Fans of tactical-turn-based strategy titles have a new project to be excited about from Klei Entertainment called Invisible Inc.. While at PAX Prime I had a chance to get some hands-on time with the stealthy title, and it definitely lives up to the XCOM meets Mark of the Ninja description, which is a great thing.
Invisible Inc. offers a top down presentation that is very similar to XCOM, but rather than focusing on combat tactics, Invisible Inc. tasks players with keeping hidden while working their way through each level. Each level is procedurally generated, so no two runs will ever be the same, which adds to the game’s inherent replayability factor. The fact that the game has permadeath also adds to its replayability, and will definitely extend its 3-6 hour playtime for a full run through.
The game world looks simply brilliant, and the art design made me think of Blade Runner thanks to the dark tones mixed with bright neon lights. The characters have a very distinct visual design that feature hard lines to detail their faces, and the coloring is similar to the cell shaded style of art.
The levels themselves are organized into grids that break up each room and signify where you can move your character during each turn. The overall tone of each level is dark thanks to the fog of war that needs to be cleared to expose new areas, but once the fog is lifted the map becomes much more detailed and begins to resemble a futuristic office setting.
Before each mission players have to choose their agent, and depending on the mission more than one agent can be selected. For my demo I played both alone and with two characters, and the gameplay for each mission felt very similar to the recently released XCOM for consoles. During each turn you can only move a set number of tiles, so you must choose your path wisely to ensure that you don’t set off an alarm, or notify a guard of your presence. Invisible Inc. is a stealth game after all, so planning your moves is paramount to success. For example, anytime I approached a closed door I could first scan through it to get a general idea of what awaited me behind it, and if the coast looked clear I could proceed through and reveal more of the map for my next turn. At the end of each turn the guards may move as well, but for the most part they remained static unless I crossed their line of sight, or set off an alarm, which both usually resulted in a Game Over screen thanks to Invisible Inc.’s permadeath.
Thanks to the focus on stealth gameplay each and every move needs to be planned and enacted with efficiency and caution, but Invisible Inc. isn’t just about being a ninja. Thanks to your secret agent powers you can hack security cams and other devices with the Incognita ability, which allows you to see circuits and security devices in a TRON Grid style presentation. Hacking these devices can allow you to proceed through the level without being seen by a camera, which in turn can open up new routes to avoid the guards as well. Although, you can choose to incapacitate guards by sneaking up on them and using your attack ability, or you can bait them and stand by a door to knock them out when they come storming through.
I greatly enjoyed what Invisible Inc. has to offer at this point in terms of gameplay and presentation. I love the focus on stealth and the turn-based gameplay suits it perfectly. There is definitely a large focus on strategy as opposed to combat, so while Invisible Inc. can be compared to XCOM, its gameplay is definitely a unique hybrid of it. I loved the freedom to explore the levels and get through them in a manner of my choosing versus being forced into a specific path. The visuals are charming and perfectly compliment the futuristic setting. Even though the game can be completed in 3-6 hours its challenges and permadeath will surely keep gamers busy while they perfect strategies and tactics to pull off a flawless run.
Invisible Inc. is currently in Early Access on Steam, and based on my conversation with a Klei developer that full game should be available within the next six to seven months. The game will be available for PC, Mac, and Linux. You can catch a preview of Invisible Inc. after the break.
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