Invisible, Inc. – What We Think:
Invisible, Inc. is the newest game from Klei Entertainment, and unsurprisingly, it’s another solid entry from the Vancouver devs. Combining the tactical turn-based play style of XCOM, the stealth and stealing of Thief and the cyberpunk noir aesthetics of Gunpoint, the game tasks you with leading a team to infiltrate corporate offices and steal their secrets, their technology and—of course—their cash.
The Importance of Being Invisible
Invisible, Inc. is a stealth game, not a “stealth game.” You don’t get to sneak around and then turn things into a brawl or a shoot-’em-up if you get spotted. While you can sneak behind guards and temporarily knock them out with a neural disruptor (more or less a high-end cyberpunk taser), you’ve got no chance if things turn to actual violence.
If a guard spots you, he’ll shoot you, and it only takes one shot to take you down. Fortunately, the turn-based nature of the game means you can plot your moves carefully, taking cover behind file cabinets, peeking around doorways and sneaking past guards while they’re looking the other direction.
Hacking, No Slashing
Then there’s the hacking. With an artificial intelligence named Incognita on your team, you can use various programs like the brute force Lockpick or the time-delayed Parasite to weasel your way into corporate computers, unlock safes and even take over surveillance cameras.
Incognita’s software uses power, though, and you only have a limited amount. You’ll need to be careful what systems you choose to hack, though if you’re lucky, you can steal more power from enemy computer consoles. You can also load Incognita with certain software programs that can generate additional power each turn.
Invisible…but Great Visuals
The game’s depiction of both the “real” and digital worlds is fantastic, and—more importantly—incredibly functional. Icons pop up to indicate points of interest where security teams might be closing in, and swathes of red and yellow make it easy to spot guards’ sight lines and hopefully sneak past them. To make plotting your course even more accurate, you can shift into tactical mode to get a better idea of where obstacles and guards are located.
Similarly, the hacking interface is cyberpunk heaven straight out of William Gibson, the outline of the building shifted to transparent tiles and cubes, with various software-centered points of interests like cameras and digital safes rendered in bright colors (red if you haven’t hacked them, white if they’re under your control). Deploying your hacking software is as simple as pointing and clicking, giving you a real “feel” for breaking into enemy computer systems without forcing you to deal with a command line interface.
Functionality aside, the game’s got a great look to it, cyberpunk meets film noir, with enhanced hackers sporting Casablanca-style fedoras over their neural implants and hiding their lightweight laptops under dusty trench coats. Lanky, angular and stylized, the characters are reminiscent of the late ’90s Batman Beyond cartoons (and maybe also just a touch of Aeon Flux). The little touches, like sliding doors or the animation when you knock out a security guard, are also a treat.
New Spin, Old Theme
Invisible, Inc. doesn’t quite do anything that hasn’t been done before in turn-based tactics or stealth games, but it does combine them in new ways. It also does them almost perfectly. Alarm levels that gradually increase the longer you’re in a building—bringing with them additional guards, more cameras and tougher hacking challenges—will raise your blood pressure as effectively as any first-person stealth game. And the turn-based action combined with your team’s physical vulnerability makes every choice an agonizing one, whether it’s to try sneaking past a guard or stick around to rob more safes before making your getaway.
While the basic mechanics of Invisible, Inc. are easy to figure out and the storyline relatively short, the game has tons of replay value. There are new agents to unlock, each with their own set of abilities (one carries a rifle to take out guards from a distance, another has cybernetic implants that let her unlock security doors without a key-card) and new software to discover.
The game’s also difficult enough that even in “Beginner” mode you won’t be breezing through it without some effort. But it’s never unfair; every dead agent will be on your own head, a consequence of your own recklessness. You won’t have the chance to mourn for long, though—there’s always another cybernetics lab to infiltrate, another detention center to break out of, another financial suite to rob…
Watch the trailer for Invisible, Inc. below: