It ain’t much, but it’s (dis)honest work
Although many things can be said about what 2020 has taught us, one clear lesson we’ve had in 2021 is in stocks and finances. The GameStop stock craze educated the uninitiated on short stocks, and the interest in Dogecoin has so far generally reinforced the idea of buying low to sell high (long stocks). For the average person, that’s all they really know — or even need to know — but investors, traders, and the like understand there are unseen forces that move the free market economy. An invisible hand, if you will. And if one could tap into that invisible hand, either to foresee market changes or manipulate them entirely to their will, then that’s their ticket to the moon.
Of course, The Invisible Hand doesn’t start you off with incredible gains — on the contrary, everything is in absolute chaos and likely on fire within the first few minutes of the game. Don’t worry about it, though. You always land on your feet, and your good pal Harper put in the good word for you at Ferios. The financial world is a little different in 2023, what with the aforementioned market crash and all, so you’re only being offered a paid internship for now, but as long as you can beat out the competition, you’ll claw your way into this industry in no time.
When I say beat out the competition, I mean it — you and another candidate are competing for an analyst position at Ferios; whoever meets the financial goals first wins the job, while the other is unceremoniously (and even traumatically) fired. Don’t get too comfortable when you get the analyst title, as the competition to keep your job begins. It’s dog eat dog here in this financial world — is there anything that can give you that competitive edge?
Turns out, yes: Geist. Harper gives you access to insider info that none of the other schmucks on your floor seem privy to. It’s best not to ask questions on how Geist collates info, and if you get caught using the shady program, you can be sure that Ferios will play dumb while pocketing your gains. Just keep it on the low and don’t get too greedy, lest public opinion sways too far into mob territory.
When it comes to actual trading, you’re pretty much left to your own devices. You have a certain amount of money to spend and daily goals to meet (outside of the not-so-friendly competition, of course), but time is money, and spending time training you would be like spending money, so it’s up to you to sink or swim. The good news is that The Invisible Hand definitely eases you in gently on all difficulties, so even though it looks like there’s a lot to take in at once, just following basic instructions will get you very far for the first little bit.
After that, the moon’s the limit! Buy all that coffee stock your colleagues have been offloading all day because you know it’s gonna skyrocket at 4:00 PM. Short it the next day just before corporate negotiations tank — you got that magic touch Ferios is looking for! Need to drive down prices of oil? Send in the lobbyists to yell at the right people! Hell, start coups and wars if you have to — it’ll be a PR disaster, but that’s what we have the marketing department for. Whatever it takes to get that ticket to the moon, boys!
As a trading simulator, I’m loving The Invisible Hand for what it offers in terms of overall feel and as an educational opportunity: being able to time buying and selling stocks against current events, social media trends, and nefarious political and economical plots is exhilarating. The stress I felt while trying to sell at the best possible moment was palpable, even comparable to some real teeth-gritters like Frostpunk or We, The Revolution. Coupled with an interesting storyline that builds alongside your portfolio, The Invisible Hand delivers on its main mechanic beautifully. And the notion of drinking coffee or tea to speed up or slow down time, respectfully? Clever. Clever!
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks that are a little hard to ignore, and most of them boil down to scope creep and polish. A lot of simulators that look like this tend to overwhelm players with the sheer amount of things they’re allowed to do, such as Streamer Life Simulator making you drive to your next house, for no real reason. The Invisible Hand was a little guilty of this with its forced fraternizing and buying real estate, cars, furniture, etc. Although I see making big purchases as a natural next step in this kind of game (what else are you going to do with your gains), without that next level of polish it felt incomplete, unimportant, and unnecessary. The base mechanics are a riot — either the scope creep needed to be reined in or more polish was needed.
I didn’t expect to be so utterly engrossed in The Invisible Hand, but I guess you could say I found myself pretty invested in it. The aesthetics are rough and the replay value isn’t totally there, but if you’ve been waiting for a stock market simulator, The Invisible Hand is absolutely it. If you want to experience the thrill of watching your gains blast off to the moon as you invest in extremely unethical things that have genuine consequences, look no further than The Invisible Hand.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Fellow Traveller; Developer: Power Struggle Games; Players: 1; Released: May 7, 2021; MSRP: $12.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of The Invisible Hand provided by the developer.