There are times where your mind wanders, and you start to think what would happen if the government were trying to harvest some new technology to improve all of our lives – or, more likely, wage war on our neighbours. Fortunately, the developers of award winning indie sci-fi game Out There, have created a game that means we no longer have to ponder. Sigma Theory puts you in charge of a nation on the hunt for some super tech.
Hiding in the shadows
The idea in Sigma Theory is to be the first nation to research the relatively unknown Sigma technology, which can drastically improve people’s lives. There are five different subdivisions of Sigma research: robotics, healthcare, finance, neuroscience and astrophysics. You play as the director of a shady team of people attempting to get to the ultimate goal before anyone else, by diplomatic means or more illicit means. Your team of dodgy people can contain spies, but you can also hire some career criminals who have shown an impressive level of scumbaggery in their lives and would fit the role perfectly. The reason to have a good mix is because you will need your team to perform some pretty interesting things in order to defeat the other world powers.
For example, you may want some of your team to travel the world, infiltrating secure facilities and identifying scientists who may be of use to you. Once identified, you can then proceed to trying to make them an asset for your country. This is where your team’s past behaviours will come in handy, because you can ask them to try to convert the scientist by seducing them, bribing them, convincing them to join or just straight up kidnapping them. For a while, they’ll be happy to work as your double agent, but there comes a time where you’ll need to get them out of the country, and that can be a tricky thing to do. You have to run through the city streets, evading police and encountering a number of tricky situations that your agents will do their best to overcome.
For me, the exfiltration bit – getting your scientist and agent out of the country – is the best part of the game. You tell them what you want them to accomplish, and based on their skillset, they do their best to achieve it. It’s always fun seeing an agent go up to a police officer, attempt to bribe them and then be told to sod off, they’re going to the clink. Well, fun probably isn’t the right word as it can be a little detrimental to the mission, but it is still quite funny when you think these international super spies can’t use their silver tongues to persuade a beat cop.
The other side of Sigma Theory is mostly ordering your assets around, but you can also spend some time holding summits with other world leaders. This can be done to lower the alert level, boost your relationship with that country or simply to try to procure information about their Sigma research. This can be made immensely easier by doing your research on the other world leaders beforehand, which is where your assets come in. Not only do they try to kidnap scientists for you, they can also spend time researching the world leaders and digging up the dirtiest dirt on them around. They don’t even need to be in the same country, as you can perform hacks on other countries from where-ever you want in the world to dig up all the data you need.
It all builds together to make a wonderfully intriguing game. Full of subterfuge and tough decisions, but without ever being overwhelming. Having to weigh up all the tactical advantages and disadvantages of a movement before you make it is brilliant, because it’s so tricky. You do feel like you are spinning plates at times because you have to try to ensure your government still likes you, as well as ensuring other governments can’t detect you stealing their secrets. On top of that, you also have to try to keep on top of all of your agents activities and make sure they’re working to the best of their abilities.
I won’t lie, my thorough enjoyment of Sigma Theory was halted about an hour into every game I played – and I restarted the game a few times in the hopes that it was just a one-off. I had around five different play throughs, and each time, around an hour in, the game broke. It removed two of my agents, didn’t let me move around the map and also didn’t let me set my visible agents any tasks, so the game was effectively over. It was hard to nail down as well, because each time I encountered it, it was off the back of something else.
There are parts of Sigma Theory that do feel underdeveloped though. It’s understandable given the early access nature of the game, but, as one example, you have a romantic partner in the game and aside from just occasionally borrowing an agent, they don’t seem to serve a purpose. Or at least, due to the aforementioned bug, I’ve yet to see them having any reason of actually being there. Another minor bugbear is that during ‘cut scenes’, you can skip the text, but once the game is in flow, you can’t. If you’ve started the game a couple of times, then you’ll know that this is incredibly dull, hearing the same words spoken over and over and over… One minor tweak could fix this though.
The Final Word
I actually really enjoy Sigma Theory. I can’t give it a high score because no matter what I tried, I was unable to proceed beyond the bugged area, but as soon as that is fixed, you can be certain that the mark will go up. It has all the hallmarks of a fantastic game, but for that one major issue within it. Given there is still a few days before it releases, there is still hope, and I can only imagine that the game will be fantastic after a couple of weeks.
* The game, once the game breaking bug is removed, is easily an 8/10, but because that bug is still there at the time of writing, I can’t give it higher than half marks.