The latest project from Italian developer Bad Seed, Insidia is a tactical turn-based game that pits two teams of four against each other in combat. Players will attempt to claim victory through the use of special abilities, laser cannons, and clever maneuvering, but what starts as an exciting prospect eventually turns into a slow-paced trudge for the goal.
To defeat your opponent in Insidia, players must destroy an enemy’s power core, which will give them access to their stronghold. Then a single character needs to move to the enemy base and sabotage it to win. Controlling the cannon at the center of the field for three turns will destroy a power core, but re-summoning a previously fallen hero also will destroy the force field-like cores. All of this is easier said than done, which should give you an idea of how long a match might take.
With the recent popularity of hero-based shooters and MOBAs, it’s easy to see where Insidia draws its inspiration. The game currently features 10 characters categorized into five classes, and this is where its problems start. With only 10 characters, four of which are classified as assassins, Insidia doesn’t feature enough variety to keep the game entertaining. In my time playing the game, most of the opponents I faced used the single tank-class character, and the ones that didn’t were at a large disadvantage. The four assassins focused on dealing heavy damage, but were incredibly fragile. Fighters were certainly bulkier, but could not take as much punishment as the tank. Support characters were meant to prop up another hero, giving them extra health or damage. The sole specialist hero was named for his ability to add minion-like tendrils to the playing field, which makes the character unique thus far.
In addition, due to the turn-based nature of the game, and the lack of any world-building, the characters are reduced from sympathetic heroes to chess pieces with some special attacks. Even in the characters’ profiles, the multi-paragraph stories might as well be fan fiction for all they contribute. The only place their lore is dealt with is in their character bios, without a single mention of their history during matches. Their stories don’t need to be referenced ad nauseam, but voice lines, special animations or other personal quirks would serve to flesh the characters out.
Battles are the core of Insidia, but they unfortunately suffer from a slow pace. This is due to the way characters’ abilities work; each character has an active and ultimate ability, but everyone also has a passive ability which is only in effect when you aren’t using that character in your current turn. Therefore, if each player has all four characters up, then a single movement and action turns into a conga line of active and passive abilities. For instance, both active characters would take their turn, then each of the six characters would, one by one, use their passive abilities. One character charges ahead, another scans the field ahead of her for enemies to shoot, one support will heal an ally they’re tethered to. Taken individually, these animations are relatively short, but as a whole, watching them after every round of a 20-round match is mind-numbing. It’s intentionally designed that way due to the importance of turn order, but it ultimately slows every match to a crawl.
The slow pacing robs game-changing moves and even victories of a truly triumphant feeling. I found myself turning a match around more than once, but instead of a decisive victory, it seemed more that the match was slowly tilting in my favor. Instead of feeling like I had made good plays, it felt like a few smaller moves worked out for me and doomed my opponent to losing. Normally, this indicates good balancing from a gameplay perspective, where players could recover from certain mistakes, but in Insidia, it seems like even a fatal error could be ignored in the grand scheme of the match. This is okay in some cases, especially in a tactical turn-based strategy game, but the inclusion of ultimate abilities seems counterintuitive. For example, the tank’s ultimate ability makes him completely impervious to damage, which is good for controlling the cannon, and can help turn the tide of a fight. The sniper can channel a shot to deal 10 damage to her target, a one-hit kill to anybody except the tank. These sorts of abilities should spell certain doom for your opponent, but more often than not they’ll shrug it off and prolong the fight further by simply resummoning their character. This only contributes to the feeling of slowness, where a game that should be decided will continue on for too long.
In addition to the game’s slow pace, it also lacks clarity. Even after running through the tutorial, I was left with a lot of questions. Most of those questions were eventually answered as I played, but even now some rules are unclear to me, such as when players are and aren’t penalized for reviving a character. Maybe the rule was explained somewhere within the game other than the not-so-helpful tutorial, but if it was, I had no idea where to look.
I mentioned earlier in my review that Insidia appears to draw inspiration from games like DOTA 2 and Overwatch, among others. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the shop, where you can buy heroes to supplement the four you start with, or hero skins, much like Overwatch or Heroes of the Storm.
Players can also buy diamonds, which cost real money. At the time of this review, 1100 diamonds costs 9.99 USD, but nothing in the game costs 1100 diamonds. There are two skins available for 1050 diamonds, and the rest can be purchased with in-game currency. Players can also spend 250, 450, or 1050 diamonds on experience boosts, with the most expensive option being the most cost-effective. With only two skins and experience boosts on offer, I wonder why microtransactions are in the game at all. Players who really enjoy the game and want to support the developer can shell out 24.00 USD for four skins and all the champions, current and future.
With a single stage, 10 two-dimensional champions, and a pair of songs constantly blaring through the main menu and matches, Insidia has very little to offer newcomers, a sentiment which seems to be common, considering how few players are currently active. Even though Insidia is free-to-play, time is money, and both are better spent elsewhere.
- Complex Tactical Gameplay
- Diverse Character Designs
- Passive Abilities Prolong Combat
- Matches Drag On Too Long
- Only One Map
- Characters Spread Too Thin Among Roles