Invisible Inc. – Retro Futuristic Retro [Blog]

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Developed by Klei Entertainment

(Based on the Base Game, no DLC)

It’s been a while since I lost played a turn based/tactical style of game, and I’m glad Invisible Inc. was there to break that gap. A sleek presentation bundled with solid gameplay and a retro-futuristic/future-noir aesthetic that meshes perfectly with the whole experience.

There’s something about the sort of retro-y futuristic style that appeals to me on a deeper level. A common way to think about genres like steampunk, cyberpunk, and the like is to ask “what if the [X] era never stopped?” and expand history from there and it’s a fascinating thought experiment. However, Invisible Inc strikes to me as a less extending a previous era in history and more “what if the current era decided to move back to those eras?” In this way the entire aesthetic of the game, from trench coats to revolvers, the peeking mechanics, stealth system, corporations, all of this come together to make this beautiful and sleek mix of a future that has retrograded overtime to the past rather than one based on the past and developed further.

Many mechanics in games are placed in as necessities or capitulation to genre or the bottom line, which, while not necessarily a bad thing, often leads to dissonance. Here, though, most everything makes sense within the world and the game. Needing a new vault key every time one is used is one example. Of course the key would be a one time use, passwords change, the world is submerged in technology that keeps track of every little metric.

This feeling, perhaps an intentional theme, that you are always at the mercy of technology, makes this game feel particularly grounded nowadays when it might have felt more fantastical in the past. You are always dependent the technology you have at your disposal, both in game and in real life, and sometimes the tech is on cooldown at an inconvenient time.

As I said, though, I’m not quite sure if these themes were intentional or not, or at the very least as developed as I am making them out to be. This is based on the original game without DLC or mods, so it might have been improved on that front, but with how short the campaign can be, and the fairly abrupt ending, I get the sense that they didn’t have quite enough time or resources to fully flesh out the story/world as much as they would have liked. The love for the world and the characters ooze into the character bios (and wonderful voice-overs on said backstory) and all the little things like agent conversations at the beginning of missions, but these are all little hints towards a much bigger world that I wish we got more of.

But, then again, always better to leave them wanting more than getting less.

Sincerely,

~Tomer Braff

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