Invisible, Inc. cobbles together a myriad of genres that — on paper — sound like a recipe for disaster. How can a roguelike game capture the precision or intensity of a stealth game? The turn-based gameplay appears destined to undermine the immediacy of sneaking around enemies while trying to avoid detection.
Invisible, Inc. should not work in any shape or form. Yet, it is kind of good — at times, even great.
That said, Invisible, Inc. is a niche product, destined to be appreciated by a select audience but ignored by the masses. Depending on someone’s preferences, Klei Entertainment has either crafted a modern classic or a game barely worth a second glance.
Invisible, Inc. features a serviceable story for the eight hours or so required to complete the campaign. The plot itself remains consistent from playthrough to playthrough. The year is 2074 and capitalism has literally taken over the world. Tired of lobbying for success, powerful corporations have opted to eliminate the middle man. Earth’s governments have fallen, leaving these companies to seize control.
Surprisingly, the campaign unfolds from the perspective of an organization (Invisible, Inc.) in the service of these corporations. An attacker, presumably one of four suspected companies, succeeds in jeopardizing the agency’s powerful AI (Incognita). As a result, only two active agents remain at Invisible, Inc.
Consequently, the player must infiltrate various institutions, gather resources, free captured agents, and prepare for a final assault on the enemy’s base of operations.
Invisible, Inc. takes place in a cyberpunk universe drenched in spy and noir imagery. Following a short tutorial that does a decent job in teaching the base mechanics, the game gives users control of Decker and Internationale, two agents with years of experience and incredibly cool designs.
In the case of Decker, picture a cross between James Bond and Blade Runner‘s Rick Deckard. Meanwhile, Internationale might just be the most stylish spy to ever grace gaming.
Overall, the base game comes packed with 10 playable characters, with many needing saving during missions. The final two are unlocked once the campaign is cleared on Experienced Mode, which is Invisible, Inc.’s stand-in for Normal.
Invisible, Inc. is a genuinely difficult game. However, Klei Entertainment went absolutely out of its way to permit adjustable settings to complement a player’s skill level.
While there are three main difficulty modes, each one comes with a variety of options to change individual parts of the experience. Prefer to have knocked out guards stay down for longer than three turns? Well, that can be changed. Along with the randomly-generated maps, these settings extend Invisible, Inc.’s replay value.
Speaking of the maps, the vast majority of the levels are procedurally generated rather than hand-crafted. Putting aside missions like the tutorial, the bulk of the time is dedicated to infiltrating random places to collect resources.
A mission can fall under one of nine types, with most consisting of primary and secondary goals. Thankfully, the turn-based stealth mechanics provide enough flexibility to facilitate for the roguelike maps, even if the latter tends to cause the occasional difficulty spike.
The lack of hand-crafted levels means there are practically no missions that deviate from the beaten path. Nevertheless, the replayability offered by this design choice more than compensates for any shortcomings.
Even if Invisible, Inc. theoretically has infinite maps, there still needs to be a reason to continue revisiting the game. The campaign’s plot might be rather restrictive, but the same cannot be said about the characters. Along with a unique move tailor-made for the operative’s specific class, each agent has four improvable Skills that can be developed by investing credits.
While these abilities are the same for the entire roster, focusing on one specific area translates to a different play style. Want to completely avoid combat? Focus on Speed and Anarchy Skills. Prefer to take a more direct approach? Strength is the way to go. Finding the right balance is part of the fun. New campaigns automatically reset the agents’ Skills, so exploring various strategies will help.
How is the actual gameplay? Invisible, Inc. is a brilliant tactical stealth game, one that constantly ensures the user has all the necessary information at their disposal, permitting they have the tools to access them. Using a grid-based system pivoting on Action Points (AP) and gadgets with cooldowns, the combat does not pressure the player into rushing a move. In fact, thinking a few steps ahead is generally the best approach.
Once you complete a turn, the map’s security counter automatically rises by a single block (presuming the agents remain undetected). Gradually, the location heightens its defenses, causing enemy reinforcements or new cameras to spawn. Quickly completing an area before things get too hot is a must.
While you can take up to four agents on missions, two can get the job done. Better to leave behind an inadequately developed agent, since they will more likely attract attention.
Along with a myriad of enemy types, various terminals exist scattered across each map. Many provide cash rewards or power for Incognita, the AI companion who performs crucial functions during missions. You can purchase an array of new programs for Incognita, which further promotes experimentation in subsequent playthroughs.
Fans of stealth or turn-based combat should consider taking a look at Invisible, Inc. The story leaves something to be desired and the roguelike element means maps tend to be consistently good rather than periodically great. Nonetheless, Klei Entertainment has produced a hybrid game worth checking out!