Following its purchase by Embracer Group, there's uncertainty around what direction Crystal Dynamics will go with its IP in the future. A new Tomb Raider title was recently confirmed, and Perfect Dark is being made alongside The Initiative, but the acquisition raises questions around how the company's design philosophy will change. Marvel's Avengers was a different approach for the developer, with a live service model that didn't do well enough to maintain a strong player base in the long term. It's clear that the California-based outfit is at home in the third-person action/adventure genre, and at the height of superheroes' popularity, there's one franchise it would be perfectly suited for.
Invincible is Image Comics' standout superhero epic, focusing on the development of Mark Grayson as the titular character. Protecting Earth while managing his teenage responsibilities take up much of the first few volumes, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that he is destined for far more than college deadlines and dead end jobs. Robot, Atom Eve, Oliver, and Omni Man are at the heart of the tale, and while all have sufficient time to shine, Mark is at the center of it all. Like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, he is complex enough to warrant enough attention for his own game. Crystal Dynamics' past, present, and potential future makes it a studio more than up to the challenge of adapting a character who is only rising in popularity.
Crystal Dynamics Needs Superhero Redemption
For all its buzz on release, Marvel's Avengers failed to live up to the lofty expectations as its unspectacular gameplay, performance issues, and uninteresting character models rendered it a largely disappointing experience. The property is more popular than ever thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there was a lot of potential in a game focusing on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but the reality was that it didn't reach the heights that it easily could, and probably should have. Updates have been frequent, yet 2021's Guardians of the Galaxy showed that an ensemble-based title can wield a gripping story, high production value, and satisfying gameplay. Marvel's Avengers wasn't good enough, but Crystal Dynamics has the talent to excel in the superhero genre, and Invincible would be a suitable way to achieve redemption.
While his laundry list of abilities is seemingly endless, Invincible is a character who is far more than the sum of his parts. He has a depth that can be explored by Crystal Dynamics, as the company did well to show Lara Croft's development from curious adventurer to deadly predator. Mark Grayson starts off as a naive, excited teenager, but over the course of 144 issues develops into a well-rounded, morally complex man that wears his near-unlimited power on his sleeve. Marvel's Avengers are known to millions, so it's hard to make them stand out uniquely. Mark Grayson is more obscure, and his limited exposure in other mediums outside the pages of comics means Crystal Dynamics can recreate his story in an innovative and exciting way.
Invincible is the Answer to Marvel and DC Woes
Marvel is making significant headway in the video game space with Insomniac alone working on both Spider-Man 2 and Marvel's Wolverine. DC Comics are more established on the medium, and upcoming titles Gotham Knights and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League show that It's yet to be overtaken by its rival company, but Image Comics is different enough in approach to feel truly unique in the games space. Invincible may seem like just another superhero property on the surface, but the way it approaches mature themes like violence, betrayal, familial disputes, and death are largely different to the way that any Marvel or DC game has handled them. Invincible is in the superhero genre that both the aforementioned publishers excel in, yet it's arguably better than many of their properties.
Robert Kirkman's works have been adapted in video games before, and to sublime results as 2012's The Walking Dead from Telltale Games was one of the best titles from that year. Crystal Dynamics is a wholly different company than Telltale, but offers the same quality of character development, and with Invincible being such a character-led property, it's a match made in heaven. Comics are such a diverse platform for plenty of great stories to be told, and Image's wide berth of series' are ripe for video game adaptations. The Walking Dead got its time to shine, and Invincible's rising popularity thanks to its Amazon Prime series makes it a suitable successor. Crystal Dynamics could use it to offer something new to rival the Marvel/DC dominance.
Invincible Fits Crystal Dynamics' Gameplay Model
While Crystal Dynamics has dabbled in a litany of properties that each differ in visual style, tone, gameplay, and storytelling, the niche that the company occupies is typically third person action/adventure titles. From Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver to the plethora of Tomb Raider offerings, the developer has done well to craft memorable experiences that feel character-focused thanks to a third-person perspective. Invincible unfolds in a way that places Mark Grayson's development at the forefront, with side characters sprinkling in all-important context when needed. Any Invincible project wouldn't work in first-person, as Mark himself is too complex for players to project themselves onto.
Epic set-pieces is an area that Crystal Dynamics rivals even Naughty Dog in, as Lara Croft's exploits in the Survivor Trilogy are littered with tense action scenes like her desperate escape from the cave in the 2013 title and the tsunami that opens Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Invincible will require moments of a similar magnitude, being that Mark's story is far from tranquil. Epic fights with Viltrumite enemies, cities being destroyed by evil forces, and story beats that take the titular character to space are common occurrences in the series. Crystal Dynamics has all the tools needed to truly capture the Invincible magic, and Kirkman's superhero epic is more than ready for the jump to video games.