I’m not much of a superhero person. While I appreciate the types of stories you find in something like Marvel’s Spider-Man, they don’t do a whole lot for me. I do, however, enjoy visual novels, so when the chance came to check out Invincible Presents: Atom Eve from developer Terrible Posture, I was curious to see how those two conflicting interests might resolve themselves in this ambitious take on two established formats. And I’m glad I did. Atom Eve sticks to some predictable superhero tropes, but there’s a heartfelt story at its center and an innovative blend of RPG elements that give it a unique identity compared to other visual novels.
The hero type
My lack of Invincibles knowledge put me at a slight disadvantage early in Eve’s adventure. Terrible Posture’s RPG novel opens in media res as Eve faces off against Killcannon, a supervillain immediately marked as the type of buffoon who shows up just to get pummeled, not unlike Jessie and James from the Pokemon anime. Killcannon’s super death laser loses its Wi-Fi connection, which gives Eve time to throw us into a flashback designed to set up the story’s emotional core.
It also helps ease newcomers like myself into Eve’s world. While I still had very little idea who these people were or what their significance to each other was until I browsed a series wiki, it didn’t really matter. Atom Eve gives you just enough of a glimpse into Eve’s personality and relationships with her family and friend-slash-love interest Rex that it’s hard not to feel invested in what’s going on.
Those personalities and the way they’re written are what makes this scene and the entire game work so well. Teen and school stories developed a poor reputation for their limited scope and subject matter that applied only to a small target audience. While that reputation isn’t entirely unearned, the good ones try harder to be meaningful. They go beyond just commiserating with teenagers and try to say something about universal emotions and situations that people of all ages experience, or, if they don’t have anything new to say, they at least create sympathetic stories that people can relate to.
Atom Eve falls into that second category. It doesn’t attempt to deliver a profound emotional message, but it doesn’t have to, either. Underneath the superhero bravado and frequent quips, Atom Eve is a refreshingly sincere and heartfelt story about a young woman who struggles with loneliness, distant parents, and a feeling of detachment from a world that seems like it doesn’t have a place for her. Eve, her friends, and her enemies fall into the usual tropes you’d expect from a hero story, but there are enough glimpses of original personality and thoughtful relationships between characters that it’s easy to overlook the more trite moments, even if you aren't already a fan of the franchise.
That’s not to say Terrible Posture made Atom Eve a melancholy or even especially introspective story. It still has the hallmarks of a superhero tale, with big battles and even bigger stakes, posturing villains, and impossible victories in the nick of time. It just knows how to balance these with something more interesting and honest as well.
In these and other moments, Atom Eve tasks you with choosing how Eve responds. You can sass the mysterious robot who asks you to join a secret society or respond with sincerity. Eve can embrace her non-super Samantha self more often and let people know her vulnerable side or trample on everyone and pursue what she wants and only what she wants. There’s a surprising amount of variation in how scenes unfold depending on what choices you make, and while I can’t say for sure how they all influence the endings, having only played through twice, your choices do at least feel important and lend each playthrough a unique tone and style.
Terrible Posture also lets you feel more attached to the choices you make by tying some of them to Eve’s skill tree. Eve levels up after certain encounters or winning a battle, and each new level rewards you with a skill point to invest in one of Eve’s three skill branches. Most of these are the usual RPG fluff – extra health, more powerful attacks, and so on – but a few give Eve new ways to respond in conversations.
The combat skills are still enjoyable, even if they don’t open as many avenues for creativity and choice. That Atom Eve even has a combat system is impressive in itself, even more so considering Terrible Posture made it an innovative one. The few visual novels that do feature battles typically stick to traditional turn-based or tactical styles with a few variations. Atom Eve creates a new twist on the skill point concept with energy and gives Eve a respectable repertoire of offensive, defensive, and support skills.
Energy is at the center of every battle. Eve regains some every turn and uses it to fuel her skills, some of which benefit from Eve waiting and saving more energy than usual. It strikes a solid balance between planning and action, and even though some of the tougher battles stretch on for a bit too long, I appreciated the effort put into making Atom Eve’s battles feel robust and fresh.
Invincible Presents: Atom Eve didn’t change my views on superheroes. I don’t think I’ll start following the Invincibles comics or even seek out more of Eve’s other adventures. I will, however, still be playing Atom Eve to find every interaction and see how Eve’s story changes with my choices with the hope that this isn’t the last such effort we see from Terrible Posture.
This review is based on a digital copy of Invincible Presents: Atom Eve provided by the publisher. Atom Eve is available now on PC via Steam.
- Thoughtful story and character development
- Ambitious blend of genres
- Fresh take on established combat systems
- Sometimes predictable story
- Characters can feel tropey
- Skills are underused and favor generic stat upgrades too heavily