Indivisible is an indie RPG from Skullgirls developers Lab Zero Games that’s a fresh take on the role playing genre. The game establishes familiar RPG constructs, and then breaks them quickly. You meet the protagonist, Ajna, in her idyllic village before the bad guys raze it to the ground. Ajna herself is a girl that epitomises that whole “strong female lead” trope a bit too perfectly. Preferring to answer questions with a fist to the face, she is fierce and loveable to a fault, where she always seems to miss something.
Ajna is not just driven by her lust for revenge to avenge the death of her father, but she also wants to dive into her past to find out who her deceased parents really were. To makes matters worse, she’s sort of able to absorb certain people into her mind known as Incarnations. Now she must venture forth and amass a following of characters to deal with this Ravannanar fellow who’s been pulling the strings.
Indivisible wears it’s inspirations on its sleeve the way Anja wears her heart. The game itself starts at the protagonist’s house reminiscent to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. The music is retro arcade like, and the action system has that same four party member setup, but it feels more dynamic in its implementation. The 2D platforming is very Metroidvania like, but also inspired by Vanillaware’s games like Odin Sphere and Dragon’s crown, while the battle system is like Valkyrie Profile. The game also draws a lot of its influences from Indian and Chinese spirituality, as it touches deeper into the way these energies work.
An RPG is only as good as its writing, and Indivisible has some of the best. It’s snappy, funny and pokes fun at the genre as a whole, from the usual NPC’s that spout nonsense to narrative writing that wields emotion deftly without breaking the careful character it’s created for itself. From handling tense situations to cracking some hilarious jokes that have a clever wit to them, massive points to the voice actors who play their parts so well, you actually feel for the characters. These people – or incarnations, you meet along the way are wild and different in ways unimaginable; from a lively Shaman with a tiger in her lantern, to a pirate with massive shoulder mounted cannons. Inspired by mythical deities these characters all journey forth with you.
Indivisible is a platformer first with elaborate 2.5D levels that are painstakingly crafted. When you see enemies on screen, the frame zooms in to a turn based battle, instead of real time combat. Your party is then revealed with buttons mapped to control each party member’s action independently. In tandem with the arrow keys, you can pull off some incredible combos similar to games like Marvel vs. Capcom or X-men Children of the Atom. The best part is all these characters are customisable to create your own party of destruction. While battles are engaging, the platforming does have you retracing your steps too often. Sometimes the backdrops are beautifully animated; other times they’re static backdrops that don’t do much to make these backtracking sojourns interesting. Also with regards to the platforming, there is a certain velocity missing; maybe it’s something I still crave after playing Dead Cells or Trine 4 which is still fresh in recent memory.
The Skullgirl folks have done a great job of adding their signature style to Indivisible, and this sets it apart from the crowd. While it lends itself perfectly to the writing, the world building could have done with a bit more detail, rather than being relegated to colourful set pieces. Maybe the ideas put into many of the levels left me wanting more, but it’s still fun to zip around and wall jump through Bladerunner-esque sci-fi settings, ancient Mayan jungles, Arabian deserts and lots more. The art style is not for everyone – but it may grow on you as you play through the game.
Indivisible is an incredible journey that’s thought-provoking and brave. While I did play it on a PS4, Indivisible would be perfect on the Nintendo Switch with its delightful Cuphead like animations and cast of wonderful characters you could carry around with you all the time.