I just finished the Invisible, Inc. campaign on Expert difficulty. The exhilaration was so intense that I just had to write about it.
I've already written about it being a great game. And since it's on sale, I figured this was a good time to talk about my nail-biting, make-it-through-the-skin-of-your-teeth campaign experience. I also wanted to provide a few tips on how to play. It is a very difficult but very fair game, as long as you know the details of the mechanics (which I am here to provide).
If you are new to the game, here are a few mechanics that you should be aware of -
Ability points (AP) are precious. But not everything uses up AP. One AP is used when you are moving one tile, peeking through a door or around corners, or predicting one enemy's movement. A lot more AP is used when dragging a KO'd guard's body (exact number depends on the Strength attribute).
This means a lot of the actions are free of AP. Opening and closing doors does not take up any AP. Neither does attacking guards (though that will trigger a cooldown on your weapon). Neither does hacking a machine, stealing PWR from consoles, placing traps, using items, and purchasing items from nanofab vestibules.
Killing an enemy will incur a “clean-up cost”, which will be deducted from your resources. Your resources are stretched thin anyway. So avoid killing. Stick to KOs.
When a guard has been KO'd, they will wake up after a cooldown timer. But if one of your agent stands on the same tile as the KO'd guard, the cooldown counter doesn't go down. This is called pinning. It's very useful in the first half of every level.
Sprinting gives you 3 additional AP but creates a sound in a 5x5 tile square around you. You can use it to run or you can use it to distract guards away from another location.
Peeking through a closed door costs 1 AP and it does not reveal your position. Use it! In fact, this mechanic is so important that I'll give you a break down of how to use it most efficiently.
You can peek from the tile that has the door, but also from the two adjacent tiles. I recommend peeking from one of the adjacent tiles because it opens up more possibilities.
Upon peeking, if you see that the tile beyond the door is being watched, here are somethings you can do:
If the tile beyond the door is not being watched, you can safely open the door.
If you have opened the door, then you can spend another AP to peek again. With an open door, this will give you a lot more vision of the room. As long as you are not running for your life (and sometimes even when you are), try doing this double-peek. It's worth the AP.
Finally, if you close the door but do not move, you will retain all the vision that you gained from peeking.
Stand beside the door.
Take a peek. The area behind is clear, so we can open the door.
Open the door.
Take another peek. Two new doors revealed.
Close the door. The view is still there.
The above are the mechanics of the game. I also have some general advice to make the ride smoother -
Always sneak up beside doors, not in front of them. Not only does this help with peeking (as described above) but it will also make sure you can successfully ambush guards that walk through the door.
Close all doors. Always. If you want to maintain vision in a room, then open a door, peek, and close it. As long as the agent who peeked doesn't move, you will maintain your vision.
Move your agents in stages. Don't just right-click your destination. Instead move them from hiding spot to hiding spot. Stop when you cross a door, and close the door before moving further. Moving slowly is especially important for Internationale because of her remote-sensing capabilities.
Keep off from fighting the guards until the last possible moment. It's better to distract than to knock out. A KO'd guard will be hunting very aggressively when they wake up.
If you have to KO a guard early in the level, use an agent to pin him. That agent can slowly move around by dragging the guard. The reduced mobility of agent is more acceptable than aggressive and unpredictable guards.
Most drones cannot hear sound (their tooltip will say so explicitly). You can sprint past them. This is often better than hacking them.
Even when you have unlocked more starting agents, Internationale is a must-have for a good team. When you have unlocked Banks, you'll find that the combo of Internationale and Banks is very versatile.
Some programmes are better than others. Parasite (and later, Parasite v2) are solid choices for a slow-but-sure type of play. I have a particular fondness for Wisp and Ping, but YMMV.
In the first or second day, do a Detention Centre mission so you can get a third agent. Earlier the better.
When selecting missions, it is best to do a Chief Financial Suite mission before doing a Vault or Cybernetics mission. The keycodes from the CFS mission will double your “loot” from the other two.
I hadn't expected to finish the campaign. I had played the game three times when it was on Early Access, losing badly twice and barely making it through the third time. In the final release of the game, the last mission was changed to be much more difficult. So, I had no real expectation of getting to the ending in just one playthrough. (For those unfamiliar with the game, there is no save/reload mechanism. It is perma-death, though in Expert setting you get one “Rewind turn” per level.)
When I reached the final mission, I knew my agents were greatly unprepared. One of them didn't even have a standard-issue KO device. No-one had any armour piercing upgrades or weapons. It was looking bad before we had even gone in.
The start of the mission was terrible. Part of the game mechanic is that the helper AI can have a maximum of 20 power (PWR) and it get +1 PWR each turn. An average turn will require around 3-4 PWR, forcing you to either find PWR from elsewhere or be foolhardy. Well, when I started the final mission, I was forced to use up 16 PWR (!!) in the very first turn.
After that, I expected to lose in every single turn. But I rallied... somewhat. Thankfully I wasn't playing under time-attack mode, so I could take my time with each turn. But every turn, I was hand-wringing, second-guessing, hyper-ventilating. I went to the washroom three times in the span of an hour.
In hindsight, I played that level perfectly. The initial PWR haemorrhage was unfortunate but necessary. I followed all my rules (above) to a the t. And, I have to say, I got lucky. The mission had a two-part objective. Once I finished the first part, I managed to find a perfectly hidden route to leave that area. And after that, all the alerted guards rushed to the first objective (where the alarm was raised), leaving me with just enough freedom to search for, find, and reach the second objective.
And then, once the game was done, came the ending cinematic. It was amazing! It was... very Klei. I have played Mark of the Ninja, so I could see the similar authorship in the ending. I loved it, though I'm sure other people will have more polarized opinion.
Overall, my experience with this game was easily 9 out of 10 for excellence in game design. The tension permeates the narrative and gameplay equally. The opening and closing cinematic both have a delicious twist. The number of items/agents combinations, along with robust procedurally-generated levels, will keep me coming back for multiple playthroughs. The only thing iffy is that some of the game mechanics have to be learned by trial-and-error. But then, that's what the rewind button is there for.
Do check out Invisible, Inc. (on sale now on Steam). Oh, and Klei, you and I should work out some sort of PR deal, since I seem to be doing a lot of free promotion for you anyway.
[PS. My intro blog was postponed because I got really excited about finishing Invisible, Inc. Also, this is a kinda awkward time in Dtoid to do an intro blog. Think I'll wait a week, hoping for the community and the site design to stabilize.]