hand-drawn art style that's gorgeous to look at. It's a colorful game that's pleasing to the eye, and the battle animation is fast and fluid. The character designs are full of life and personality, and it doesn't hurt that they're brought to life by some extremely talented voice actors. You've probably heard many of these people in your favorite cartoon, anime or video game before, and they even managed to get Michael Dorn on board. Any game that's got Worf in the cast is fine by me.

A Slight Stumble

Of course, there are a few tiny flaws in Indivisible that keep it from being an all-time classic. When you're not fighting, you're in a Metroidvania platformer section that takes up a significant chunk of the game. There's nothing wrong with this part per se, it's just not particularly interesting. You can slide and wall-jump, and as you get new weapons like Ajna's mother's ax, you gain access to new areas.

You can find secret regions of the map that can net you some items to upgrade your attack and defense, but it all feels a bit bare bones. They're never bad, or even boring, but the levels are rather sparse, and they're mostly wide-open locations where all you can do is wall-jump around. I kind of wish they were a little more fleshed out. There also doesn't seem to be a good way to track quests, which isn't much of an obstacle since the game is rather linear, but it'd be nice to know what I was trying to accomplish.

That being said, the platforming is used in some very innovative ways that tie into the RPG mechanics. For example, during a battle with a giant spider, it ran off and the scene transitioned from the fight to a sequence where Ajna had to fight off some baby spiders and dodge acid from the ceiling before entering back into combat. These moments were a good way to marry the two gameplay elements together, and it was the most fun I had with the platforming.

Enjoy These Violent Thoughts

The personalities and writing along with its fighting game inspired battles made Indivisible into one of the more memorable gaming experiences I've had this year. A good story full of charming dialogue goes a long way toward making a game stand out, and this really surprised with some of its jokes and plot twists. I do wish the platforming sections were a little more in-depth, as they're definitely the weakest part of the game. But they never felt bad, and if you think of them as the delivery route to more fisticuffs, they're easy to get over.

I'm not sure how much of an overlap there is between JRPG and fighting game fans, but Indivisible feels like the game that could bring the two together.

4 Out Of 5 stars

A PC copy of Indivisible was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Indivisible is available on PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

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