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Exclusive Interview – Understanding The Invincible with Starward Industries


From the very first glimpse, we knew that Starward Industries were onto something good with The Invincible. And that turned out to be the case too as it launched on Xbox to critical acclaim at the end of 2023.  

We wanted to find out more about The Invincible, what prompted its creation and how Starward went about delivering it. Maciej Dobrowolski, CMO at Starward Industries was more than happy to tell us more. 

invincible landscape
Want to know more about The Invincible

Could you please introduce yourself. What is your role at Starward Industries and on The Invincible.

My name is Maciej Dobrowolski and I am the CMO of Starward Industries, responsible for introducing The Invincible to the whole, wide universe. Thank you for inviting me to the interview.

So sell it to us, why should gamers be playing The Invincible?

The Invincible is a retrofuturistic hard sci-fi adventure, where you play Yasna, a witty and determined astrobiologist sent on a scientific mission to the eerie planet Regis III. When your crew goes missing, you must use various atompunk devices to conduct research and find your crewmates with the help of your Astrogator on the radio.

During your emotional journey on Regis III you discover mind-boggling phenomena that force you to rethink everything you know about science, the universe and yourself. You are faced with difficult moral decisions, philosophical dilemmas, choices leading you to 11 different endings and the mystery of the Regis III that opens your mind to the possibility that the evolutionary pyramid does not end on human species.

So if you are a fan of deeply immersive adventures with engaging narratives set in breathtaking worlds and  if you dig a hard sci-fi vision presented in a retrofuturistic, atompunk design, The Invincible is made for you.

Out of the many sci-fi masterpieces by Stanislaw Lem, why choose The Invincible to base your game on?

It was a difficult choice to make, because Stanisław Lem wrote many iconic, hard sci-fi books that reshaped the minds of people from my generation. 

At some point we concluded that The Invincible was the best story to present to people who haven’t read any of Stanisław Lem’s works, because it’s very rich in philosophical contemplations packed in the compelling narrative full of emotional events. 

The worldbuilding is also exceptional, so we knew we’d have a lot of material to work with during the creation of Regis III, atompunk devices, machines and robots etc.

the invincible interview 1
Ready for some worldbuilding?

And running on the back of that, would you like to tackle any more of Lem’s work? Anything in particular stands out?

We would definitely consider it, given the opportunity. 

There are many exceptional works of Lem to choose from, like Solaris or The Star Diaries, that would add a great cultural value to a game. And perhaps we’ll come back to it one day. 

The visual design of the world and its machines has a very 1960’s feel. What references did you look at for that design influence?

We were inspired by various retrofuturistic designs from the 1960s: illustrations, book covers, primarily those by Chris Foss. We have also analyzed many historical, engineering blueprints, for example by Galina Balashova, and publicly available NASA documents that helped us create realistically looking, atom-powered technology of various types.

When designing the planet Regis III, what were your main goals? Which were the hardest parts to put in place?

Our main goal while creating Regis III was to design a planet that everyone would like to visit, with breathtaking landscapes to discover and research further. We also wanted people to feel somewhat wary of turning a corner, getting through the crack between rock formations, and traversing through caves. 

Regis III is as stunning as it is eerie, with its scenery looming over you or tight spaces that may feel claustrophobic. You have no idea what to expect and this feeling of uncertainty is what keeps you going, what makes you curious and excited about what there is to find on Regis III. 

It was definitely a challenge to create a subtle, thriller-like experience not only by using narrative means, but also through worldbuilding tools, and we have our art director, Wojciech Ostrycharz, to thank for that.

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A slow unveiling

Can you talk us through your favourite gameplay mechanics in the game?

I guess everyone in the team has their own favourite parts of the game, but for me what I like the most is the slow unveiling of the mystery itself. 

We achieved that through various individual mechanics, from exploration, investigation, and dialogue options too – after all, when you have choices in dialogue, you’re mind is engaged. You think “What would I do or say in this situation?”. This helps you be more immersed in the character, in the story. For a few hours you become you, but in someone else’s body. 

So to me, that’s what I really loved about our project and I feel my fellow colleagues did a great job with. The mystery slowly uncovering. 

Obviously, Lem’s book was a big inspiration, but did any other games play a part as an influence when making The Invincible?

There are a lot of games that inspired us both directly and indirectly when making The Invincible. I guess the first one is Firewatch, a fantastic mystery in which the player not only uncovers the secrets of the place they are in, but also how they share their own secrets with a character they haven’t seen, just heard over a radio. It’s amazing how close and intimate one can feel to just a person’s voice. Props must go to the actors, they did a fantastic job there. 

Alien Isolation is a title that struck a chord with us. This idea of being head-to-head with a strange lifeform that you don’t fully comprehend. Sure, our games genres differ, but that core idea, we loved it. 

What’s important? We strongly focused on seeking inspiration in culture, art, and cinema in areas such as art and storytelling. We aimed to achieve a powerful cinematic vibe.

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Seriously impressive aesthetics

The audio is very important in games like this and it’s that which was a real highlight for us. Can you tell us more about working with a composer and sound designer on The Invincible?

Our composer Brunon did a fantastic job with our musical soundscapes. I feel that his sounds complement our game’s world so, so well. The use of analogue sounding synths reflects the analogue retro-futuristic technology that you will find in our game’s world. 

The music has this feel of familiarity but also of unease, a feeling that’s mirrored by our main character. She’s lost, stranded even, on an unknown planet. At first things seem similar to what she knows, but as she keeps going deeper and deeper into the planet’s secrets, all that she knows starts to no longer make sense. And that feeling of uncertainty, that unease, I feel Brunon just captured it perfectly. He is one talented musician. 

It’s fair to say that The Invincible has a lot of dialogue. What was the experience of working with the actors like?

Only positive. All of our actors were professionals and not only did they play their roles perfectly, they also gave us great tips and advice on the characters themselves too. 

It’s one thing seeing your words on the script. Seeing them come to life with another person’s voice, well, that’s just magical almost. And I know that I might sound a bit dramatic when I say this, but when you hear that script spoken out, acted out, in and through the voices of the actors, it makes those words and scenes come to life. It all starts to look “real”. 

It was an exciting moment when we heard our characters speak for the first time. We all grinned. We felt like we were making a story.

the invincible interview 3
You really should be playing The Invincible

And finally, away from the works of Stanislaw Lem, if you could adapt any other book for your next game, what would it be?

I would gladly play a game based on the novel by the father of Polish science fiction, Stefan Grabiński. We have a whole shelf of literary inspirations, both Polish and foreign. Several titles are particularly close to my heart. We’re also fans of comic books, but that’s another story for another time perhaps ;).

Huge thanks go out to Maciej for giving us some time post launch of The Invincible in hope of understanding more about the game. 

You can take in our full review of the game right now. And you’ll find The Invincible on Xbox Series X|S via the Xbox Store. It’s also available to play on PlayStation 5 and PC. 

Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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