With its launch set sometime in 2023, The Invincible from Starward Industries still has quite a lot of polish and finish to be applied. But going hands-on with an early preview, those unfinished edges don’t matter when you’re faced with a premise as intriguing as this.
In The Invincible, you take on the role of Yasna, an astrobiologist tasked with exploring an unknown planet known only as Regis III. You’re not the first person to step foot on Regis III, however. Its rocky and dry terrain has been explored by others before you, but their expedition went awry and it’s your job to find them. It’s at the start of that search mission that The Invincible‘s demo kicked off, and within minutes I was faced with abandoned vehicles, dead bodies and giant robots that may or may not kill me.
It’s one hell of an introduction, and not even Yasna’s robotic-sounding voice could break my immersion to a hostile that immediately had its claws in me. Jumping into my rover, I was instructed to drive to the last known site of the previous expedition, but it wasn’t long until some sort of collapsed rockface forced me out of my vehicle. On foot, I passed through an abandoned vehicle which led me to a tunnel through the rocks. At the other end? An inactive spider-like robot resembling something from War of the Worlds. It’s a type of machine that Yasna recognised, and opening up a service hatch, I was given a pictorial log of the robot’s last actions.
Flicking through the images of the log, manually turning pages one by one, the story that unfolded wasn’t a pretty one. If the dark tone of The Invincible hadn’t already been set, it was now. As I turned page after page, I was met with scenes of panic and disarray: an expedition crew looking scared and uncertain. Eventually, an expedition crew dead, shot down by the very robot I was stood in front of. The last image in the log? A picture of Yasna – of me – standing right where I was. Shit. This robot is still active, and my life is in danger.
To me, running away felt like the most obvious option, but Yasna’s a braver woman than I. She was sent to Regis II with a mission, and she wasn’t going to leave until she’d done it. And that meant finding out exactly what happened here. Even if it cost her life in the process.
The atmosphere created by The Invincible is fantastic: this strange, arid planet oozes tension from every rock. And the fact that you’re never quite sure what’s waiting for you around any corner only heightens that. It helps that everything looks fantastic, too. Even at this early stage, the world crafted by Starward Industries is expertly designed, as are the robots and machinery that litter the landscape.
I should mention that this isn’t an entirely original story: it’s based upon a 60s novel of the same name by Stanisław Lem, a Polish sci-fi author. It’s a work of hard sci-fi, cited as being one of the first novels to explore the concept of microrobots and the evolution of non-living matter (coined by Lem as “necroevolution”). Indeed, that robotic evolution is something touched upon in The Invincible‘s demo, not only in the robots but in the world around Yasna – she’s fascinated (as was I) by the metal trees growing between rocks. Clearly, there’s a lot more to learn about this world, and I’m excited to find out more.
What’s particularly intriguing here is that as you progress through The Invincible, you’ll be faced with choices and decisions to make. Exactly how those choices will affect the larger picture and the outcome of the game remains to be seen, but it’s clear you’re not simply following a set path. You have the power to shape Yasna’s journey, and I can’t wait to see how.
I’m not even the biggest sci-fi fan, but The Invincible‘s incredibly crafted world and intriguing premise has me desperate for more. The demo may have only provided a very small slice of the game, but it was just enough to shoot The Invincible to the upper echelons of our most anticipated games of 2023.
The Invincible is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC at some point in 2023. No fixed release date has been announced yet.