TGS 2023: Hands-On with The Invincible, STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl

While some games shown at TGS 2023 are recent announcements, others have been a while in the making. We had the chance to try two such games during our time on the show floor this year: The Invincible and STALKER 2: Shadow of Chornobyl. Both had promising qualities to them, but one wonders if either will realize its full potential come release day.

Starting with Starward Industries’ The Invincible, this game was originally announced back in 2020 with release targeted for sometime in 2021. Obviously that didn’t happen since we’re still waiting for it, but fortunately that wait will be ending in November.

As for what The Invincible actually is, it’s basically a retro sci-fi tale based on the book of the same name by Polish Author Stanislaw Lem. The basic setup is that the player character is sent to investigate a crashed starship on the planet Regis III. It’s supposed to be a routine job, but things quickly take a turn for the dangerous and unexpected.

The Invincible - Robot
The demo shown at TGS 2023 appeared to give players a chance to roam around the area shown in last year’s gameplay trailer. All the low-tech tools could be fiddled with, notes could be gathered, observations made and strange visual flashes experienced. It all sounds cool in theory, and perhaps it all will be in the full game. In the demo, however, it all came across as obtuse, slow and overly mysterious.

No clues were given regarding what each tool actually did. No information about the objective was available and the player character moved at a frustratingly slow pace. The planet and all the dressings were interesting, but without clear directives and proper movement, one fears that the experience will get old quickly.

As for STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl, it’s looking like the core is solid at least. The Zone’s rundown, dilapidated remnants of human civilization have never been rendered better, and the various anomalies that plague it are every bit as intimidating and foreboding as a fan could hope for.

Stalker 2 - anomaly tunnel
It actually gets downright scary when psy-storms roll in and send them all into a frenzy. Spatial distortions expand and swirl, while fiery anomalies multiply and start spewing lava instead.

More than that, the storms send everything and everyone running for shelter, so players can very well end up faced with a whole group of bandits or mutated creatures who’d decided to take cover in the same building.

Free roam is highly emphasized in STALKER 2, as is freely choosing and completing objectives as one sees fit. The Zone is a serious place, though, so players must get into the habit of not just jumping into firefights while also treating everyone as a threat until they prove otherwise. All that said, it is looking like more dev time is needed.

The Invincible - Regis III landscape
Some controls were still kind of clunky in feel. Certain screens like the looting screen required some experimentation in order to close them successfully, and what each marker on the map actually was was hard to discern.

Fortunately, none of these are core issues, and there’s plenty of time for GSC Gameworld to get them resolved before the game releases sometime next year. It’s looking to be in a stronger position than The Invincible overall, but here’s hoping both games turn out to be fantastic experiences in the end.

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