Not too long ago, I could never have imagined a role-playing platformer game; the two genres just don’t seem to fit together in any logical way. Fortunately for all of us, the good folks at Lab Zero Games, the creators of Skullgirls, have more imagination than I do, and thanks to a successful Indiegogo campaign, have created a gorgeous, genre-shattering platformer action RPG. I got to sit down with a very early build of the game during Anime Expo to experience the gameplay in all its jumping, sliding, wall-climbing, boss-smashing glory.
This early build was not yet equipped with story elements, serving more as a proof of concept for gameplay than a full RPG experience. The demo begins without ado as Ajna, the game’s tomboy protagonist, girds up her skirts and takes to running across the lush, painterly, side scrolling landscapes, bursting through an old fence and diving head-first into her first battle. As in most platformers, it behooves you to not blindly run into enemies but rather to engage them with a flying leap, palm strike or quick kick, which will give you more initiative upon entering battle
There’s no squashing Goombas flat in this game; upon colliding with an enemy, Ajna and her party enter into combat, shifting the gameplay into something more akin to a time based strategy RPG. With up to four party members, each character is assigned a face button, and can attack as long as they have initiative, which is indicated by colored pips which fill over time and empty with each action.
Rather than selecting from a menu of skills and attacks, Indivisible has made combat incredibly quick by giving each character three attacks: A basic attack triggered by using their assigned button, a second attack triggered by holding up while pressing their button, and a third attack which is triggered by holding the down button and pressing their button. Ajna is assigned to the far right button, and pressing it causes her to do a single attack, while holding up and pressing A triggers an area of effect attack. Ginseng and Honey, a girl and what appears to be her sentient pet root, work together as one character, and in my demo, were assigned to the bottom button. Their basic attack heals the team, while their up attack does damage to a single enemy.
Enemies tend to telegraph their attacks, and blocking is as easy as holding down the character’s button, or pressing the trigger button, which causes the entire team to guard themselves. Doing damage builds up a special meter, which is shared by the entire team. You can unleash the special of any character by holding the R1 button and pressing their corresponding face button. Ajna’s ultimate heals the entire party, while Ginseng and Honey show their stuff by slamming enemies with a giant mortar and pestle. Battles are incredibly dynamic, quick, and easy to play, though the fact that there’s quite a lot to keep track of makes mastering this kind of gameplay a challenge.
Because I categorically suck at most platformers, I was very worried about my ability to even play to the end of the demo, but these fears were entirely unfounded. The controls are easy, intuitive, and do not adhere to the harsh platformer rules which I learned from the original Super Mario Bros. Ajna easily leaps from wall to wall without having to use directional commands and without perfect timing, and Indivisible is delightfully free of spikes and death traps lurking at the bottom of pitfalls. The world expands as Ajna gains new abilities and weapons; once I got my hands on the axe, I was able to use it to scale walls and access new areas, a mechanic which, if used correctly, could offer a great deal of replayability to any given level.
I was incredibly impressed by Indivisible, especially given that it is such an early build. Devs furiously scribbled down notes as I played, explaining what mechanics were likely to change, which ones were controversial within the team, and explaining what the story will be like, once implemented. I was delighted to hear that playable guest characters are coming as free DLC post launch, including Shantae, Shovel Knight, and much to my delight, Calibretto from the upcoming Battle Chasers: Nightwar, and several more. With great controls, compelling and forgiving mechanics, and a gorgeous look, there really is a lot to be excited for in Indivisible. Indivisible will be available in 2018 for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and on Steam. Indiegogo backers will be receiving a special backer demo soon, while those of you who missed out can head over to the Indivisible Steam page to learn more about the game and play the free demo.