As of late, there have been few developers on my list of enthusiastic interest. With the industry peddling out asinine games that are sometimes little other than a means to facilitate micro-transactions, unpolished messes of code, or a multiplayer only game with no community; near avoidance of the products output by the behemoths of the industry is a very reasonable notion to follow. The list I have is for quality developers, ones whose works I have played and have not seen a dramatic nosedive of quality from. Suspicious Developments, the studio behind a game I liked called Gunpoint, released Heat Signature in late September and I am glad to see that Suspicious Developments will remain on my list.
Heat Signature is a game centered around growing a band of infiltrators who board spaceships for fun and profit. You will play as one of many infiltrators, their only history is related to the couple sentences explaining their personal mission. To venture off to your personal mission, you need to make up the fee asked by one of the legendary infiltrators, now an information broker; and there are a variety of ways you can scrape together some space cash.
In every friendly station, there is a job terminal with a multitude of missions available. The interface to select a mission is superb, as it accomplishes many things at once. With only a single interface, you can select missions based on your preferences of difficulty, mission type, guard equipment, mission clauses, and faction. It supplies a wealth of information that is counterbalanced by the chaos of the actual gameplay itself and lets the player chose their experience natively without breaking immersion, or holding your hand. For mission selection, it is all up to you.
Boarding spacecraft is what you will be doing outside of shopping and station liberation, and it is the game’s bread and butter. When you leave a friendly station, you must pilot your breacher pod to the airlock of your target; meanwhile avoiding detection and keeping a potential time limit in mind. Once you successfully board, you are now presented with an entire interior view of the ship – essentially an all-seeing eye. You know your mission and the kit of the guards inside but now is the real challenge: actually completing the mission. Sure, you might have picked one of the easiest missions around, but all it takes is one alerted guard and an unfortunate decision to catch his bullet to see you carried to the airlock.
With how gravely final that sounds, you would be forgiven for thinking that’d be game over. However, not all is lost. Every injury you sustain reduces your time limit to resuscitate yourself via your breacher pod. Yes, you revitalize yourself with your pod; but how is this possible in the depths of space? How about you remote control your pod to catch yourself while you’re speeding through space? I think you can figure that this is what sold me on this game.
Heat Signature is a game where things will likely go wrong and celebrates your skill in either being a stealthy ghost or making the best of a complicated situation. The crafty do well in this game, as do the patient; for Heat Signature rewards you on your ability to be clever. Need to assassinate an armored target but have no armor piercing weapons? Just fire a gun at a wall nearby a window to attract them to the same area and blow out the window to meet the vacuum. You have a pod to catch yourself with, he doesn’t. This is only one method of eliminating someone you’re technically unequipped to deal with.
As you complete missions you will find that you gain points in an area called “Liberation progress”. When you gain enough progress, you can liberate a station and potentially net yourself some neat bonuses. Shops will receive new types of inventory, and you are granted the opportunity to complete a Defector Mission. These missions have specific mission parameters, such as starting equipment, guard equipment, and objective; and are a fun challenge to complete with unlimited retries.
Unlike the Defector Missions, your normal missions won’t have retries. If a guard stirs up an alarm and the ship’s pilot is still conscious, they will fly to a nearby faction station and you will be captured if you’re still aboard. There are only three ways to permanently lose a character: death, retirement, and capture; with new faces showing up at the bar after each loss. Occasionally, you will see a new infiltrator at the bar who’s personal mission is to save their partner, which was your recently captured character. So even if you lose a character to the enemy, there’s a possibility you can get them back.
If you find that a mission is unable to be completed by whatever means, you are able to abort the mission to save your skin. If none of the missions fancy you or you’re not equipped to take on one you fancy, you’re able to breach any other spacecraft you happen upon with your pod. If you don’t happen to like the ship you’re on and want to make it easier to get to your objective, just use breach explosives and separate the objective’s location from the main ship and board it with your pod. Freedom of choice and action fill this game.
If you’re a stealthy minded player who loathes lethal weapons, you can use concussive weapons to knock out your enemies. If you don’t mind the blood on your shoes, you can use a variety of weapons that the enemy may or may not hear before their lights go out. Alternatively, if you’re a mix of these two camps like I am, you will use a concussion hammer and fling your unfortunate human nail across the room through a glass window. Trickery with the teleporter tech is a very amusing, as you can purposely be spotted by an enemy, and swap places with them just a millisecond after the fire a shot.
You might think this all sounds difficult to do while playing the game, but you are able to pause the game at any time and get a feel for the situation at hand. This game succeeds at providing just enough information to you to allow your mind to run wild with the stress and the possibilities.You will have grand successes and colossal tragedies. Such is the nature of boarding spacecraft. The heartbreak from character loss will only last for a short while. After a loss, you’re back at a nearby station, with new faces at the bar to pick from. Some may even have equipment you like.
The only criticism I can level at this game without question is its structure. Once you get a feel for the game and learn how it works, you may feel bored after the 10th hour. I cannot say this applies to me, but it is definitely something to be wary about if that is something that has affected your experience with prior games. That said, for $15, I don’t even think that would be that big of an issue for how low of a price the game has. If anything I have written here has caught your eye, go buy this game. It is a load of fun.
Heat Signature ($15) is available for purchase on the following platform(s): Steam