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Indivisible Review: On the Verge of Excellence

Indivisible is a lovingly-made mix of genres with an exciting combat system and an enchanting world, but uninspired platforming and other rough spots hold it back from greatness.

It's been a long journey for Indivisible. Announced back in 2015 as the next major title from Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games, it was billed as a hybrid of Valkyrie Profile-esque combat mechanics with Metroidvania-style platforming and exploration. This description, coupled with Indivisible's southeast Asian aesthetic and themes, made for a very intriguing pitch. After a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $2 million and more than four years spent in development, Indivisible has finally been published by 505 Games. The resulting game is a gorgeous amalgam of art, animation and action set in an engrossing world, and it largely delivers on its promises as an action-RPG-platformer. But even with so many remarkable aspects in its design, Indivisible trips up or slows down too often for those elements to coalesce into a greater whole.

Indivisible begins in the simple jungle village of Ashwat, where our equally-simple-but-feisty protagonist named Ajna lives and trains with her father. This haggard dad is desperate to smack some sense and seriousness into his rebellious teen, but Ajna doesn't understand the reason for all this physical training - and her father refuses to tell her. After an angry exchange between them at the training grounds, Ajna's father leaves for home and she follows him, hoping to apologize. On the way back, Ajna realizes that her once-peaceful village has been set ablaze by the soldiers of an evil empire. Her father lies dying at the feet of their young commander, Dhar. With his last words, Ajna's father entreats her to travel the world, make friends, and get stronger in order to fulfill her mysterious destiny. Ajna battles Dhar and ends up absorbing him into her mind, revealing her true power and gaining the first of many party members. Now that the two can't kill each other, they have no choice but to work together - and so Ajna sets out into the wider world to get revenge on the empire and fulfill her father's dying wish.

Related: Lab Zero Shows Off Its Gorgeous Anime Opening For Indivisible

Right out of the gate, Lab Zero's signature hand-drawn art and animation are on full display. The studio's simple but vivid character designs are as attractive as ever, and their models move with incredible fluidity and personality. It's endlessly fun to watch your party members in combat, noticing more and more details in their animations and appreciating the sheer effort that went into them. The environments of this 2.5D sidescroller also deserve plenty of praise: the vibrant, multilayered backgrounds give a great sense of depth and beauty during exploration, and the bustling towns are completely filled with intricate scenes. Other animated characters go about their lives behind Ajna, working or chatting or shopping in a lovely diorama-like world.

Indivisible exploration

Indivisible is also made up of a wonderfully diverse blend of cultural and mythological influences. While Ajna starts out in her Indonesia-inspired homeland, the game goes far beyond its initial  southeast Asian inspirations. There are other characters, areas and designs that are noticeably derived from China, Mongolia, India, Japan and more as the game goes on. There are even regions dedicated to central America and industrial England. As Ajna travels around this myriad continent, she'll come across a great variety of enemies as well. From tusked ogres of Burmese legend to antelope shamans of African animism, it's a consistent delight to encounter new opponents and see what they can do. The thing that really ties the game's overall setting together is an impeccable soundtrack composed by Hiroki Kikuta, who famously scored Secret of Mana among other titles. Indivisible is filled with memorable music that pulls from an international range of styles, perfectly complimenting the game's attitude and diversity.

As enchanting as the world of Indivisible is, the meat of the game lies in its combat system. It's strongly reminiscent of the PS1 cult classic Valkyrie Profile, and that's a very good thing. Your party is made up of four individual characters in battle, each assigned to one of the face buttons. Those face buttons can be combined with directional inputs to create character-specific special attacks, and those special attacks can be strung together to produce spectacular high-speed combos. Every character has their own moveset and playstyle, so mixing and matching with an ever-growing roster of unique characters and experimenting with combos is an absolute thrill. By excluding things like equipment, stats, and chance in favor of quick thinking and skillful reflexes, Indivisible simultaneously streamlines and expands upon one of the more underutilized battle systems in RPG history.

Indivisible combat

Combat isn't without its annoyances, though. Attacking an enemy in the field will launch you into a battle, which would ordinarily be fine - if it weren't for the lack of an actual battle stage. Fights immediately take place on whatever terrain you're standing on, which is more of a detriment than a benefit. There are lots of hazards and pitfalls covering most areas of the game, and being knocked into any of them will instantly cut off the battle. Enemies also start to feel like damage sponges later on, even if you're consistently performing optimal combos and juggling them while blocking effectively. Most bosses are underwhelming as well, frequently transitioning out of battle and into needless platforming phases until you can hit them and force them back into combat. You may only get one solid combo off before the boss runs away again, making the jarring pace of their fights even more irritating.

The other major part of Indivisible's gameplay is its platforming and exploration, but unfortunately, both are generally mediocre. Ajna's movement out in the field is a bit too slow and stiff to be satisfying, and new abilities feel more uninspired than empowering. The platforming challenges within the levels themselves aren't necessarily bad, they're just mostly uninteresting and not particularly fun to overcome. Disengaging platforming is okay in small amounts, but there's a lot of it throughout Indivisible, and it will start to wear on you eventually. The relatively small size of the world itself means that there's also a lot of backtracking involved, and yet there's really just one kind of secret to discover even when going back through old areas with new abilities. Ringsels (the game's only upgrade material) are spread across the world in various places, and any hidden area is almost certain to lead to this same collectible.

Indivisible Game Screenshots

The game's plot has a few more redeeming qualities, even if it feels slightly under-cooked and adolescent. The storytelling reflects a lot of the trappings of a typical shonen anime: Ajna's fighting spirit, the strength of her friendships, and overcoming self-doubt to push her power level ever higher (and discovering new godlike transformations). Nonetheless, Ajna goes through an interesting arc of emotional and spiritual growth over the course of the game, but I won't get into spoiler territory. The writing itself drifts between charming and childish, with genuine moments of humor and tenderness between characters juxtaposed by sometimes cringe-worthy dialogue and voice acting. Not all of the voice work is rough - many characters are very well done, in fact - but the delivery or shrillness of others can be hard to ignore. Many of your party members also end up underdeveloped, though that's not exactly surprising given the sheer number of playable characters in the game and that fact that many of them are optional.

Indivisible has the building blocks of an excellent game; those blocks just don't come together quite as well as one would hope. Thankfully, this is only the first step for Indivisible - the passion behind this game is evident, and Lab Zero's history with Skullgirls shows how it will support a game well into the future and fulfill the desires of its fans. With planned updates and content already being worked on, it probably won't be long before Indivisible crosses over into greatness.

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Indivisible is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, GOG, Linux and Mac for $39.99. A Steam code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
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