Stanislaw Lem will finally get his rightful place in the world of video games. Invincible by Polish studio Starward Industries will be released in 2023. I’ve already played an early version of this production and asked the developers about it, and I know there’s a lot to look forward to.
The fact that it took so many years for a game development team to create a game based on Lem may be surprising, but it also is very, very awesome. Lem’s books – unlike many other sci-fi ones – focus more on reflection on humanity and philosophical disputes than action, which would arguably be easier to translate into gameplay. Nevertheless, the Krakow-based Starward Industries studio has picked up the gauntlet and will try to prove that Lem is not only worth reading, but also playing.
You surely already know that they are making a game based on a book by the master from Lviv – we wrote about it a few times and even visited the studio to chat with the devs. Due to the courtesy of Starward Industries we meet again – this time, the developers have provided us with a piece of playable code and I have already had the opportunity to see what’s what in The Invincible. What you will find below are my impressions, but I also didn’t waste the chance to ask the developers a few questions again, as the demo whetted my curiosity, and, most of all, my hope for a really good, interesting role-playing game.
Here we are in space
People dealt this fate to people
The demo consisted of two stages, fragments of which you might have already seen in the trailer, but not everything was revealed back then. These are not stages from the very beginning of the game, as evidenced by the fact that the main character – Yasna – already has some knowledge about the secrets of the planet called Regis III. We can also quickly learn that she doesn’t belong to the crew of the Invincible, nor the Condor. To dramatize the story even more, Starward Industries tells the story of a different mission – so we can presume that during the game, we will come across traces of previous expeditions, and maybe even manage to meet them. The introduction of the third ship/crew into the story is so significant, however, that I asked Marek Markuszewski, project lead and CEO of Starward Industries, about it:
The Invincible resembles the cherished Firewatch from the very beginning – only with more beautiful and modern graphics and introducing some incredibly immersive animations. The first impressions are really fantastic – we stand in the middle of a desert gorge, the wind blows the sand from high rocks, and the atmospheric, minimalist music fuels the atmosphere of mystery and adventure. When we look up, we see a beautiful, alien sky. It looks just like I imagined this unlucky planet when reading the book in my youth.
In the first of the available fragments of the game, we tracked a lost convoy – we didn’t know exactly whether it’s a convoy of our mission or not – the fragment was supposed to familiarize us with the mechanics of the game, rather than reveal what the Invincible will be all about. At the beginning, we see a vehicle that we can enter, and even start it to ride for a while. We can also choose a detour route and climb some rocks. Finally, we reach the convoy, where we conduct a brief investigation using two tools – a detector that allows tracking people, and a device that allows to look underground. Both these tools, as well as all the machines and vehicles we encounter in the game, have a nice, analog, retro-futuristic vibe and design (as befits Lem).
This design design perfectly fits the convention of Lem’s book, where, instead of digitization, we were dealing with heavy, oiled machines and analog equipment. Instead of themes from modern, hackneyed films, books and SF games, we get a vision of the future that harkens back to the older sci-fi. I asked where the developers drew inspiration from when inventing these unusual devices.