Over the last few days I’ve been ruminating on how best to express my disappointment with something that everyone else seemed to love. There’s probably a word in French or German that would best express the sentiment, a sentiment I would just love to use in conjunction with Invisible, Inc. Developed by Klei Entertainment (Shank, Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve) Invisible, Inc. (Yes the punctuation is part of the title) is a turn based stealth game with a striking art style, interesting ideas but lackluster execution.

You can play cyberpunk bingo with the amount of cliches the game throws at you

As is usual with Klei games, the art style is what’s most striking on first glance. Invisible, Inc is a slick combination of futuristic corporate cyberpunk blended with the iconic spy genre aesthetic of the ‘60s. Think the Man from U.N.C.L.E meets Deus Ex. The game plays as a turn based stealth game from an isometric perspective, with you leading a team of spies through various randomly generated corporate locations, sneaking past security and hacking electronics as you go. There is some backstory to the whole situation but it’s threadbare at best and is some of the most generic cyberpunk I’ve ever seen. You can play cyberpunk bingo with the amount of cliches the game throws at you, with everything from evil corporations, body augmentations and computer hacking all shambling forth from the pages of Neuromancer (The book which basically started the cyberpunk genre). With such little originality in the material I found it hard to take an interest in what was going on.

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The basics are simple, with a team of two or more operatives you sneak into a location, do a thing, then leave. Controlling these spies from a isometric perspective, it’s up to you to plan out how they proceed. It’s a shame then that all these plans often take a very similar course. First you scout the nearest doorways, peeking round to spot any cameras or guards, next you hack the cameras, incapacitate the guard and move on. Soon you’ll get into your own rhythm of scout, hack, smack, repeat. While a well executed plan can be satisfying to pull off, satisfaction quickly turns to monotony after the seventh consecutive mission in a bland corporate office. The procedural generation of levels does little to help the game. Rooms are incongruously bolted together with little rhyme or reason, and go to show the unsung wonders of good map design. Common stealth elements such as line of sight and cover all make an appearance but are limited in their execution. Cover either fully hides an agent or doesn’t,  and guards have incredibly limited peripheral vision and are easy to slip by. There’s little nuance in its stealth and with other factors such as noise levels rarely making an observable difference it’s hard not to shake the feeling that Klei is taking a sneaky step back from the wonderful Mark of the Ninja.

It’s perhaps most telling that while playing around in Incognito mode I got the overwhelming desire to play Gunpoint

As well as playing in the real world you get to play around in cyberspace via the games “Incognito Mode.” Hacking into corporate safes and servers can lead to some nice rewards, but nothing ever game changing. It feels like a huge missed opportunity by Klei to not have the games systems allow for more creativity. I can hack a power generator but can’t overload its circuits or send a lethal bolt of electricity to a nearby guard to take him out. It’s perhaps most telling that while playing around in Incognito mode I got the overwhelming desire to play Gunpoint, where creativity with my hacking was rewarded. You can upgrade and alter your abilities in cyberspace with powers that let you create a distractions or eliminate viruses, but none of these feel like must have items.

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One of the games greatest strengths is the amount of customization in the games campaign settings. Upon starting a campaign you can play with all manners of options and settings to tinker with the game as you see fit. Want greater levels of challenge than simple hard mode, just play around with a few settings and the game will become awe inspiring hard. This level of changeability lends the game nicely to multiple playthroughs, as does the ease you can end one campaign and start another, when it’s clear things aren’t going well for you and your team. This novel approach to quickly starting one run after another will be reminiscent to many games in the roguelike genre.
Invisible, Inc is by most standards a good game, perhaps a great one but with me it never really clicked. Maybe it was the piss-poor world building or the humdrum approach to hacking that the game takes, but I just wasn’t as enamored by Invisible, Inc’s charm as so many others were. Everything this game does is done better in other games, X-Com is still king of turn based strategy, Klei’s Mark of the Ninja is the pinnacle of stealth, even the ‘60s era spy aesthetic is better realized in CounterSpy. To me Invisible, Inc is one of the saddest things around, a good game that I just don’t like and that’s on my shoulders not theirs.

About The Author

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All round song and dance man. Best known for his use of expletives, casual quoting of Jeeves & Wooster and his love for all things Timesplitters. Host of the Played Out Podcast and proud victim of five different gypsy curses

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  • Generic world building and random generated layouts can only appeal to people who’ve never seen that kind of world before or who haven’t played enough games too appreciate a human touch. This is a combination for a suicidal waste of the people’s involved time; one can only hope that if they think these decisions will make more bank for them it does.