By Josh Speer / June 10th, 2020
|Developer||Lab Zero Games|
|Release Date||October 8th, 2019 (other consoles), April 28th, 2020 (Switch)|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes|
I’ve been not so patiently waiting to review the Switch version of Indivisible for more than a year. I’ve been a fan of the game since I demoed it twice at PAX West, and was drawn in by the stunningly lush artwork, haunting music and dynamic gameplay. Though I already knew about developer Lab Zero Games, I hadn’t yet played their other game. And that’s despite me owning Skullgirls. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to cover Indivisible for the oprainfall site, and now that time has finally come. After putting in significantly more hours to beat the game than I was told it would require, how did I feel? Was Indivisible on Switch worth the wait? Or did Ajna’s heroic journey disappoint?
Indivisible begins with a climactic battle against some god-like entity. You join the action and control a mighty group of four heroes as they battle the creature, suffer damage, and seemingly manage to defeat it. Two of them are romantically drawn to each other, a man and woman, and after limping away victorious, the story cuts forward to 16 years later. The city of Ashawat is a small yet scenic one, unspoiled by modernity and populated by hardy citizens. One young girl is getting ready to train with her father, and that girl is our hero. Her name is Ajna, and simple deduction tells us she might be the child of those two heroes. After all, she’s a teenager and her father is a grizzled older man that is obviously that same male hero. Here we learn the basics of defense, which Ajna’s father insists is integral. Ajna doesn’t take well to direction, and they get into an argument. She questions his authority and past, and her father stomps back to the village. After fuming for a bit, Ajna realizes she should apologize, and follows after him.
What should be a calm scene suddenly erupts in fire and bloodshed. Ashawat is burning, and her father has been fatally wounded by a stern young soldier named Dhar. As he draws his last breath, Ajna erupts into violence, and battles the young soldier. They reach a standstill, until something unexpected happens. Somehow Dhar is drawn into Ajna’s mind, where he is trapped. Uncertain what is happening, Ajna is nevertheless eager to find the man behind this murderous calamity. See, Dhar is a soldier in Ravannavar’s army, and they are marching about laying claim to land and killing any who don’t subscribe to their beliefs. Confused and not sure about what’s happening, our hero nevertheless is bound and determined to find Ravannavar, slay him and avenge her father. If only things were as black and white as she suspects. Cause unbeknownst to Ajna, there’s a lot more at stake than she could possibly imagine.
The journey that follows is one that contends with the mystery of Ajna’s powers, as every main character she encounters is likewise drawn into her mind. She finds she can summon them at will to fight with her, and grows stronger the larger her crew becomes. Though I promise there’s some explanation for such an uncanny power, I won’t spoil anything about the main arc of the plot. I can say that the primary themes it addresses are the following – power without purpose, chaos, nature vs nurture and what defines a hero. The first half of the story involves Ajna cutting a violent swathe through all that opposes her, becoming more and more powerful. By contrast, the second half is all about learning from your mistakes and helping right the wrongs that plague this world. I will say, the first part of the story is probably my favorite. I found Ravannavar a sinister and compelling villain, and his scheme to awaken a god and get resurrected following the destruction and rebirth of the world really interesting. I fully expected him to go full Wesker, plaguing Ajna and company with ever more powerful forms as the game progressed. Imagine my disappointment when I realized he was a one and done foe, and the big bad was far less compelling. That’s not to say the final boss isn’t interesting, it is, but I feel there was a missed storytelling opportunity here. Thankfully, what Indivisible missed with the story it more than made up with its cast of characters.
As the title might suggest, Indivisible is all about the group of misfits Ajna literally draws to her throughout the course of the game. It’s a very eclectic crew, from a pyromaniac tiger mage to a cute little botanist to a woman-loving pirate to a devout archer and many, many more. There’s more characters than you’ll know what to do with, since you can only have a team of 4 at a time, with the others sitting patiently in reserve within Ajna’s inner realm. I really liked many of the characters, as they are bursting with personality and quirks. Though my favorite is probably Razmi, the smack talking, deranged tiger mage, but there’s others too. Take Thorani, a beautiful and sultry Deva who sprays healing waters from her hair. Or Qadira, a steadfast warrior searching for her kidnapped brother. My main complaint with regard to the characters is so few of them get any real development. Surprisingly, the one that gets the truest arc is Dhar, the same soldier that murdered Ajna’s father. While the others all have interesting personalities, none of them have anywhere close to as significant of a story. Which is a shame, since there’s more than a dozen playable characters, including some you have to hunt for in optional side quests. Luckily, the one area that every character can shine is during battle.
Combat is both incredibly complex and well streamlined in Indivisible. There are no items whatsoever in the game, other than weapons, so all your healing is done via character abilities. Gameplay kind of reminds me of a mixture of Guardian Heroes and Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier. Meaning the art is beautiful and you have a lot of control over how you juggle and interact with foes, though your team does have specialties. Dhar can charge up and then unleash earthen attacks, while Ginseng & Honey can mash foes and then heal allies with a mortar and pestle. Attacks are mapped to whatever button the character is set to, either A, B, X or Y. You can deal basic attacks with a single press, or use up or down for different attacks. By holding R and then pressing your character’s button when your Iddhi meter is charged enough, you’ll unleash powerful super attacks, such as Dhar wielding a giant column of stone or Razmi healing the entire team. You also use character buttons to block enemy attacks, which can replenish your super meter with Iddhi if you time it right. And if a foe is blocking, a successive input of an up and then down attack will break their shield. Most important of all, if you have downed teammates, pressing L and R simultaneously with a full Iddhi meter resurrects them all, even Ajna. Or if you’re in dire straits, pressing L has your entire team block at once, but at the cost of Iddhi. It’s all pretty intuitive, and despite the complexity becomes mostly second nature. Though you can use any team you want, I quickly learned to go with the crowd control type characters. The reason for this is that by weaving together successive attacks, your combo meter gets higher. The higher it gets, the more damage you’ll inflict to foes. As such, I settled on a team of Ajna, Ginseng, Tungar (AKA Sikh E. Honda) and Zebei, since they could deal tons of rapid fire attacks, as well as knocking down aerial foes with arrows. Once I got a foe grounded, I could juggle them mercilessly for 200 hit combos, dealing tons and tons of damage.
Though the combat is fantastic in principle, there were some issues with it. One is that the game never really told me I could do different levels of super attacks with more bars of Iddhi. I was using my Level 1 supers the entire game, which probably made progress more challenging than it needed to be, especially when I was in the Iron Kingdom, full of shielded knights and poisonous slime monsters. It can also be hard to see the button prompts on screen when they’re covered by foes. And on the topic of my unused reserve characters, I really wish that I could tag in characters who weren’t in my active party (similar to games like Marvel vs. Capcom). That would make it so I wasn’t only using the characters I was most comfortable with. Or even some sort of ability grid for each character to help individualize them further. Cause as I got into the groove of fighting battle after battle, I just wanted a bit more nuance to liven things up. The most you get is using red gems called Ringsels to upgrade your team’s attack or defense, but that was a bit underwhelming. Which isn’t to say the combat isn’t fun, it’s quite enjoyable. It’s just not perfect.
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