I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into with Invisible Inc. On one hand, the game promised a deep tapestry of lore and intrigue set in a futuristic world ruled by corporations and filled with hackers, military drones and assassins while on the other claiming to be a roguelike where you would lose constantly, crushed by the might of the corporations before you would finally have enough characters, skills and AI programs to finally win by the skin of your teeth. I’m not sure I got either of these because my first playthrough went pretty well, didn’t take that long and I still managed to win, uploading my AI into the corporation’s server. The game kinda expected me to retry on a harder difficulty, but I was left wanting for a reason to do so; Either from a gameplay or story perspective, I felt I was done with Invisible Inc. after that run.
The game starts promising enough, with the tutorial introducing the core gameplay mechanics of moving around, peeking around corners and doors and sneaking on enemies. Invisible Inc. is all about the sneaking. Your characters are extremely weak - they die in one hit - and most of them don’t even have the most basic of weapons. Worse than that are armored enemies that can’t be damaged by your basic weapons, so you really need to just stay out of sight. To make things more interesting, security slowly increases during the course of each missions, so you can’t just sit around and take forever, which is a touch I like. Your characters have four stats, speed, hacking, strength and anarchy, but I feel like besides speed and hacking, they haven’t been useful at all. Moving more tiles per turn and gaining more power for hijacking consoles is nice and all, but I never got to any point with strength where it mattered, and anarchy seems like a nice to have, unimportant one.
Each turn you get some AP which allows you to run around or peek through windows and corners. I find it a bit strange that opening doors or attacking doesn’t cost AP while looking at guards to discern their patrol routes or peeking through doors and corners does. You can go into full-on sprints during your turn, which makes noise that allows you to be detected easily and also prevents you from doing anything else, you can also go into overwatch mode to ambush guards and you can drag bodies around, which increases the cost of moving. You also have Incognita, an AI that can be used to hack doors, cameras and sometimes even guards. You need power to do pretty much anything and you get it through various means like a passive +1 program you start the game with or by hacking consoles found in the levels. A bit later in the game you encounter daemons; rogue programs that inflicts debilitating status effects when you hack certain things. This introduces some risk-reward to the hacking itself.
After the tutorial, you are thrown into the main plot of the game; corporations around the world have decided to band together in order to take down Invisible Inc. and you are going into hiding with your AI on backup power with only enough energy to last for three days. You have to make a team of two people - you start with Decker, a guy that can turn invisible and Internationale, a hacker with a long-range scanner that allows you to hack things from a distance. You unlock more characters as you go through the game, both by completing it and by failing it, but these two are a good starter set. They both have stun guns, which knock enemies out but need a few turns to recharge. You then have three days to try and complete as many missions as possible before your final showdown in the last corp building.
Along the way you’ll encounter more and more difficult enemies - large drones that can’t get knocked out, guards decked in special armor, cameras, noise detector, and all that. On your end, you’ll recruit new people, buy new programs and items and try to improve your stats between missions. I’ve found the progression a bit lackluster since the new characters I recruited didn’t even have weapons - and I couldn’t buy any - so they felt more like dead weight during missions. I managed to create a somewhat workable team, but some people just hacked or stayed behind to open doors while others felt much more capable. You die in one hit, but if you can carry your downed characters to the exit, they’ll recover.
The game is fairly generous - on beginner, at least, with rewinds, allowing you to redo a turn if you mess up. Sometimes you mess up too much and can’t rewind to a clean victory, but that’s part of the charm of the game, I guess. There are also full on ‘mission redo’ if you mess up too much, but I never had to use them. I got to the end of my beginner run and completed the last mission, a difficult mess with tons of cameras and guards in super powerful armor. Doing so put me at the victory screen with some experience gains and rewards unlocked. I didn’t want to restart the game at that point. I understand that if I had failed, I would’ve gotten some experience and would’ve tried again with a different team, but completing the game’s story and seeing that much of the gameplay made me feel like I had finished it. I kinda wish that something else would’ve happened once I hit that server and the game would’ve continued with the story going somewhere else, but no, the game is a three-day loop where you can fail and try again.
Invisible Inc. is fine. It’s not exactly what I wanted it to be. The core mechanics are interesting but I feel like I had seen everything the game had to offer extremely quickly and the story didn’t strike me as the kind that I would enjoy seeing over and over. It’s a fine stealth strategy game, but one run was quite enough for me.