by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Turning the world upside down
Our annual hunt for gems hidden between the massive amounts of games at Gamescom did not disappoint this year. One such gem was Sigma Theory, a “near-future espionage strategy game” that is currently under development at Mi-Clos Studio.
In Sigma Theory, the world is about to be turned upside down by a new discovery that is believed to be the answer to pretty much every problem in the world – or at least have the potential to. In the wrong hands, however, this new discovery could topple governments, destroy the global financial system or worse. The world’s superpowers realize that they need to get their hands on this discovery first and a global science-arms-race ensues. The player heads up his nation’s intelligence agency and is tasked with obtaining the knowledge required to use the Sigma Theory by any means necessary. And by any means, I mean any means.
Going hands-on with the game, I selected Germany as my nation and picked a small team of agents to conquer the world with. Agents come with traits that give them an edge in a variety of scenarios. Seduction artists are skilled in converting enemy scientists or agents, or even make them fall in love with them. A useful skill to have though such relationships do need to be maintained. If the target does not get enough attention from the agent he or she may revert back and reveal your agent. Hackers are adept at taking over drones and taking down security measures. These are just two examples but the game features a wide range of traits and picking the right team is key to a successful campaign.
But traits alone do not win the war. Surveying a region and gaining knowledge of interesting targets turned out to be an important aspect of the game. Seducing a happily married man with no vices is a tough ask even for the most skilled agents. A particularly interesting researcher that I found was exactly such a man. As I felt he would be very helpful to furthering my nation’s cause, I figured abduction was the better play. We needed a win, especially since my nation’s military leader was trying me to fabricate a casus belli against both Russia and Japan the pressure to find another route to victory was increasing.
Getting my hands dirty
The game switched to its tactical mode for the exfiltration. A graphical representation of a small portion of a city map showed me my agent’s current location and the target destination. Make it there and he’d be home-free.
Making his way through the city, my agent presented me with numerous potentially dangerous situations and even a few opportunities. These are essentially text based mini-quests where your choices decide the outcome. With each decision, the alertness of the local police increases and when it reaches 100% you’re done for. “Shall I go into the sewer system or take the rooftop to avoid the police at this checkpoint?” I went for the sewers, which turned out to be the right call, even if my agent emerged with a slight wound. Unfortunately the wound got worse while escaping the clutches of patrol that showed up next. “There is a hospital up next, shall I patch up this bleeding wound or do you want me to continue?” I chose continue but the vigilant hospital staff alerted the police and another chase ensued. I eventually managed to guide my agent to safety but he sported more than a few cuts and bruises.
Smart agents keep an eye out
There’s a lot more to Sigma Theory than just that one mission. There are diplomatic relations to maintain or erode, there is damage control after failed missions, lobbyists that offer to help out in return for favours. You can even trigger wars between other nations, gain prestige by sharing some of your own discoveries with your friends, or use it against them to your benefit.
I have a feeling Sigma Theory will be an easy game to get into but a difficult one to master. It’s looks to be full of intricacies and defeat appears to be lurking around every corner. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one, a smart agent will do the same.