Indivisible Prototype Beta Impressions
Indivisible is in a strange position as it needs more support in order to reach its goal of $1.5 million. In order to reach that funding, they cleverly decided to put out a prototype not only on the PC, but on the PlayStation 4 as well. The demo is basically an early alpha version of the game, created to draw in more interest and support from the PlayStation 4’s healthy install base of millions. And what is offered is quite good as a proof of concept.
Those who somehow missed the “Prototype Beta” in the title, or simply don’t understand its meaning, will be taken aback at some of the more abrasive aspects of this demo. Specifically the introduction of party members, an unseen leveling system, and lack of cutscenes.
Essentially, the portion offered is a combat tutorial, slowly expanding mechanics to the base system of: base, group, and single attacks, and blocking. Your character has a base attack which is used by pressing their action button. The orientation of the action button on the controller corresponds with their position on-screen, though this can be changed in the options. You can also perform a group attack by pressing up and action at the same time, or a focused attack by pressing down and action. When enemies attack, you must hold down the action button for the endangered character in order to block, which will drain your special meter. You fill up that same meter by attacking with multiple characters at once or by hitting multiple enemies in one attack.
When not in combat, you will be jumping around to progress and gain new party members, beginning with the archer Zebei, Tungar, who uses his turban to attack, and Razmi, a passive-aggressive teen witch. As your party expands you will be juggling more actions, and have to focus more when enemies attack. I would frequently fail to defend adequately either due to my own poor reflexes or because the character being attacked has a large portion of his or her model blocked by another party member. When a character is about to be attacked, they will flash red briefly, alerting you to block. When you have four characters crowding a small section of the screen, and you have yet to adjust to their specified action button, it can be a little overwhelming. This is especially true during the final boss battle, which I failed four times in a row on before giving up.
The boss in question has a very large health bar, which is not easily depleted. All his attacks, save one, affect the entire party, which requires a greater portion of the special meter to effectively block. Because of this, I have less of that meter for ultra attacks, which can help take off a more significant chunk of its health. Compounding the problem is that it would summon additional enemies which, while it helps building up combos, caused more damage during the frenetic period of their time on the field. Most of all is that the boss has a super cheap attack that is executed a second after your party flashes red, and I do not believe someone could actually block it in time after being notified. It became rather frustrating, as during my four tries I did not even come close to defeating it.
I do really like what Lab Zero Games has so far, though. The combat mechanics are much more interesting than, say, Child of Light, and better executed. The game is presented as an active time battle, with each character having a meter slowly fill before you can execute attacks. They can fill rather quick, reinforcing a need to be swift on your feet when choosing which character to send in for an attack and how you will follow up. Certain characters work better than others, as the witch’s upwards attack is great for combos, and can be easily combined with Zebei who jumps up and fires multiple arrows downwards. Ajna, the main heroine, also has an attack which, when you time the button press correctly, can land two hits instead of one.
The platforming has a Metroid element to it, with some hanging vines blocking my progression, which are then done away with the swing of an axe I found later on. The axe also doubled as a way to climb upwards, as it could be lodged into rocks, allowing me to ascend shear walls.
As I mentioned before, this is a prototype, and with that comes some secession to streamlined elements. Party members are added by a bit of text after you reach a predetermined point. Characters also have their number of attacks increased as you progress through a certain number of battles. This makes it appear that there is an underlying experience and level system at play, but is currently unseen.
The animations are impressive for an such an early game. The main character is a 2D sprite, with an art style that is very recognizable if you played or watched Skullgirls, Lab Zero’s previous game. The rest of the world is rendered in 3D, which gives it some depth that can look a little off when compared to the flat character running around.
Despite the frustration with the combat in the latter boss battle, Indivisible is looking very solid. Its appearance on the PlayStation Network and PC seems to have helped boost its financial situation, as the official twitter account stated that things were picking up on its crowdfunding site the morning after its release. Their Indiegogo page is full of interesting development tidbits, and some of the art we see implemented in the demo is there as well. I hope Lab Zero is successful with their campaign, as Indivisible has great potential if correctly fleshed out for a full release.