You know, I try not to include much economic or political commentary in my reviews. However, I definitely do think games should include topics like politics. These things affect our day-to-day lives whether or not people want to hear about them. And when writing about an absurd socio-economic comedy RPG card game like Invisible Fist, it’s difficult not to mention them.
Fight back against the Invisible Fist!
The game tasks the player with defeating the aforementioned Invisible Fist. The idea for this entity seemingly evolved from the “Invisible Hand” economic concept introduced by Adam Smith around 1759. The concept itself maintains that due to our own individual self-interested actions in the free market, the best interests of our society are unintentionally fulfilled. Unfortunately, thanks to late-stage capitalism, where the rich keep getting richer and the poor stay poor, this invisible force has turned extra nasty.
It is the player’s job to fight back. This is done by taking control of three varying characters. Each one represents the traditional Easy, Medium, and Hard modes present in other video games. Take control of either Jeff, a self-made multimillionaire, Rena, a middle-class university student, and Dian Hua, a warehouse worker.
Each person has their own interesting spin on combat, mainly due to the accompanying parameters that the player has to keep track of. The person I started as, Jeff, only has two parameters. His life, and his mental health state. Both are represented as bars, much like any other RPG. Every action that is taken affects these in different ways. Attacking the enemy makes Jeff’s mental health deteriorates, and being attacked reduces the health bar. Doing something like sleeping will restore each parameter. Unfortunately, all of these actions take up a varied amount of time to accomplish. With just 24 hours in a day and only a week to defeat the enemy, things can get hectic very quickly. Time management is essential.
Actions are executed using a card. Most cards are kept throughout the journey with a new card being available to choose after each day is done. Special cards can also be unlocked through various other means. The other playable characters are also unlocked by earning stars based on the performance in the previous person’s journey. As neither of the other characters has unlimited money like Jeff, they are considerably harder to succeed with. Whilst Jeff doesn’t have to worry about money, the others have to work increasingly more hours, wasting time and energy. It is a decent way to introduce a difficulty curve, whilst referencing real-world struggles.
Each character has plenty of randomized scenarios to fight through. This does keep the gameplay fresh but it makes the narratives quite nonsensical. There is a definite beginning and end of their story but everything in between is random. After a while, I just started ignoring the story. That is a shame because the developers did seem to put a lot of effort into writing.
It’s interesting that such a fascinating concept has been converted into a game, although it does fall slightly flat. Whilst the gameplay is engaging for the most part, it does eventually start to get repetitive. I’m not a huge fan of these card game-type combat systems, but that’s just my personal preference. There are plenty of tongue-in-cheek references to keep things spicy along with some comments and scenarios that admittedly cut a little too close to the bone.
My biggest issue with this game is the lack of a basic tutorial. When starting out, I had some trouble figuring out how to do certain things. For example, I didn’t know how to proceed to the end of the day and finish my turn. It wasn’t until I managed to activate a bare-bones help menu that I actually was able to proceed. A little tutorial or an in-game explanation of some of the more obscure mechanics of the game would have been helpful.
Socio-economic dark comedy
The game does succeed in making me feel quite uneasy at times. It is a pretty unapologetic critique of late-stage capitalism and creates some rather unsettling scenarios throughout. It is worth mentioning that there is content in this game that some people may find disturbing. Erotic content, offensive symbols, substance abuse, as well as the questionable portrayal of mental health issues. To name a few.
Personally, I think we need more games like this. It helps us turn a more critical eye on many of the issues of our own world. With such a specific tone of voice about a slightly obscure concept, I can’t say that this game is for everyone though. The jokes don’t always land. If you have a vague interest in economics and want a few unhinged laughs, then Invisible Fist may be just the game for you. As long as you don’t mind going through a bit of an existential crisis whilst playing.
Disclaimer: A code was provided for this game to aid in writing this review.
If you want to see a video version of this article, I’ve linked it below!