The following piece is a guest blog entry. The views expressed in it are not necessarily those of Runway Games and are entirely those of the author, Alex Hines.
Steam is a terrible, terrible thing for me. When I look on the store, one of three things ALWAYS happens. First, the game(s) I really want are too expensive for my budget at the moment. Second, I find a less expensive game that looks interesting, but it turns out to be worth about as many hours as dollars I paid for it. BTW, I’m usually cheap when it comes to these things.
BUT! Every once in a while the Steam Store manages to hawk something on me in its featured section that grabs my attention and my wallet, and through that stroke of dumb luck, Invisible, Inc., made by Klei, the studio behind Don’t Starve, seized both.
First let’s talk about the game. It’s set in the future and is all about stealth, something with which I am usually TERRIBLE in most video games. But in Invisible, Inc. that is ALL you need to care about. You play as the Operator, a middleman of sorts between the owner of a mercenary infiltration group and the agents who do the dirty work. One moves farther, another hacks better, and one is a better marksman (no, that’s not a skill you might find valuable as much as you think).
In the story mode you have three days to build up your agents before your boss, the gray-haired and constipated-looking owner, reveals a final mission. The game is played on a grid, on which you go through various facilities, all of which offer different hazards and opportunities to do that building. On the way, your agents will dodge guards, cameras, and handle locked doors and laser grids. You also have Incognita on hand, the program that got you into the building, who can hack the various pieces of machinery you might find remotely, among a few other handy tricks. Learn to love her.
Sound easy? You haven’t heard the clincher. Well, two, really. First, if you are caught by a guard without an avenue of escape that is ONE square away, you are sunk. The guards, while not very observant, DO perk up once they catch sight of you, and if you can’t get away instantly, they tranq you. If they see you right next to them, you’re still sunk; no chance for a melee hit. I like to say they can see you reaching for a weapon; it’ll still end just as bad. And if that’s not bad enough, here’s the second piece: remember how you’re invading a corporation?
Yeah, they know you’re there.
EVERY round, no matter how stealthy you are, security raises their alarm and their hunt for you. As you take more time, more cameras activate, things become harder to hack, and eventually more guards go hunting for you. Oh, and you can’t kill them, just knock them out. Well, you CAN, but almost all have heart monitors, and if they die, the alarm is raised that much faster. The only way to escape is to find the elevator out and get ALL your agents into it. Anyone not in when the first agent leaves is left behind. Permanently.
Like I said when I started, this is not usually my type of game. But every time I played, the game kept drawing me back, stupid mistake after stupid mistake. I couldn’t decide if I actually liked it or just had nothing better to do. A few days ago, I pulled off what I considered to be my closest call yet, sneaking an agent past a guard on her way to the elevator at the VERY last possible second. I threw my hands up in the air and shouted; that’s when I realized that I really enjoy this game.
To be fair, it’s not without some flaws. There are a few persnickety graphics issues with buttons overlapping that could be wrung out. And despite using procedurally generated maps, making each attempt different, the game IS a bit limited, in that once you’ve played through the story, only the endless mode is left; there are no other missions to undertake.
But here’s the good news: Invisible, Inc. is still on Early Access in Steam and a new build is released about every ten days. And Klei IS changing things each time, adding new items and throwing new kinks into the works. A slightly deeper story experience, I think, will go a LONG way towards adding replayability to this game.
Give this game a shot. You will learn to adore Executive Terminals, grudgingly respect Detention Centers, and cry when you have a bunch of Nanofab Vestibules or Server Farms to visit without a Vault beforehand. And between the outbursts of emotion, you’ll have a darn good time praying that a guard won’t notice your team, and if you’re anything like me, restarting a lot after getting your team busted. And that’ll be OK, because then you’ll start to think about what you’ll do differently on your next playthrough.