In a few short years, Klei Entertainment has earned a reputation that’s the envy of any developer. A company that pairs stellar art direction and animation with tight controls and a keen understanding of game mechanics, its quality output – N+, Shank, Mark of the Ninja, Don't Starve – speaks for itself.
Invisible Inc. is Klei’s first foray in to the exacting world of turn-based strategy, and it has succeeded where even respected veterans have stumbled.
In the not-too-distant future, the world is run by the corporations. Untethered from morals and working under their own governance, they vie for power with no regard for anyone or anything. Invisible Inc. provides unique incognito information acquisition services to these mega-corporations, but after being targeted for extreme downsizing, the surviving agents have only 72 hours to locate a new server for their advanced AI, Incognita, before she goes offline permanently.
By lifting and mixing the best parts of Syndicate, Splinter Cell, and XCOM, Klei has managed to create something familiar yet totally unique with this stealth-focused isometric strategy game. You control your team of agents as they infiltrate various locations across the globe in order to secure the resources you need to strike back against corporation forces.
How you tackle each of the randomly-generated locations is completely up to you, but the more noise you make, the more foes and security measures you will have to contend with. Anyone familiar with XCOM or similar should feel right at home with Invisible Inc.
Each member of your team has a limited number of action points that can be used to move, hack devices, subdue foes, set ambushes, and crack vaults in order to steal secrets, intel, or credits. You need to not only be careful, but also expedient. Taking more time to collect more credits may gain you vital resources in your fight against the corporations, but it may mean failure of the mission when security forces close in.
However, failure is always an option. This risk/reward dynamic affects all aspects of the game, although time is the one resource you cannot generate, and a 72-hour time limit is constantly ticking down.
Each of your agents has a unique set of skills that range from short term invisibility to remote hacking to specialised combat skills. Agents can also be further augmented to improve their skills. Taking time to learn how best to use each agent and their abilities is the key is to success, as not only are you limited by your available action points, but by an ever-increasing alert level within the location.
Unlike XCOM, the focus is on stealth, so while you can attack enemies, doing so increases the risk of discovery. This also means you can split your team up to more efficiently complete mission objectives as all going well there will be no need for a fire-fight.
Your primary tool throughout the entire game is Incognita itself. A powerful hacking interface, Incognita allows you to hack cameras and terminals, unlock doors and vaults, and override security measures within a location’s network. Each interaction will cost Power to complete, and this resource – much like time – is limited, although you can generate some each turn, and by hacking certain devices within each mission.
The final goal is to confront the forces that almost destroyed you at the very start of the game, and how well this conflict goes for you is contingent on how well you have leveraged your time and resources within the 72 hour time limit. This limit can feel arbitrarily constraining, but it does a great job of keeping tension high, and also provides plenty of replayability.
As with every Klei game, Invisible Inc. is beautiful. The art style is crisp and clean, animations are smooth, and there is not one visual detail that has been overlooked. Movement grids are always clear but never obtrusive, and the same goes for awareness cones and path indicators. The cartoonish cyber-noir aesthetic is some of the art team’s best work to date.
In short, it's another beautiful, addicting game from a developer renowned for beautiful, addicting games. Klei has done it again.