In the not too distant future, the world’s scientists discover something so shocking, so groundbreaking that it could completely destroy human society as we know it. The subsequent project, The Sigma Theory, becomes the focus of every country on the planet, and you must lead your organisation to secure the information before all others.
Sigma Theory, from Mi-Clos Studio (Out There), puts you into a new, scientific cold war — one where you head up a country’s project to harness the titular theory. The rewards from a successful program? Power over the rest of the world. As such, the risks are high. Competing nations will do anything to drag you down and get ahead.
The majority of Sigma Theory plays out from the world map. You’ll engage in diplomacy, recruiting agents, managing research and setting actions for your various super-spies through this screen; everything from hacking to trading off research for wealth as you try to secure and maintain a technological lead on your opponents.
I played through forty minutes of the game while at Gamescom last year — an early build, no doubt much-improved since — and had the chance to navigate a few situations at the helm of the Sigma Theory project. Recruiting agents, which is done from a pool of about fifty multinational agents, and then putting them to task as resources was extremely easy to control — although the thoughts behind the actions and steps taken likely require more thought in the longer campaign.
Where it became interesting was in the action/flight sequences. These play out through birds-eye shots of a cityscape, with one of your agents tasked with reaching an extraction point on the other side of the screen. The character moves between the various points, like a peg sliding across a board, with each time it pauses marked by a multiple-choice event. These events are skill checks based around the agent, all playing out as radio communication between them and yourself. ‘There’s guards ahead!’ they might remark. ‘What should I do?’
Here’s where the build was at its most intense. Sure, seeing the events of ‘infiltrate’ and identify orders play out on the map screen were rewarding — the satisfaction of a job well done, and having chosen the right tool for the right job. But these moments where you guide your assets and agents through deadly territory are real edge-of-your-seat moments, with risk and reward reduced to a simulated agent-to-handler conversation.
The agents are truly the main characters of the story. Each has their own quips and remarks, as well as colourful bios and varying geographic knowledge. I didn’t experience losing one, however they’re so integral to how the more engaging moments play out that it must feel quite devastating. Lucky then, that there are fifty of them.
I was impressed with my time with the game, short as it was. While I don’t have much understanding of how it maintains tension and pace during the mid- and late-game moments, the multiple endings bode well and the current formula is enjoyable.
It definitely looks like one to watch for those who like their strategy titles filled with tension and character.
Sigma Theory is currently in development for PC and Mac, with a release planned for later this year. Those looking to stay up to date on development can follow the game Twitter @Sigmatheory.