At the tail end of November, the Polish game studio Starward Industries, still in its infancy, debuted a game trailer for their upcoming release The Invincible. The game, which is based on the novel of the same name by noted hard science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, appears to be done in the kind of retro-futuristic style popularized by games such as the Fallout franchise and the dark horse indy hit We Happy Few.

However, in researching The Invincible, and given how very little we currently know about the game’s story and mechanics, I have developed some theories that could make this otherwise unusual little independent release far more interesting. Rather than the shared aesthetic with its genre mates being a selling point for this title, which is set to release on Steam in 2023, this game could potentially have far more in common with an entirely different type of game in its aesthetics and composition.

Some may look at this game and see the next Fallout—I look at this game, and I see a potential for it to be the next Undertale.

The trailer showcases what appears to be a documentary style look at the planet Regis III, providing backstory with regards to the planet’s potential for supporting life, a lack of evidence to indicate the presence of said life—and a chilling swarm that ends the one minute piece to indicate that suppositions regarding a lack of life on the planet may be premature. Paired with the simplistic information that’s available on the game’s story: that of a sci-fi thriller that will take players to Regis II, where they will have to search for the missing crew of a previous expedition, and it doesn’t seem like anything revolutionary.

A closer look at the source material, however, reveals all manner of fascinating speculation for this upcoming release.

The fact that this is a game based on the works of Stanislaw Lem alone makes it an oddity: a writer of hard science fiction and many essays on philosophy, futurology, and literary critcism, Lem was a prolific writer in the genre. Noted critic and writer for Star Trek: TOS, Theodore Sturgeon, cited Lem as the most widely read science fiction writer in the world back in 1976. The fact is, Lem was a prolific writer in the genre, but had a very strained relationship with American science fiction as a result of his opinions of the genre and some controversial perceptions of his status by its organizations in this country. His works, while respected and widely circulated, have very rarely been adapted into other mediums.

However, Starward Industries—founded by former members of CD Projekt RED—has not only chosen to adapt his work, but chosen The Invincible as the subject of such adaptation. The plot of the novel is much what we know will be the plot of this game: the heavily armed spacecraft Invincible is sent to Regis III to investigate the disappearance of its sister ship, Condor. The swarm witnessed in the game’s trailer is likely that of the novel’s ‘necrosphere,’ a name given to the robotic form of quasi-life that is found on the planet. Consisting of microscopic machines with simplistic intelligence that have evolved into a part of the planet’s fauna, individually or in small groups they are relatively harmless. However, in larger collectives, they are capable of self organization that allows them to respond with overwhelming power and speed when presented with a threat.

This is where, when speculation takes over, the game could become truly fascinating if it adheres to the plot of the novel with even minor attention to detail. In the book, the threat presented by the necrosphere is overcome by simply avoiding violence. When the microrobots are perceived as a threat, attacks of increasing aggression and violence don’t present any results. In the end, missing crew members are located and confirmed to be dead through the masking of one crewmember’s brainwaves, and a simple lack of aggression in entering the territory held by the necrosphere.

While Undertale made a name for itself as a groundbreaking PC title due to the method with which it questions the violent mechanics and tropes of the traditional video game RPG—killing monsters in order to progress the story and the action—The Invincible has the potential to do something similar in a manner that would likely earn the approval of Lem himself. This game bills itself as a sci-fi thriller, which in most cases brings to mind a similar mechanic: the discovery of a monstrous alien entity that must be destroyed. While the story of The Invincible does allow for a win/loss scenario where an adversary is “defeated,” so to speak, it not only allows for the survival of that adversary, but encourages it. The crewman who successfully navigates the necrosphere petitions for its conservation as he finds it fascinating as an example of artificially created life that has been so well integrated into the ecology of a planet that it cannot be removed or destroyed by anything less than a method that would effect planet-wide trauma.

Should the gameplay mirror the original novel, and possibly replicate some of its moral questions, The Invincible could prove to be a fascinating contemporary to the fantasy of Undertale with its hard science, retro-futuristic style, and philosophical counterpoint to Undertale’s whimsical, DOS-throwback aesthetic, and its intensely emotional point of view. Like Undertale, the story of The Invincible allows for a True Pacifist ending if the necrosphere is handled not as an intelligent adversary, but as the piece of man-made fauna that it is: animal life that, if not faced with aggression, will not respond in kind. This comes not as a result of emotional involvement, but of scientific objectivity. If the player is provided with the right information, they can truly choose how to behave within the game.

Again, this is all pure theory and speculation. We don’t know for sure what’s coming in 2023, however I know that I’m curious enough to get this on my Steam wishlist ASAP.

If there’s another gaming revolution on the horizon, I’m filled with the determination to embrace it with an open mind and all the relish of hard scientific inquiry.


Elizabeth Carlie
Elizabeth Carlie

Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.