Invisible, Inc. is an isometric, grid-based strategy game in a similar vein to 2012’s fantastic XCOM: Enemy Unknown, albeit with more of a focus on stealth, cyberpunk and making a ton of cash as opposed to fighting a desperate war against an overwhelming alien onslaught. In the game you take on the role of The Operator, essentially the person in command of Invisible’s agents when they’re out in the field. After your corporation is attacked you’re forced on the run, desperately infiltrating rival corporations as you attempt to survive and find a foothold in the world.
If there’s one word that can be used to describe Invisible, Inc. it’s depth. Klei Entertainment have crafted an incredibly deep game, and it’s a depth that permeates every part of the experience in Invisible, Inc. It starts from almost the very first screen that allows you to select and customise your difficulty. After a brief tutorial and an awesome, cartoon animated cutscene sets up the games story, you’re dropped at the difficulty selection. There are three standard difficulties, beginner, experienced, and expert, and there are also five advanced difficulties. It’s the bottom option of these advanced difficulties where things get really interesting.
When you generate a new campaign and you’re selecting the difficulty you want to play at, you’re given the option to customise your experience by customising the difficulty. Hidden just behind the custom difficulty tab are a mind-boggling twenty-three options for doing so. Invisible, Inc. gives it’s players complete control over their gameplay experience from the word go, and it’s absolutely brilliant. You can choose how big or small levels will be, how many guards will appear, how plentiful your starting resources will be, the difficulty of guard patrols, the number of safes, terminals…
Look, it’s an extensive list. It’s also your first taste of what I believe Keli Entertainment were aiming for when they were developing Invisible, Inc. Namely to craft an incredibly rich, deep and accessible tactical experience for anyone who plays the game. I know I’m going on and on about a single menu in the game, and I’ll get to all the other good stuff in a moment, but it’s worth pontificating over because it’s absolutely bloody brilliant. You’re in complete control of your experience in Invisible, Inc. If there’s something about the gameplay you don’t like, you can probably turn it off in the difficulty options menu next time you restart. It’s frankly amazing, and how I want all games to approach game difficulty from now on.
Once you’ve toyed around with the difficulty screen for as much time as you would a character creator in an RPG (or is that just me?), you’ll be given the option to select two agents from a pool of unlockable characters to form your agency, and the game will send you on your way. It goes without saying that each agent comes with their own perks and special abilities, and which agents are best for you is going to be dictated by your play style. Once again, something as simple as selecting your starting characters is done really well and has a big impact on your experience. You can tailor the game to suit your style of play here too.
Let’s get into the game itself. Invisible, Inc. will see you jetting around the world, infiltrating various corporate facilities for various reasons. The narrative will have you believe that you’re trying to find a home for your AI, who has 72 hours of emergency power left before shutting down completely. There are a wide variety of different types of missions available for you to select, each with their own objectives. You might decide to raid a corporate vault for some much needed credits, head to a detention centre to rescue a captured agent (and unlock the agent for use in future campaigns, as well as the current on), or go hunting for various weapons or upgrades for your agents. The list, once again, is extensive.
Once you’ selected a target you’re beamed into a procedurally generated level. Every level in Invisible, Inc. is procedurally generated, meaning that no matter how many times you play the game you’ll never encounter the same level twice. Room layout and configuration, guards, hazards, everything is entirely new each time you enter a level. You start in a small room with no idea what lies beyond its doors and must make your way to your objectives, in whatever fashion you see fit.
Due to the extreme amount of customisation in the game it’s quite difficult to discuss the actual gameplay in Invisible, Inc. Just know that most of the gameplay mechanics I mention going forward can be toggled on or off, or at least altered in some way according to your preferences, unless otherwise stated. I’m also not going to try not to go too in depth and spoil absolutely everything that you can do in the game, rather give as simple an overview as possible to convey what the game does right and why you should play it as soon as you’ve finished reading.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, Invisible, Inc. is all about depth, and this extends to the gameplay itself. There’s a great deal going on when you’re playing through a level, with many layers existing in the gameplay. First and foremost the actual playing of the game is excellent. There are two main layers to playing through the games levels; your agents and hacking. Your agents have a certain amount of action points per turn that they spend on movement, which is done in a similar manner to XCOM. You’ll be dashing from cover to cover, only rather than using cover as a means to decrease the likelihood of getting shot to ribbons, here it’s for making sure you’re not spotted.
Hacking is done via your AI, Incognita. By pressing space you’ll be given a wireframe layout of the level as you can see it, complete with all of the things that you can hack. This includes things like security cameras, safes full of credits or valuable items and equipment, power generators that fuel laser beam tripwires and security fields and much more. You’ll spend a lot of time using Incognita as she is absolutely vital to getting your agents safely through each level. You’ll have to be smart about how you use her though, because you have a limited supply of power (replenished through finding terminals scatted throughout the level) to hack through firewalls.
The depth of customisation options available to you in Invisible, Inc. seeps down to both your agents and Incognita. You can spend your hard earned credits improving one of four of your agents stats; speed, strength, hacking, anarchy, allowing them to move faster or siphon more power when hacking terminals, for example. At certain points in levels you may also have the opportunity to hack what are essentially shopping kiosks, allowing you to buy new weapons and items. You’ll also be able to upgrade both your agents and Incognita with upgrades to try and even the odds. There are a lot of upgrades to choose from and they all add interesting new dynamics to gameplay.
At it’s most basic, each level is about getting your agents safely to their objective, and then to the levels teleportation room for extraction. There are many, many wrinkles in between you and your goals however. As soon as you enter a level your intrusion is noted by the enemy, a counter begins, and the buildings security level starts increasing. Every five turns it will raise by one level and a new security measure is activated, ranging from new security cameras coming online to extra guards being beamed in. So while your instinct might be towards patience, the longer you stay in a level the more difficult that level is going to get.
You can KO guards if you successfully sneak up on them, however they won’t remain KO’d forever. Once they hit the deck a counter will appear above their heads denoting the number of turns they’ll remain unconcious. Once the counter reaches zero they’ll reawaken and, rather than determine that the wind must have knocked them out, will begin actively searching the level for your agents. You can keep them knocked out by pinning them, positioning an agent to stay on top of them, which can be helpful but means that agent will be entirely useless as long as they’re stationary. You can keep KO’ing them to continuously reset the timer but your weapon has a cooldown.
Invisible, Inc. is a game all about choice and consequence. Plans will constantly fall apart and you’ll be constantly adapting your actions on the fly, thanks to the ever increasing security level and entirely random layout of each level. The game will keep you walking a tightrope throughout your entire play time, one slight miscalculation can have heavy consequences. Downed agents can be revived using medigel, or can be carried to extraction, but if you can’t do either of these things then the agent is KIA and can’t be used again. Lose all of your agents and it’s game over, back to the difficulty menu to have another crack at it.
The story of Invisible, Inc. is incredibly simple. Your corporation was attacked and now you’re on the run with what little you managed to salvage. You have your jet, and your AI has 72 hours before she runs out of emergency power. You spend your 72 simulated hours jetting around the globe hitting various targets to improve your chances of seeing the next day, while looking for somewhere to plug Incognita in. Once you hit that 72 hour mark you’re taken to the final mission and, if you manage to complete it successfully, the game ends.
The games length is very problematic from the perspective of the campaign. Successfully getting through the 72 hours, which will likely take a few attempts, is very short. My first successful playthrough of Invisible, Inc. lasted about 2-3 hours in total. Missions are rated in difficulty from 1-5 and increase incrementally as you’re playing. The trouble is because of how short the game was I was still messing around with level 3 missions when I hit the 72 hour mark, and was immediately given the difficulty 5 final mission, which absolutely wrecked the difficulty curve and threw me into a level filled with challenges I hadn’t encountered before. “Beating” the game doesn’t really register as an achievement.
But that’s from a campaign perspective. In the grand scheme of things the length of the campaign doesn’t really matter too much as the game is designed to be replayed over and over again. The first time you get through the entire campaign the ending will feel incredible abrupt, and you’ll probably hit a bit of a spike in difficulty, but as soon as you finish up you’ll be prompted to start a new game. Thanks to the already well documented, mind blowing array of game customisation options there’s plenty of incentive to have another crack at the game. You’ll also have new unlocks you can try out.
Though replay value is what Invisible, Inc. relies on, and it has an immense amount of replay value, it still feels like the games main campaign would have benefited from being a lot longer and more involved. As it stands the story is more or less superfluous anyway. What little narrative actually exists in Invisible, Inc. is told through very brief inter-mission conversations and bookended by two fairly short cutscenes. After actually “finishing” the game I’d go so far as to say Endless mode, which removes the endgame of the campaign entirely, is probably how the game should be played.
Invisible, Inc. is fantastic, managing to blend together turn-based strategy and stealth gameplay in a way that’s accessible and enjoyable to fans of both, or either. While the campaign is a bit of a letdown in terms of story and length, there’s such an incredible scope for replay that you’ll probably start your next game as soon as you finish your last. As with the best turn-based strategy games you’ll constantly be playing “just one more turn” until 3AM on a work night. The level of customisation through the difficulty settings feels revolutionary, and is something I never realised I wanted until it was given to me. Klei Entertainment have struck gold yet again.