Fifteen hours into Indivisible, the long-awaited action role-playing game from Skullgirls creator Lab Zero, I’m still meeting new playable characters and discovering new ways to explore its gorgeous 2D world. I’m overwhelmed every time I play, and I love it.
First announced in 2015, Indivisible is an action RPG that comes out Tuesday for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It combines the four characters, four buttons combat style of Valkyrie Profile with the platforming exploration of Super Metroid. It tells the story of Ajna, a young girl living on the outskirts of a rural village. Trained in combat by her father since a young age, Ajna sets off on a quest for revenge after a powerful enemy destroys her home. Like all epic fantasy RPGs, Ajna’s personal story turns out to have global stakes, as a mysterious power grows within her that could change her world forever.
It sounds so serious, and it is, but Indivisible is also the tale of an impetuous teen traveling the world, gathering a veritable army of quirky and exciting companions. One of Anja’s power is that she can absorb people and carry them around in a pocket dimension inside her mind. It’s basically like a camping screen, where she can talk with party members, upgrade her attack and defense with collectibles, and do certain other side activities. At any point during her travels she can go inside herself into that magical world and hang with her friends. They’re indivisible, see?
You could say she’s a one-girl army, but that would be discounting the colorful individuals who join Ajna on her lengthy adventure. Dhar, her first companion, is an enemy soldier involuntarily absorbed during the attack on Ajna’s village. Zebei the archer, is a good-natured guardian brought to life by voice actor Matthew Mercer. Ginseng & Honey are a diminutive botanist and her prize specimen. There is a dog named Lanshi, whose abilities include being pet.
I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the greatest party member of all, the gleefully gloomy Ramzi, a reclusive shaman who’s cool with dying in a fire for sport and feeding her friends bugs while they sleep. She has a friend who is a dead tiger that she wears on her head. Voiced by Stephanie Sheh, Ramzi is the only character aside from Ajna who is always in my combat party.
That’s a great honour, considering how many characters are available to rotate in and out of the four-person party at any given time. I’ve had as many as 13 different characters lined up for duty at one time. It’s almost too much. The anxious feeling I get when I’m playing a role-playing game and neglecting the characters not in the active party is in full swing.
Making the decision even tougher is that each character has some sort of utility in the game’s combat system. Some are ranged. Some cast magic. Some can attack high, or specialise in juggling opponents in the air. There are enemies that cannot be damaged by ranged attacks, are healed when hit by magic, or take more damage in the air than on the ground.
Each character has three basic attacks, performed by pressing the button on the gamepad assigned to them or holding the up and down arrow while doing so. For instance, Ajna’s basic attack is a swing of her axe. Her down attack is a two-hit combo that knocks the enemy back. Her up attack launches enemies into the air.
Combining her attacks with those of other characters creates combos. Characters like the archer, Zebei, or the brawler, Tungar, have attacks that hit multiple enemies multiple times, so it’s worth keeping them around to deal more damage. There’s strategy involved with which characters to keep in which position for maximum effectiveness. I struggled with an early boss who didn’t take damage until it was hit a certain number of times. Swapping in Zebei made that battle easy. Eventually Ajna and friends meet a trainer, who takes up residence in her head, giving the player a perfect way to test out strategies and team composition between fights.
As player characters attack or successfully block enemy attacks, the “Ihddi” meter in the top corner of the screen fills. When a segment fills, players can hold down the right bumper on their controller to use one of their character’s special abilities. It’s like a super meter in a fighting game. Using one bar, Ramzi casts a party-wide heal. Using three bars at once, she calls a rain of fire down upon her opponents. You get more bars on the Ihddi meter as you upgrade through combat, letting you more varied special attacks more often.
When not fighting or loving on Ramzi, Indivisible is a challenging platforming adventure. Ajna starts off jumping and dashing, as one does, but soon her absorbed companions begin teaching her advanced techniques, opening up the game’s hand-drawn 2D world to further exploration. With her axe, Ajna can leap to greater heights. With Zebei’s bow she can activate switches and eventually create safe paths through hazardous terrain by sprouting plants with magical arrows. She learns new ways to jump. She gains the ability to air dash and hang from the ceiling. She gains the Scrooge McDuck-like ability to use her spear like a pogo stick to hop across hazards.
None of these travel abilities are one-off, throwaway skills. Lab Zero has filled the game with segments requiring the use of some or seemingly all of them in tandem. There are brutal sequences in one of the most recent areas I passed through in the game that had me cursing the studio’s name. But, thanks to what little patience I possess and mercifully frequent save points, I made it through. The sense of accomplishment was exquisite.
Everything about Indivisible so far has been exquisite. The visuals are mesmerising. The character design and animation are gorgeous. Each new area is a feast for the eyes and the ears as well, courtesy of music from legendary composer Hiroki Kikuta of Secret of Mana and Kouldelka fame. Lab Zero has crafted a wondrous, mythology-inspired fantasy world that I can’t stop exploring.
Indivisible can be overwhelming. It feels like there’s always a new character popping up or a new skill being unlocked. I sometimes lose track of all the things I can do or the people I can play. It’s not the worst problem to have.