Polish sci-fi stunner The Invincible left a hell of a first impression when it was first announced back in 2020 (opens in new tab)—and that was just a handful of screenshots. At the PC Gaming Showcase this week, however, we finally got to see The Invincible’s rusted retro-future sci-fi in action.
Inspired by a novel of the same name by Polish author Stanisław Lem, developer Starward Industries’ game follows roughly the same plot, taking us to the dusty canyons of Regis 3 after crash landing there. It is a hostile, lifeless, wretched land, but you don’t need to face it alone.
After a short introduction, we’re placed in the space-boots of Dr. Yasna, behind the wheel of a delightfully retro eastern bloc space-car trudging through a dusty canyon. We’re on the trail of a missing convoy, finding their vehicles crushed and abandoned in the rocks, and we’ve got Novik on the radio to help guide us through the who, what and where.
What plays out is surprisingly reminiscent of Firewatch, using oddities in the environment to prompt conversations between Novik and Yasna as you explore the doomed convoy’s final resting stop. We clamber through the husk of their retro space van to find the team’s leftovers; first an antimat (a robot with devastating anti-matter laser that blasts huge tunnels into rock faces), then the remains of one of the crewmates and a robot helper still stuck in a programming loop.
It’s a refreshingly quiet, considered take on science fiction, letting you soak in desolate sci-fi vibes. All these robots, ships and loose tools have this great golden age aesthetic, even as they lay sleeping in the sand. Unfortunately, one of those rock-melting Antimats soon wakes up, making short work of the poor robot before turning its gaze on Yasna.
“This story may take place millions of lightyears away from Earth, but the issues you’ll face are not far from home,” Starward CEO Marek Markuszewski explains. “We think of ourselves as the prime species who conquered every piece of the biosphere. We lack humility toward the power of nature and evolution. The whole galaxy is our given right. Yet there are some places that don’t belong to us. There are places that are not meant for us at all.”
In a fun twist, Yasna gets one final dialogue choice before being instantly vaporised—a sign that perhaps we won’t be exploring Regis 3 from a single point of view. Lem’s original novel heavily centres on the idea of non-organic ecosystems, nanomachines and swarm intelligence, which we see briefly in the metallic flora that lines the canyon’s walls. But The Invincible also looks to explore the interpersonal conflicts of the stranded crew—even on this small scouting run there’s a strong sense that tensions are fraying.
I have a few concerns over the voice acting, which in this short snippet can come across a little cardboard. But The Invincible’s serving up a world of retro extraterrestrial style, and the promise of a Firewatch-esque drama unfolding on a lonely rock full of deadly secrets and desperate astronauts already has me hooked. If Starward Industries can pull it off, we might be in for something really special indeed.
The Invincible is due to release on Steam, GOG and the Epic Games Store sometime next year.
20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she’s not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it’s the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.