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PAX East 2014: Invisible Inc. – Now you see it

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A stroll through Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East 2014 would not have been complete without a visit to Klei to check out Invisible Inc. You may know Klei from their previous high-quality titles including Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve (expanding soon). Going into the convention, Invisible Inc. was high on my list of things that I planned to see, and I was not disappointed. Invisible Inc. is a retro-espionage themed turn-based strategy game, which places more of an emphasis on stealth than it does combat. Fans of 3rd person stealth titles, as well as turn-based strategy games, will find a lot to love here.

The game is currently in alpha, but it already has many of the elements you would hope to see, given Klei’s track-record and the description above: Secret agents? check, swanky spy-music? check, crisp looking art? check, a rich-tactical experience? check. I am admittedly a sucker for games that dabble in the retro-future, though unabashedly so. I totally geeked out, then, when developer Jason Dreger described the thematic style as “what if the ’60s had been carried into a cyberpunk future?” It’s a question I ponder, every day.

Let’s talk gameplay. In the build we played on the show floor (in addition to the early-access Alpha build I played immediately upon returning home) , I found myself learning how to break into a facility, avoid and neutralize guards, defeat security measures, and hack the planet (as the kids say). Admittedly, I was terrible at the expo demo, but the Alpha’s tutorial had me sneaking around with ease in no time.

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There are a couple of things about gameplay Invisible Inc. that immediately stand out: the first things is that your characters are clever, but not superhuman. Staying out of trouble is the key to success in this game, and more often than not you’ll enter a map without a weapon. I found a dart gun that shot tranquilizer rounds in one of the maps, which was more than equal to the task, at-hand. After all, killing people requires someone to come clean up the mess, so knocking them out is the way to go. There’s something highly satisfying about sneaking up behind an enemy to administer a stern judo-chop to knock them out.

The game also boasts a really cool hacking mechanic. Your agents can hijack enemy technology (Computer consoles, etc.) in order to earn CPU points. Clicking the Mainframe button on the UI convers the isometric-view into a cyber-grid, where CPU points are spent in order to disable enemy barriers, unlock vaults, and other tom-foolery. If you’ve played Shadowrun Returns or Gunpoint, Invisible Inc.’s mainframe interface is right there, in the pocket.

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Even in this early stage of development Invisible Inc. also borrows some great elements of traditional 3rd person action stealth games. Character can peek around corners and through doors, great for revealing the map, avoiding enemy contact, and identifying objects to hack into. The character I started with also has a light-step, but other agents make noise when they move, which means you do not need to be seen to be detected. There is also a mechanic in the game that predicts the path a known enemy might take… although it might not pan out that way. Strategy is the name of the game here, and it will only get better as the game moves into beta, and an eventual full release.

Want to help shape the development of the game and track its progress? You can get into the alpha now via humble-widget on the Invisible Inc. homepage, a deal that will net you two access codes (for you and a friend) as well as the game’s soundtrack (when finialized).

Scott

Hi, I’m one of the founders of Nerd Appropriate and the Rated NA podcast. I like good and bad sci-fi films and tv, pho, and the retrofuture. I am primarily an Xbox gamer, but also do some PC and Wii U gaming as well. By day, I am a research scientist, mostly in topics related to human-computer interaction and user experience. Before all this, fellow NA co-founder Matt and I played music together in various bands. I also used to make "comedy" videos for my high school morning news program before there was a place to post them online. Favorite Star Wars character? Admiral Ackbar. Best Bond era? Timothy Dalton (Craig a close second). Game of all time? Maybe System Shock 2. Thanks for being a part of this labor of nerdy love with us.