PREVIEW / The Sigma Theory: Global Cold War (PC)

I’ve always been a fan of board games and when this style of game is transferred into the realm of videogames, I’m a very happy bunny. With this being said, I recently got wind of an interesting little title that’s currently in the works called The Sigma Theory: Global Cold War. Through a bit of magical jiggery-pokery, I’ve been lucky enough to get a chance to take a first hand look at what this game is all about; being the kind soul that I am, I’ve decided to share. It has to be said that at first glance, this cold-war sim by Mi-Clos Studio is looking quite promising.

So this isn’t the Cold War. As this isn’t a historically based game, this is another Cold War (because we clearly didn’t learn anything from the first one). Sigma Theory is a game about super-powers and teams of spies infiltrating various countries around the world to gain information and generally do what they do best. You take the role of lead operative of one of these teams and have to help your chosen country gain intel. You also have to keep your four operatives alive and out of jail or you won’t be getting very far. All of this is to reach the ultimate goal of cracking the secrets of the Sigma Theory a scientific breakthrough, which if made will change the world as we know it.

A good old hack can get you a long way. Just make sure the agent doing it can pick up a keyboard.

This game has more facets than a really pretty diamond and is just as bloody hard. Sigma Theory is a game of micromanagement. Firstly you have to look after your agents. This involves sending them on missions in various countries around the world. These may include dragging up dirt on officials, finding opposing scientists and/or exfiltrating double agents. Of course if any of your own operatives get arrested by foreign forces you have to get them out as well before they’re jailed, killed off or worse start blabbing about your plans. If you have an agent proficient in hacking you can also get them to steal scientific research or “borrow” an enemy drone to make your life a bit easier.

Politics can get you a long way. You just need to know how to play the individual.

All of that was just one little part of a bigger picture. When not pushing your spies round the world map your playing diplomatic games with various world leaders. This is a lot easier to do if you understand them first. It’s pointless trying to bribe an honest official. Different officials have different traits and it helps immensely to understand these. Convincing someone who’s paranoid that you know everyone is out to get them but you’re they’re friend honest is going to get you a long way. Successful negotiations will lower threat levels making your operations easier or if you’re lucky enable you to get your hands on research and scientists without having to get those hands dirty. You will also be dealing with other interested parties including The World Bank and religious and terrorist organizations.

This is a drone strike. They aren’t always accurate so you’ll need good timing to take out your entire target.

Then (yes we’re still going) you have to remember that you’re dealing with people and the AI reminds you of this all the time. If you have a very altruistic agent and start brokering deals with terrorists they aren’t going to be very impressed with you. The same applies to your scientists who have a nasty habit of betraying you or carelessly allowing themselves to be pinched by enemy agents and taken back to other countries. Does this sound complicated enough for you? Well it is and I’m not really even scratching the surface.

Each agent has their own perks and flaws. Just because someone is smooth tongued enough to be able to sell sand to the arabs doesn’t mean they can fire a weapon. Different people are good at different tasks and this shows up in exfiltration missions. Some agents will be able to fight their way through enemy patrols with a firearm in one hand and the individual they are trying to remove in the other. On the other hand other agents will be more inclined to just fade into the background and avoid trouble all together. These missions present you with a series of scenarios in which you must make the correct choice to avoid being caught by local law enforcement. If you make the right choices you’re golden, make the wrong ones and you’ll be doing another similar mission with a fresh agent to try and get your beleaguered friend out of jail. You also have the help of drones which can launch strikes or provide surveillance as the need arises.

Your agent pool. Remember agents are people and people have personalities. You’ll need to play to theirs to succeed.

Assuming you can keep your scientists for more than five minutes they will be working on one of five branches of science dependent on their abilities. These comprise of, neuroscience, health, astrophysics, robotics and finance. Each one of these disciplines has a tree and when a level of this is met you will gain the perks of that particular research and a couple of Sigma Points. Get fifteen of these and you win. Believe me when I say this in not an easy task. Making things more difficult is the doomsday clock that you also have running in the background. If this ticks over before you reach your goal someone else has cracked the Sigma Theory first and it’s game over.

A lot of planning goes in to performing an operation well. You do not want to get caught by those guards.

We’ll not scrutinize the things that need fixing with this title. Sigma Theory isn’t even in Early Access yet so I think it would be slightly cruel to start pulling it apart for bugs and the like. What I’m  seeing thus far gameplay wise is absolutely brilliant. This is one of those games that will very easily eat an afternoon of your life and definitely isn’t something that can just be played for five minutes at a time. The AI is smart and you better be good at multi-tasking or you’re going to be doomed from the beginning.

Something Sigma Theory is missing is multi-player. This may well be added later but I actually don’t think the game needs it. Everything feels complicated enough playing against the AI when you have a million and one things to think about without having to worry about someone else waiting to have a go. My only real gripe is the way the save mechanic works. You log in to an account as a new agent and you play solely with that account. This means that you can’t save in multiple spots and go back to your last screw up. The plus side to this is that you’d be cheating because you’d never really make a wrong move. This would matter in a multi-player game but less so against an AI as you’re only cheating yourself. The downside is that sometimes you know you’ve had it and aren’t getting any further so it’s nice to just reset and go from scratch. To do this you need to set up another in game account and repeat the process. If you’re not very good at this game you’ll be doing this a lot.

Sigma Theory is a game that I look forward to playing the fully finished version of. If you like board game strategy and micro-management this is completely a game for you. It’ll be really nice to see what the future brings and I genuinely hope all goes well with the remainder of development. This one is definitely worth a watch for strategy fans amongst you.

This preview is based on an early access copy of the game provided by the publisher.