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I’ve been a big fan of Klei’s take on stealth ever since Mark of the Ninja. When Invisible, Inc. was announced, I immediately signed up to check it out. This time, instead of creating an action stealth game in the vein of Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid, they’ve produced a more tactical game – “stealth XCOM” if you will. Now that it’s at the point of a full release, I’ve circled back around to it in order to give Invisible, Inc. a proper review.
I introduced Invisible, Inc to EBongo on our YouTube channel, watch it here:
Invisible, Inc. is most easily described as the bastard child of Deus Ex and XCOM. You lead a team of agents with cybernetic implants and high-tech gear – both lethal and non-lethal – through a series of increasingly difficult infiltration missions. These missions are tied together with a story, wherein your spy corporation has been raided, giving you just 36 hours to regroup and strike back before all hell breaks loose.
Since this is an underdog story, you’re always against the ropes. Much like in XCOM, you’ve got to continually push forward, getting victory after victory, in order to succeed. The difficulty ramps up quickly, and your agents are always outnumbered.
Pro Tip Credits are at a premium for most of the game, and agent upgrades are both expensive and usually pretty limited in utility. Consider saving your credits for shopping, at least until the late game.
There are several different types of missions that you can attempt. Some give bonus credits, while others give you a chance at a special piece of gear or an augmentation for your agents. There’s also missions where you can expand your agent roster, or where you can score a vault key to unlock bonus loot in a later mission. The missions are laid out on a world map, which forces you to balance the amount of time it will take to get to a particular mission versus the potential rewards for completing it.
Pro Tip Sometimes, it makes more sense to take on a mission that’s close, even if you don’t really need what it offers. Every mission gives a chance to find more credits and buy better gear.
Tense Tactical Treachery
Regardless of what kind of mission you choose, the tactical portion of the game plays out pretty similarly. Your team of agents takes turns with the security forces of whatever corporation hideout you’re currently raiding. The agents must stay hidden at all costs – security forces will shoot to kill from long range with unerring accuracy.
That doesn’t mean you can’t strike back, though. If you manage to surprise enemies, you can usually zap their brains out for several turns. As long as you stay in the same square as them, enemies also stay “pinned” and won’t ever wake up.
There’s often a tradeoff with respect to what your agents are doing. Should they take out guards? Should they be exploring? Each agent also has unique augmentations and starting gear, which can add some variety to the decision making.
In addition to the physical combat, there’s also a digital war brewing. Your AI, Incognita, accumulates power and can trade that power for control over mainframe-connected devices. If a camera or drone is causing problems, you can hack it to change its allegiance. Alternatively, you can turn that power towards opening safes and rob the corporations blind.
Invisible, Inc’s campaign comes to an end after three in-game days worth of stealthy exploration. Ready or not, at the end of those three days you’ve got to assault the corporation stronghold. Luck and careful planning will yield victory, but win or lose you’ve got a chance to unlock new starting characters, Incognita programs, and so forth.
Pro Tip When the clock is about to strike midnight on the third day, you can pick one more mission regardless of how far away it is – even if you’ve got just 1 hour left, you can still travel halfway across the globe for your next choice.
The difficulty can sometimes be a bit uneven. On anything but the easiest difficulty, you’ve got to exploit every opportunity to grow more powerful in the early game, or you will quickly find yourself backed against a wall. The final mission in particular ramps up the difficulty several notches at once. If you’ve not prepared to deal with armored enemies, you’re going to be screwed.
Likewise, sometimes the random generation of levels can lead to uneven difficulty. If the objective and exit are near where you spawn, great! Otherwise, you might find yourself in a tight spot, spending multiple turns traipsing across the map, dealing with massive numbers of guards and other time penalties.
Past the core game modes, there are a wealth of configuration options to customize Invisible, Inc to your specifications. Most of the major difficulty settings can be tweaked to make the game easier or harder in whatever ways you choose. This adds a lot of replayability to the game, and I like the choices it allows for, although it is a bummer that most of the achievements are constrained to the core game modes.
Mod support via Steam Workshop is basically only for language packs, although I have to believe that at some point it will be opened up to allow gameplay modifications as well. The scripts are all in Lua and stored in a .zip file, so most of the game mechanics are yours to look through.
Invisible, Inc. is solid tactical stealth experience that benefits from a lot of replayability through randomly generated maps and custom game options. Although I enjoyed Invisible, Inc, I didn’t like it as much as Mark of the Ninja. Mark is certainly a high bar to clear, though.