• Gamer's Gazette Review - Heat Signature

    Gamer's Gazette Issue XXXIII

    Heat Signature “It’s all over now” I think as the armoured crew of the ship I’m trying to infiltrate start teleporting in all around me, Dorado Delphinus. A few days ago I was a nobody, armed with a wrench, a swapping teleporter and a sense of justice, and here I am now, frozen in time a second before an array of bullets throw me and everyone else in the room out the glass window of the spaceship. The swapping teleporter! Quickly as a flash I use the last charge to trade places between Dorado and the nearby pilot of the ship, letting him have the bullets and the spacewalk instead. “Nice one, Dorado” I think, as I walk back into the same room again, only to be sucked into space by the massive hole in the wall.

    Luckily for me, I can remote control my space pod, and should be able to pick myself up again in a matter of seconds. Unluckily for me, this is the third time I’ve been thrown into space today, and my body really isn’t agreeing with it anymore. We raise a toast to the honourable space pirate Dorado Delphinus, who bled out alone in space.

    A friendly nice place where you can buy guns and take on missions to kill people.

    Back home in the friendly spaceport the other rebels have stolen is Sunshine Fury, armed with powerful teleporting technology and a nice sword. Business as usual then.

    Heat Signature is a game all about getting things wrong, and escaping the consequences. On paper it is a top down game about going on spaceships and stealing stuff, or killing people, or sometimes stealing people. You play as a random space pirate with a quest; maybe your lover was kidnapped by bad space-men, or maybe you have massive space-gambling debts you need to pay off, so you make the money by stealing really valuable space-technology and selling it.

    To help you along the way you have a large arsenal of gadgets and guns. Normal guns, concussive guns, teleporters that swap you with another person, teleporters that let you go anywhere within a radius for a few seconds and then take you back, swords, wrenches, mines that disable electronics etc. The ways you can play this game range from murdering maniac to completely unseen master thief.

    How a normal difficulty mission normally looks.

    The core loop of the game starts on a friendly space-station, where you can buy new gadgets, talk to one of the few NPCs in the game and choose your next mission. Missions range from Easy to Mistake, and can have some variables like “Enigma” which means that if you finish the mission with no living witnesses you will get an extra reward at the end of it. One of Fury Sunshine’s first mission for example was to save Crater Lagrange from a villainous spaceship. The mission should be quite easy, but it is after all only Fury’s second time boarding a ship.

    She is armed with an armour piercing sword, a Visitor (teleporter that moves you somewhere for 2 seconds, then takes you back), a Swapper (swaps places with an enemy), a normal wrench and a Sidewinder (teleports you anywhere within a certain radius as long as there is an unobstructed path there). Oh and the Fleshstripper, a massive gun that shoots a lot of acid.

    Feeling down? Need something to make you feel good about yourself? Have you considered the Fleshstripper?

    I have decided you don’t get to have a name like Fury Sunshine without a few skeletons in the closet, so the first thing I do as I board the ship is to take my sword to the nearest few guards. Of course I get carried away and some of them see me murdering their friends, but fear not! A quick press of the space bar stops time. I circle through my gadgets wondering which is the best for this situation, and decide that the Fleshstripper probably is. Hint: The Fleshstripper is always the right choice.

    Oh woe! I have been spotted! Whatever shall I do?

    I leave the room with a lot less flesh than when I walked into it, and a lot more skeletons on the floor. No time to move them all to the closet now, so instead I go murder the pilot. Quicker than acid melts flesh the ship has been secured, and I go get my old pal Crater Lagrange and bring him (or maybe her) back to the escape pod, and together we fly back home, where I put him in the box that takes him (or her) to the client who hired me. Another job well done! Now go get a new mission.

    I know! I'll strip their flesh!

    Heat Signature is full of stories like this, tales of do daring adventures or murders. As another character the last mission would have played out completely differently; maybe I would have sneaked through the ship, leaving the crew completely unaware I was ever there. I could have blown a hole in the ship and jumped out with Crater on my back, hoping I can remote control my pod to pick us up before the lack of oxygen kills us. The whole point of the game is that you make your own fun, create your own challenges and produce your own stories to tell afterwards.

    The procedurally generated spaceships means every mission plays out differently.

    Fury Sunshine will probably pick a challenge too great some day soon, or end up retiring with her glory days behind her, and then someone else will pick up the torch. The characters are temporary, and the game even encourages you to not play with the same one for too long with the liberation system; as you complete missions other space stations in the galaxy will want to break free from their masters and join your rebel movement, but the more missions you complete and more famous you become, the less your completed missions will contribute to the liberation meter. The people need new heroes, and if you keep playing with the old ones they will probably die eventually. Death, however, is less of a punishment and more of a way to get you to try new things in your next life.

    The more missions you do, and the more stations you liberate, new mission clauses and gadgets will also become available. Clauses can be something like Bloodless, where you must not kill anyone, Pacifist, where you must not kill or knock someone out or Enigma, where you can leave no living witnesses. These make you play missions differently than you might otherwise do, encouraging improvisation and new ways of approaching a target.

    The missions are predictable, but the game itself is interesting enough to make up for the lack of narrative.

    The core structure of the missions aren’t new or interesting in themselves, but that doesn’t matter. Where the game truly shines is how it makes you play with the tools it has given you and the world you inhabit. At its worst is when you start a new character and only have a few things to your name, but by the end of the first mission you will usually have enough money and loot to do some really interesting tactics. Heat Signature is a game about teaching creativity first and foremost, and a fantastic one at that. It's a perfect game for playing in short bursts, doing a few missions, and then coming back to later, whether that is in a week, a month or a year.

    Heat Signature was developed by indie developer Suspicious Developments, who previously made indie darling Gunpoint, and is available on PC since September 2017.

    It's a very good game.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      Great review! It sounds like a fun way to try creative tactics and explore the universe. I'm intrigued by the liberation system and the way that this encourages players to start new characters rather than keep playing with the same one.
    1. Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar
      Caillagh de Bodemloze -
      This is excellent.

      The idea of having lots of different ways to do each mission - and having to use at least some of those different tactics at differents times - is interesting.