More than a punny title
What's the fun in stealing when there is no chance of getting caught? The tension is what creates the delicious mix of fear and adrenaline. The payoff is pure exhilaration.
If you are in love with this feeling of heart-pumping excitement, it's likely that pickpocketing NPCs is not enough to satisfy your craving. Breaking and entering a farmer's home at night? Pshh... where's the challenge in that?
What you really desire is the big job. The risk of losing your life, the reward of money, information, or just a big middle-finger to the guy in the suit. What you desire is a heist.
Klei Entertainment has taken this desire and designed the entire gameplay of Invisible, Inc. around it. A procedurally generated, turn-based, team-based espionage and heist game? Heck yes!
The risk is simple, elegant: agent permadeath. You have a limited pool of agents (two to start with, with a maximum of six as of now). If you chose to escape without a downed agent, that agent is lost. If all your agents go down, the game ends.
Each playthrough is saved on a single savefile. So no save scumming is possible. Think X:COM's Ironman mode, but with far fewer agents and no way to recruit new ones.
The reward could be money directly. Indirectly, information and artifacts can be sold on the black market for money. Other times, the big reward could be a way to increase your survival and espionage skills, whether through items, bio-enhancement or new tech.
Still other times, the target is another person. It could be a corporate exec, whose brain you need to scan. It could be a valuable hostage, who you could trade for money or information. Or, in the most exciting case, it could be one of your six agents who you can liberate to increase the strength and flexibility of your team.
Most often, each mission consists of a mix of the above rewards.
The risk and the rewards above are nothing new. What's truly unique about this game is the tension it manages to create between the two.
(Link to deviantArt source)
First, each level is procedurally generated. The levels span all four directions, as do the rewards. The more you explore, the bigger the payoff. But you also have greater risks of exposure. And then there's the Alarm.
The Alarm is what truly gives this game the feel of a heist. Every turn increases the Alarm slightly. As the Alarm rises, the security increases. This puts the pressure on the team to finish its business as quickly as possible.
The turn-based system allows for thoughtful solutions to high-pressure situations. There is no bigger thrill than leaving a mission with all safes cleared out and all agents alive. But that doesn't always happen. Often the team has to beat a hasty retreat and leave behind precious and possibly unknown loot. Other times, only part of the team manages to escape.
It's the dynamic tension created by all these elements that makes Invisible, Inc. such a joy to play. Stealing has never been more fun. Or more risky.
Side Note: The game is on Early Access until 12th May (this Tuesday!). This is the only Early Access game I've purchased and I'm glad I did. Klei Entertainment has set the standard for good practices in Early Access. It's been interesting watching the tweaks to the game over the past few months. Still, I don't see myself purchasing another game in Early Access any time soon. Not unless it's from Klei.