I'm a steam curator for indie games and a writer for Parallax Media!
The scientific community is buzzing with news of humanity being on the edge of a paradigm-shifting discovery promising radical technology, teasing an end to the energy crisis and much much more. What do you do? Sigma Theory poses that question directly to you in a turn-based strategy game from the creators of the strange but wonderful sci-fi game Out There. Your job as head of your country’s Sigma division is to ensure that your nation reaps the benefits of this scientific discovery before anyone else, and to do this you’re going to need help. As you first play through the game you have a small selection of agents to try and recruit from, more agents can be unlocked as you progress, and you don’t just have your pick of those available. The first time you choose an agent they’ll ask why they should join your team and I like that the developers have given each a biography because you’ll need to read this to try and work out what would be the best response from the three available. Once your team is assembled you can get to work, you start with two scientists and your agents are used to find and secure others to your division.
Sigma Theory is split into three different types of gameplay. The majority of the game is the turn-based management of your resources on the world map. You can issue orders to agents or move them and your drones to different countries to gather more information, hack other countries or bribe, seduce, convert or abduct scientists to your Sigma division. The second aspect of gameplay comes while extracting a scientist, your agent moves through a city and depending on the alert level or support drones present. This could be a long journey or quite short and is broken up by random problems that present two solutions with varying degrees of success depending on the agent’s personality and individual abilities and the use of your drones. The last aspect of gameplay is the diplomatic meetings with the other heads of Sigma division from other countries. Through this, you can improve relations, request research, negotiate for captured agents or to acquire a scientist. Information and compromising files obtained by your agents can help in these negotiations and keeping relations well with all of the countries can help in avoiding the doomsday clock reaching zero.
And there is the crux of the game, it’s a very delicate balance of diplomacy, scientific advancement, and subterfuge. To keep your own government happy while increasing your Sigma research and not upsetting the other countries so much that they go to war with you. Layered with independent factions vying for your support with their own plans for the Sigma technologies and accepting the consequences from taking a threat too lightly, adds another level of difficulty that means this game requires a lot of attention, planning, and strategy to succeed. There are a couple of little gripes I have about the game, for example, there are factions that contact you to use Sigma technology for either the betterment of humanity or to achieve a particular ideological goal and you cannot pick and choose which you align with, you have to accept any request and accept the consequences if you decide to let a particular faction down. Another thing that bothers me is that during negotiations with other Sigma heads if you’re requesting a scientist or research data, you aren’t able to see the status of your current research achievements or progression before making your request.
There is a lot that has gone into this game to make it an enjoyable experience. The inclusion of the doomsday clock, agents unable to perform certain actions due to their personality traits (I had a female agent that couldn’t seduce a susceptible scientist due to being a loner) and seeing the consequences of many decisions you make really adds weight to the gameplay, that your actions matter and have an effect on how you do in the game. I think the options this game presents you with makes it a very replayable title and although the game has kicked my ass multiple times now, I’ve never felt like throwing up my arms in defeat at a task that seems impossible. I think this game is best seen as a challenge you leave after a couple of plays, think over your tactics and failures and try again another time rather than sit down and play continuously for hours.