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Indivisible is two great tastes that taste great together

2017-07-06 12:00:00·  4 minute read   ·  Mike Cosimano@MikeCosimano
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You got your Chrono Trigger in my Metroidvania!

If you've spent any time on the internet, you've likely come across a Two Things t-shirt; a shirt that exists only to make two surface-level geek references at the same time, as opposed to the one reference you might get from a Star Wars graphic tee at Target. Often, the franchises being smushed together in these crossovers have no thematic connection beyond the base fact of their existence, like this Pokémon Go/Stranger Things shirt.

But sometimes the Two Things alchemy produces something that doesn't completely suck, like this one that combines Breaking Bad with Game of Thrones. Yeah, it's two popular things that you recognize, but both prestige shows are about power struggles and unstable kingdoms. The kingdom in Breaking Bad may not be quite as literal, but it's not as aggressively nonsensical as this Batman/Nike shirt.

At first blush, Indivisible (the forthcoming Indiegogo'd game from Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games) looked like a rare Two Things game. Aesthetically, it has a strong, unified look, but mechanically, the game is literally two things: it has the platforming and world progression of a Metroidvania, and the active time battle system of mid/late '90s Square games like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger in an ambitious genre blend that evokes the Mario RPGs more than anything else I could think of. I don't know whether Indivisible will be able to keep up that juggling act for its entire runtime or if the game will crumble under its own weight like this Attack on Titan/Adventure Time shirt, but I can say for certain the sliver I played at Anime Expo was a tremendous amount of fun.

The Indivisible demo I was shown is the same one that will be distributed to backers of the Indiegogo campaign, and thus is more proof of concept than a vertical slice. During both my Indivisible demo and Lab Zero's Anime Expo panel, the team stressed how far they had yet to go, in that way you often see from creative types showing off a work-in-progress to the general public. Of course Indivisible isn't ready for primetime this far out from its 2018 release date, but mechanically the game feels well-realized.

As a platformer, Indivisible gets the job done. Lab Zero's much-lauded character animation makes each jump feel responsive, although since the demo never really threw any kind of platforming challenge my way, it's hard to tell if the jumping mechanics will hold up under duress. I was given an axe that allowed me to access new areas, both by cutting down vines and by acting as a makeshift climbing tool. The team also showed off a spear that allowed protagonist Ajna to bounce like Scrooge McDuck or stick to the ceiling, both of which seemed like potential traversal mechanics. I only got to try the axe, which handled just fine – if the spear works along the same lines, I'll have no complaints.

I always felt 100% in control while platforming, but jumping around felt more like filler between turn-based combat sections than a fun challenge I wanted to engage with. Again, proof-of-concept, not a vertical slice, early goings, etc etc etc. It's not bad and I have no reason to actively worry, I just wish I had been able to put the platforming through its paces a little more is all.

Conversely, I feel a lot more confident about the real-time RPG combat. The combat also feels like a hybrid of styles, with fighting game-esque inputs defining the kind of attacks each character will make. Your party will comprise up to four characters (from a cast of "around two dozen," reportedly), each mapped to a face button on the controller. Each character had up to three possible attacks in the demo – think "attacking" as a broad concept rather than specific attacks, like Pokémon moves – which can be burned all at once in a combo or saved for later. That same face button will also cause the character to block, which burns a separate meter; the same meter your super move pulls from. It's absolutely something I had to get the hang of, but I feel like it'll become second nature after you spend any real amount of time with it.

I do wish the standard attack wasn't so worthless -- it costs the same as an attack mixed with an up or down directional input would cost, but the directional attacks often do more damage or spread the damage across multiple enemies. The directional attacks also feel deeply satisfying, especially when you combo three of them in a row. But I can't envision a scenario where I'd rather use the standard attack, unless I was fighting a particularly weak enemy and I wanted to button mash my way through the battle. Even then, a stronger basic attack would fit that hypothetical too. I know this sounds like a minor quibble, but the lack of a viable basic attack makes the battle system less smooth than I would like.

That said and that aside, I'll tell you what I told Lab Zero when they asked what I thought. I look at every preview appointment a little too critically (these people could be lying through their teeth), but if you told me that Indivisible was a game I could play right now, I would absolutely check it out. Lab Zero's penchant for fluid character animation is on full display, and will likely inform dozens upon dozens of fan works, if you're into that sort of thing. For the rest of us, Indivisible seems like it does two things quite well: it's both a solid Metroidvania and a solid RPG. You could do a hell of a lot worse than that.




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