You'll be forgiven if The Invincible has, so far, escaped your radar. This is a fresh sci-fi, first-person, adventure thriller from a new developer, after all, so you're allowed some leeway. But, after its teaser trailer and the details revealed at the Golden Joystick Awards, you should put The Invincible high up on your list of games to keep an eye out for.
The Invincible is the first project out of Starward Industries, which is a brand new studio made up of 12 industry veterans, who come bringing knowledge and experience from the likes of CD Projekt Red, Techland, and other highly-renowned studios. The team is taking that experience and using it to create a first-person sci-fi adventure with a branching narrative, based on the novel of the same name by Polish author, Stanisław Lem.
But, this is still an original tale – despite its source material – although the world of Regis III and the technology Lem describes is still there. "We use Lem's description of the world and technology, and we weave and incorporate his concepts and ideas on humanity and what we can possibly find in this vast universe," explains game director, Marek Markuszewski.
"We also keep the atmosphere from the book and its message. The players can also meet its characters, but the events we tell in the game are shown from a new perspective. New characters that have specific roles in the story that we designed, complex and individual personalities."
That's especially true of our hero, Yasna. She's an experienced scientist who arrived on Regis III with a mission and also with a crew, who have all disappeared. Described as a woman with "strong values, which might not necessarily reflect those of her superiors or of the faction that she's a part of… her reactions to events and her decisions have a real impact on the change that takes place both within herself and her surroundings."
"She might be an idealist, but she will fight for the things she believes in. She also has a witty sense of humor and a youth-like kind of courage. She is someone that is a bit of a go-getter. She wants to discover, to do, to act. We can’t wait to see how players will guide her moral compass throughout the story."
"How exactly will Yasna change is up to the players and the choices that they make along the way," adds Markuszewski.
While Starward Industries didn't want to "'tamper' with the characters and events" of Lem's book, the team is creating a "version of events, of a story, that will also give something new to the fans of the book itself." The focus is on creating a first-person narrative where you have the power as Yasna to make your own decisions on Regis III and react to the things that you'll find there. It's this that has guided the team towards making a game with a branching narrative and multiple endings, rather than a more linear experience.
"We wanted to give players the opportunity to be more involved, to feel part of the events that are unfolding on the screen. In our opinion, this also increases the difficulty of making that choice, which gives the gameplay that bit more spice, making it more attractive," says Markuszewski. "Through their decisions, the player can learn more about not just about the game's world, but also about themselves."
"Our gameplay is based on making choices on the fly, without interrupting the flow of conversations, of events, of action that’s happening on the screen," Markuszewski adds. "We want players to have a cinema-like experience."
Cold wars and old tech
All of the action takes place on the planet Regis III, in a futuristic alt-timeline where the Cold War never actually ended. Thus, the digital revolution never happened, and superpowers instead obsessed over making their rivalries about the space race. Thus, Yasna, and the other humans out exploring the cosmos, are only equipped with analog technology. As you'll have seen in the trailer, it feels like such a beautiful juxtaposition to see Yasna using such instruments against the backdrop of an uncharted planet.
Markuszewski says designing the technology has been "a challenge, but also something we think is absolutely magnetizing". The team has relied on Lem's descriptions to bring the various pieces of equipment to life, but have also done their own research to make sure they're properly presenting how the objects operate. "We don't want to take shortcuts, we want credibility, logic, and consistency in every detail. Well-designed tools, machines, and objects are an excellent element that complements and co-creates the game's world. They help the player interact with it. They create that atompunk atmosphere and are a distinctive feature of the reality that players will encounter when they find themselves on Regis III."
Yasna will need all the support she can get on Regis III too. While it may have appeared to be a very peaceful and uninhabited planet, her crew is missing, so there's clearly something else at play here. "The reason for the planet's current state, the source of its die-off, well, it is a mystery at first," teases Markuszewski. But, it becomes apparent that "the eerie source of the deadly state of Regis III has evolved over millions of years and is not what humans, even as experienced as our team of scientists like Yasna and her fellow crew, could have predicted."
All of this will feed into The Invincible's distinctly thriller-esque vibes. While Starward Industries isn't yet ready to show off more of its new IP, it is set to launch on consoles and PC next year, so mark this one down as something to be excited about next year.