Wot I Think: Heat Signature

"Hello dad, yeah it's all gone a bit murdery"

The man who killed my mum is floating off into space. Should I feel glad? I was supposed to bring him in alive. I put a trap down in the corridor of his spaceship and the moment he stood on it, he was teleported into the void. That might not sound like the best way to bring somebody in alive, but it was part of the plan. Running to the nearest window and blasting myself out after him? Also part of the plan – my trusty pod would pick us both up before we suffocated. But then it all went wrong and now I am slung over a guard’s shoulders while my target is drifting away, dying.

This wasn’t part of the plan, but in Heat Signature [official site] plans crumble like biscuits dunked too-long in tea. Technically, I’ve failed the mission, but at least my mum is avenged.

This spaceship stealth-em-up from the makers of Gunpoint is game designed to generate anecdotes of that kind. The details vary, but usually it goes like this: space rogue enters ship, space rogue gets into a scrape, space rogue miraculously escapes (or perhaps dies a clumsy death). It’s a game of happenstance and techno-wizardy where teleporters and hacking tools act as storytellers. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it makes you feel like a sci-fi action hero, and sometimes – more often than I’d expected – it’s a bit annoying.

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But first let’s explain the basics. What you’re looking at here is a top-down, real-time (though with slow-mo) stealth boyo. You pilot a pod and dock with target ships to fulfil violent or pointedly non-violent contracts. Steal an item, assassinate a bad fellow, rescue a captured friend. There’s the smallest hint of Hotline Miami (you hit people with a big metal stick quite a lot) but it’s more roguelike than arcade skullbasher. Each ship you board is a randomised set of rooms and enemies.

Some vessels are small bombers staffed with only a few wrench-wielding crewmen, others are massive barges swarming with heavily armoured, shotgun-toting murder fans. Your own character is also a child of the dice roll, chosen from a set of mercs who sit at the bar of your home space station. Do you want the guy with the grenade launcher? No, you want the lady with the armour-piercing sword.

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It’s got the smallest drip of story to it, enough to act as a tutorial and set the galaxy up for conquering. An old mercenary called Sader Fiasco has retired in your space station, and wants to end the war between four conflicting factions. More importantly, she is willing to help you out (for a fee) with intel about a “personal mission”. Your personal mission is as random as the clothes on your back – rescue your lover, avenge your friend, clear a debt, steal technology. You’ll need acid, the galactic currency, to get Sader’s intel. So off you pop to the job listings, where you can pick and choose missions that range from pacifist infiltrations that require doing no harm, to dangerous kill marathons that require no living witnesses.

As for ending the war, that requires some grind. With each successful mission a “liberation” meter increases, and when it levels up you get to claim a new space station on a big map, granting access to new items in the shops, or another passive bonus, like more money for starter characters. Each star system also unlocks a pre-made “defector mission” – a more traditional set of levels with pre-set equipment that can be tried again and again if anything goes wrong.

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That the world map doubles as a permanent skill tree is very clever, but that’s not Heat Sig at its smartest. That’d be when you’re actually on board a ship and you need to get past twenty men with a single teleporter charge and a wrench. You’ve set off the alarm, you fool, and now the pilot is going to dock at an enemy station in 20 seconds where you’ll be captured and have to start from scratch. Things look bad. But what if… what if…

At moments of peril, the guns ‘n’ gizmos are such that they become almost puzzle-like. You press spacebar to pause the action, giving yourself time to assess all dangers and priorities. There isn’t always a way out of a bad situation. Often you simply lack a vital tool, or you can’t get a necessary keycard from someone big and scary. Sometimes you just can’t make it to the corner in time to shoot the spoilsport shouting “Intruder!” But when your set of gadgets presents you with a solution, even a sloppy one, where no solution was previously obvious, it feels gooood.

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This is what man in charge Tom Francis calls “recoverable catastrophe”. It doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as you might hope, but these possibilities do occur. And if you do pull off whatever series of hops, shots and socks is necessary to wriggle out of the bind you’re in, you feel like Jackie Chan overcoming a trio of swordsmen with nothing but a box of his granny’s plates.

I’ll give you a short example. At one point I thwacked a man in the head, stole his gun and used it to shoot his patrol mate. Because I’m an action hero. But oh dear, a large groups of guards standing in the next room heard the gunshot. And a second group was coming toward me in the corridor. They were all in the middle of yelling “Intruder!” This happens slowly, the space above their heads slowly filling: I N T R U …

I couldn’t let anyone finish this shout, for then the alarm would sing. I needed to kill them all.

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I considered the tools at my disposal – a shortblade, a wrench, a gun, a temporary “visitor” teleporter. I bashed one man in the head, sliced another with the short-range blade and quickly picked up his concussion gun, loosing a final shot at the furthest guard in the corridor. Then, without waiting for the round to land, I vanished in a whiff of teleporter smoke. If you had been that last guard, watching the concussion bullet swim slowly toward your face, you probably wouldn’t have heard the sounds of three bodies in the next room being summarily sliced to bits in quick succession. But you might have heard the “fwoop!” of a man re-atomising after his little visit to the next room, feeling very very pleased with himself.

These are the moments when Heat Signature shines. But for every six-second-long sequence of heroism, there’s also an instance of frustration. The static artwork of the top-down world often makes it hard to determine what is scenery and what is a raised wall. It can be cluttered and difficult to decipher, imagine ordering soldiers to take cover on one of those children’s maps made out of carpet. Some of the objects in the rooms can also be used or, more significantly, exploded. But they just look like red… stuff?

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Gunmen, likewise, can be shifty. Enemies glow to reveal their position but even that sometimes gets lost in the artwork, or in the midst of a melee. The distinction between normal badmen and enemies with explosives strapped to them is that the latter glow a bit harder. These small signifiers sometimes aren’t enough of a signal and I feel like if the game has any major problem, it’s one of readability. When your screen is zooming in and out and scanning all about, both details in the environment and enemies can become lost, especially when paused.

White keycard symbols vanish on white backgrounds, turrets switch their laser off mid-turn and become obscured among a room’s cluttered artwork, that one guard with no heat sensor “aura” becomes unnoticeable next to all his obvious mates. In critical moments, this can kill you or lead to a mission’s failure all because you haven’t noticed something quite important that is about to shoot you. That’s annoying.

In a way, you’re not supposed to care when the mission fails. It’s a short trip back to HQ and there are plenty more procedural pursuits where the last one came from. Even in the worst case scenario, if you die or get captured, the punishment is light. There are lots of other characters sitting at the bar, and getting new weapons or gadgets is as simple as doing a few missions and looting the containers on board.

When you mess up, the game welcomes you to shrug (you can even do a follow-up mission to get your old character back if they’ve been captured). But I can’t help but become irritated when a rescue attempt or some corporate espionage gets cocked up because of a small hiccup. It still feels like a waste of time and resources, especially when failure is the result of some unseen guard, some unseen distinction in the particular glow of a guard.

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By design, the pain of failure isn’t too strong. When you are shot or downed by a foe, they carry you to an airlock and chuck you out into space. At this point, you can control your pod, scoop yourself up and re-board the vessel – a most tenacious fool. Yet I don’t think this “get back on the ship” thing really works as a light punishment, because the alarm timer on most vessels means that far too much time is lost to flying your pod and rescuing yourself, often making the effort to return to the crime scene pointless.

When I’m forcibly removed by a ship’s bouncers for being a bit lairy, I often just fly away, knowing there’s little chance of me getting through the entire boat in the scant seconds given to me, unless I have some ridiculous long-range teleportation gear. It’s a better use of my time to go back to base and find a new level. This happened often enough that a sense of fruitlessness seeped into future missions any time something went wrong. I found myself getting more and more annoyed by small mistakes which led to an early ejection.

And they are my mistakes. I should make that clear. I’m a stupid man, and sometimes things happen so fast I don’t get time to understand why they’ve happened the way they have (and in the game etc). Other players might overcome harder missions with the most basic of tools and an unnatural competence. But that’s not me, reader! That’s not me. When I spend ages tiptoeing through a big ship, swapping and jumping and boshing and zapping, only to fail at the last minute because of an item mix-up, or because I simply started moving down the wrong corridor, I can’t help but grind my teeth. It doesn’t feel like a wacky story I’ll tell someone about later. It feels like I pressed a single wrong button and lost the last 10 minutes of progress.

That’s my problem: most of the time when mistakes happen, they aren’t “oh no, how do I get out of this one” japes. They are critical errors that lead to near-instant unconsciousness, a state of being which, more often than not, ends in a mission failure.

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Equally unpalatable are the time-limited missions which, depending on their restrictions, can be overwhelming. These missions don’t start their timers from the moment of boarding, but from the moment of accepting the contract. It’s irritating to lose a big chunk of time just flying your pod to the mission’s location, and it got to the point where I just started refusing both these missions and those with a short alarm time. A pity, since they pay higher.

It might feel like I’m picking nits out of a big mane of luscious hair here, but it’s only because the clever playfulness of the game’s design made me expect something a little less stressful. Even with the ability to pause the game at will, I still find it paralysing when faced with a gargantuan ship that I have to traverse in 45 seconds.

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If you like toying with contraptions, though, Heat Signature is a great box of treats. The feeling of pulling off a heist in a whirlwind of gunfire, sword slashes, grenades and body-swaps, is a sensation usually reserved for blockbusters like Dishonored and Prey. But Suspicious Developments have distilled that chaotic kinaesthesia into something much smaller, smarter and spacier, which is absolutely to be praised. Even if I found myself feeling like an aggravated villain as often as I felt like the fleet-footed hero. Even if I’m still sour about the man who killed my mum.

Heat Signature is out now for Windows and is available via Steam for £10.99.

Disclosure: Some people at RPS know Tom Francis because he used to be a journalist too, but he makes the games now so we don’t like him anymore.

48 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I will have to try this, it sounds ace (niggles aside). Also, I’d really like John to follow Jim and Tom and produce a brilliant adventure game of some sort.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I’m having fun with this game, though I agree with most of the points here. It’s pretty infuriating when you lose to something that feels like it came out of nowhere. This includes large portions of the ship exploding for no apparent reason.

    Also it gets a be repetitive, seen one ship, seen ’em all.

    But that said, it’s still a right laugh to go in and murder all those folks in a way that makes you feel like a cool guy.

  3. Xocrates says:

    By the way, something that is really useful, but which I’m not sure the game ever tutorializes outside of it sometimes appearing as a tip in the inventory screen is that you can press “T” to throw you currently equipped gear (this will also stop time).

    And crucially, in the case of the wrench/swords, this will stun/kill the enemy they hit. So if you have, say, a sword and a wrench equipped (or two wrenches/swords for that matter) you can dive a four man group, hit one guy with one weapon, a second with another, then toss them at the remaining two guys and you just cleared a 4 man group with no resource expenditure well before they can raise the alarm or even react properly.

    • RedViv says:

      Those hotkeys deserve far better introduction. I’d be bored out of my face with the space journeys if I had not spotted the tiny “[F] to Fast Forward” notice.

      • phanatic62 says:

        Agreed. Also, giving a place for the player to look up previous tutorial information would be helpful. Someone below mentioned blowing up modules. I didn’t even know that modules were a thing or that I could blow them up.

        • dj__jg says:

          Module is really just another word for Room I think. The rooms with a dynamite-like symbol in the middle blow up if you shoot the dynamite (I think they are really red pipes). These are the ships engines: Take them all out and the timer stops, just like it would if you killed the pilot.

    • Denis Ryan says:

      This is a good tip. Similarly, the game became a whole lot better when I realized I could use shift while the game was paused to pan the view around the ship and figure out where I was going.

      What I really want is some kind of button to highlight the location of the pilot.

      • Anvilfolk says:

        You can what now?!?!?! I need to go play this game again right now :P

      • dj__jg says:

        There is also a ‘collision sensor’ mode in the pause menu, that allows you to see the ‘grid’ that defines all colliding squares, which helps with defining what parts of the artwork are background. It’s in the menu that also allows you to remote control your pod etc.

        The pilot is pretty much always somewhere on the centerline of the ship, if you draw a line from back to front through the middle of the ship he is usually on it. He is also the only enemy who is on his own in the middle of a room standing still. Zooming out until you see the ‘Heat Signature’ makes it pretty easy to spot him.

        If you haven’t docked yet, you can also spot him by looking for the cockpit from outside: There is always only one of it on a ship, and it looks cockpitty. Still very hard to spot on glitcher ships, since they have a very ‘busy’ look. The sleek white ships make it very easy to spot the cockpit. If you hijack another ship and attack your target ship with it (using right click), you can often easily decapitate your target ship by taking out the cockpit, allowing you to pick apart the target ship at your leisure.

  4. Ben King says:

    I can attest to both the fun and all of the UI issues that Brendan brings up here. Enemies, interior walls, and locked doors are all needlessly difficult to discern- some clear icons and a heavy black line to indicate vertical walls would be a welcome addition and introduce some needed clarity. Although I have not progressed particularly far in the game, for the moment difficult or impossible missions are generally pretty foreseeable. It’s a bit of a fun puzzle in and of itself to look at a potential mission summary and gauge what kit will make it do-able. I’ve read that end game missions become far more painful though. Some of the most fun I’ve had is actually with the special “liberation” missions. At first they gave me a starting kit I was certain was creating impossible quests, but after a few moments I realized these liberation missions are clever puzzles teaching some of the more diabolical strategies for the gadgets- propel yourself through space with a shotgun- reflect bullets with an invulnerability shield! It’s fun stuff. I really enjoy it as a puzzle game.

    • Otterley says:

      Yeah, the readability can be a problem sometimes. It took me a while to notice, but check out the option “Collision Sensor” in pause-mode (under “things you can do here”). Hovering over it shows a grid marking out open spaces – revealing not-so-obvious obstacles.

  5. Bishop149 says:

    The single most frustrating thing for me was the “bleed out” mechanic which was never explained and it took me quite a while to work out what the hell was going on.
    Basically your character only has a certain amount of bleed out time and (here’s the bit that took a while to realise) this NEVER resets. Its kinda clear during a mission that each time you get spaced you have less and less time to rescue yourself but I just assumed that between missions this clock reset. It doesn’t.

    Once I worked this out and my guys were no longer dying seemingly at random a lot of the frustration went away.
    It also makes the “Offworld Angel” pod the single most useful thing in the game. . . if rescued by it the bleed out time doesn’t accumulate. It increases your survivablity DRAMATICALLY.

    • Otterley says:

      So true, that pod is brilliant. I also love that it can pull you or other “sudden EVA” victims in with it’s tractor-beam.

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      Wisq says:

      Yeah, between the tractor beam and the no-bleedout thing, I’m actually kinda disappointed that it’s so much better (and such a must-have) compared to the others.

      There’s so many ways to abandon ship that the Glitcher one seems questionable (though I guess it would help with no-alarm runs), the Foundry ramming one sounds pretty situational, and the Sovereign stealth one … well, I’ve seen exactly one mission so far that actually near-required it, and nothing since then.

      • k47 says:

        See, I’m the opposite. The Bleedout mechanic is pretty much a non issue since by the time I’m retiring characters they’ve only bled out maybe 2 or 3 times and are in zero risk of actually dying (capture risk is always there though, Angel pod or not). The “catch people drifting in space” is a nice bonus though, but nothing critical.

        The Glitch one is amazing for the “timer starts when you take the mission” or if you got thrown into space and due to the alarm you only have 10 seconds to get back and beat it (those 10 seconds expand to several minutes of planning while paused).

        The Brick pod is the most fun I’d had in the game, you simply make your own entrance bypassing 90% of the ship and beats any shield/armor/strenght enemies may have by pulling them into space, but it fails “no alarm” clauses instantly and it has a pretty big chance of failing “no-harm” clauses as well. And still, a failed clause still doesn’t mean the mission is failed, so you still get loot and payment. Alternatively, it’s just a joy to mess around with it cutting ships in half by ramming constantly against them.

        The “Cold Fire” one that’s good for avoiding visual and heat detection seems pretty useless to me as well.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          Definitely some good insights; I’ll be checking out the other pods shortly. I was originally thinking of the Brick being for assassinations and the like, but of course, bypassing most of the ship (after docking once to see the layout) is its real appeal. And the Tick could be pretty amazing for those tight timelines, for heists in general, and plus just general alarm avoidance — am I at risk of being seen? Okay bye! Try again!

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            Wisq says:

            Oops, looks like I completely misread the effect of the Tick. I thought it meant you could teleport back to the airlock from aboard a ship. Turns out they just meant, teleport the pod to the airlock of the ship. Seems a lot less useful now. :(

  6. Larth says:

    A good review for an excellent game! One thing I would point out is that for the time-limited missions and the alarms, either destroying the engines of the ship you’re on (By blowing up all of the blow-up-able modules) or killing the pilot will permanently stop the timer – This makes the missions a lot more forgiving than they appear.

    • benkc says:

      Blow-up-able modules? What? What do these look like and what does it take to blow them up? I completely missed that aspect of the game.

      • Otterley says:

        The explosive modules have something similar to dynamite a their center. Just shoot ’em with a lethal weapon to cause dramatic damage. Best keep quite a bit of distance, actually.

        This is what they look like: [imgur.com] Detonatable modules!

        Btw, they also have a tooltip explaining their use (like turrets and stuff).

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Yeah, more than half the nitpicks I’ve seen in reviews of the game are because the reviewer missed something like this. And that’s not entirely on them, since a lot of this stuff isn’t entirely obvious or well-explained. A lot of it just comes down to experimentation and observation.

  7. wonkavision says:

    I love Heat Signature, but I wish it had more depth. It feels like a much-improved version of the bandit defense and assassination/kidnapping missions of Sword of the Samurai, without any of the depth added by Sid Meier’s Pirates or New Horizons or Inindo: Way of the Ninja. I like the Cannon Fodder feeling of having lots of heroes who die, and the generational progress of Rogue Legacy, but I wish there were world-level goals/consequences. I want more story/lore than the two NPCs provide.

    • Darloth says:

      There’s a little more – doing faction stronghold liberation missions adds other NPCs to the pool of people you could possibly meet and talk to, but even then there’s only six or so.

      One of the conversations was good enough that I burst out laughing, though, so at least they’re a GOOD six or so :)

    • Anvilfolk says:

      I don’t know that I agree with the lack of depth, though I might’ve earlier on. My go-to tactic was to use the concussion hammer and the occasional teleport to just whack everybody and get on with it. There would be some minor variations depending on equipment that I happened to have lying around, but capturing the ship was definitely the main strategy.

      But once you’ve got an inventory-full of equipment, plus some in the stash, and you read through the mission details, it can get surprisingly complex. I’ve found myself in the pause screen for two minutes at a time just trying to come up with a plan to deal with 3 pods of enemy troops with keys, etc. I often forget to use the environment too, e.g. breaking windows, blowing up equipment, etc.

      At this point, I find myself thinking of the game as very much an “easy-to-learn, hard-to-master” sandbox. Thoroughly enjoy it!

      • PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

        Yup – agree with this. Its depth comes from the well considered play mechanics and systems. Plot and lore are a BS way of adding depth imo, not required here.

    • ludde says:

      I wish there were more mechanical depth, e.g. expanded guard routines, more variations of interiors, random events and different ship behavior on the world map and more variations on gear and heroes.

      Although I do like it, as it stands it’s all a bit samey after the first hour or two.

  8. JarinArenos says:

    As I get older I find myself more and more being baffled at reviewers having difficulty with games I’ve breezed through. It’s… a distinctly odd experience. I’m much more used to being the one told to “git gud” rather than the one resisting the impulse to tell. Because these are legitimate complaints for a lot of players. It’s just strange to be on the other side of that divide now.

    Suffice to say that I’d note most of the complaints in the article (frustration, difficulty interpreting the environment) are subjective. It’s good to note, but some players aren’t going to have any trouble with those issues. I’d recommend watching some videos of the game to see what things look like to you before buying.

    TL:DR, I’m not a ‘hardcore’ twitch gamer by any means – I’m honestly more used to kinda sucking at games, but I find Heat Signature to have gotten rather easy, rather quickly. YMMV

    • Shadow says:

      Yeah, I’ve noticed it’s pretty forgiving, possibly too much, considering it’s supposed to be roguelike-ish?

      The bleed-out mechanic effectively gives every character several “lives” to play with, even if the whole delay may fail you an entirely disposable mission. That works at odds with the notion of having limitless, randomly generated mercs. Also considering gear is easily obtained, and character power ramps up quickly with it.

      Lethal damage should be, well, far more lethal, and getting harmlessly spaced should be limited only to certain enemies (armed with non-lethal weapons) or easier missions. I’ve played a few hours so far, and haven’t had any character killed yet: the only reason to change characters is to retire powerful ones due to their liberation impact diminishing.

      • JarinArenos says:

        Yeah, I lost several characters in beta while learning the mechanics, but have not lost a single one since release (and only one retired early due to injuries). I mean, a game being forgiving is a good thing, but I’d rather it leaned heavier on “the next character can rescue your previous one” mechanic for screwups. Make you work for it a bit, rather than just catch-and-redock. Especially once you get the Angel crashpod, which means even bleedout isn’t a threat anymore.

      • Shadow says:

        Considering a new character can get enough decent gear within 2-3 missions, no, the game being this forgiving isn’t a good thing. Logic would dictate they should die as easily as they live, to keep things balanced. Maybe the current state of affairs is good enough for an Easy difficulty level, but for more serious gameplay, considering how easily you can recover from a lost character, power-wise, things should be significantly more intense.

        Another issue I see, and one much more fundamental, is that the liberation mechanic makes things deliberately boring in the beginning, with enemies and missions being quite monotonous until you start unlocking gadgets and mission types. I feel like this kind of variety should always be present, but as the game’s currently designed, that’d kill the point of liberating stations beyond unlocking stronghold assaults.

  9. CMaster says:

    Heat signature – it’s good, and for your first hour or so you’ll think it’s really, really good.

    Then you’ll slowly realise that there isn’t much variety, and half the components don’t actually make sense. The longer you play, the easier the game gets, but there’s no harder goals appear past about hour 2. The defector missions are disconnected from everything. Half the special objectives can be fouled up by random circumstance (guards are quite keen on spacing themselves at the same time as they space you, and if ships fly a certain path they come under attack, which sets off alarms and kills people)

    • Darloth says:

      It took me 11 hours to get to the point where I no longer found everything about it totally amazing.

      Given that it cost under £11, I consider this more than worth the money, and I’ll keep playing it even though now it’s just good fun.

      It might also be improved later if any further depth or content is added, so here’s hoping.

    • Fachewachewa says:

      guards are quite keen on spacing themselves at the same time as they space you

      What ? Are you talking about shooting windows or when they knock you out and throw you out the airlock ? If the later, that never happened to me in 20+ hours ._.

      • CMaster says:

        It happened on an offworld ship to me when I first noitced it, although it may have happened before. Twice, when I was captured + unconcious, a guard was spaced with me. THe third time, (actually, might have been the middle one) the guard walked up to a plate glass window and threw me through it – with the inevitable consequences to him/her.

    • wyrm4701 says:

      Yes, it’s a very shallow game, and that’s pretty weird, given it’s ambitions. After the first hour or two, you’ve pretty much seen and done everything on offer, and the excitement of being thrown into space just gets tedious. Once you realize there’s only one failure state, you start noticing that there’s only a handful of permutations in each mission, and damn but that gets boring. I’m kinda disappointed with this, and I’d refund it if I hadn’t spent so long looking for some sort of complexity that’s inexplicably, frustratingly absent.

      EDIT: Also, why is it excluded from Steam Family Sharing? Is there any good reason for that?

    • Petethegoat says:

      Pretty much this. It’s extremely fun, but awfully limited in content. It’s begging for mod support.

      Very few actions have consequences, and usually the worst that can happen is you’ll lose a mission. If Klei had made this, it’d almost certainly be GOTY. As is it feels like it has great potential, but a lack of depth and consequence.

  10. Son_of_Georg says:

    I’d add that it’s the right price for a game like this. I also was frustrated especially at first, but I found it getting less frustrating as I figured out what threats to watch out for and how to use the different gadgets. It’s pretty exciting when everything comes together.

    My best story so far: an assassination mission where I approached my target only to realize that he was wearing armor, and I had no armor piercing weapons. So I activated my personal shield and fired my pistol into the wall. Guards came streaming into the room, and I circled to dodge as many shots as possible, until my target came in behind them. I fired two pistol shots… at the fuel tank in the middle of the room. The whole room exploded, we were all sucked out into space, and my pod came to pick me up while an entire wing of that ship floated off of it and my target suffocated. Mission accomplished.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      That’s pretty good! I would have just given up, honestly.

      • Sleepymatt says:

        The real fun in this game is when you hit a “give up” moment, and then realise that there is a crazy crazy option that might just work… and then pulling it off. The game’s main failing is that it’s often easy enough to avoid getting yourself in that tight spot to start with.

  11. Clarksworth says:

    This is a good game, and I love the ridiculousness of the game loop. But I completely agree with your comments on readability. I spend more time in pause mode mousing over things than I should for a game of this type. Maybe that’s a bit intentional, as I think things exploding you didn’t expect to explode is at least a little part of the game’s central ideal of things going wrong fast, but I’d rather it was clearer.

  12. Urthman says:

    I’m starting to think some games need to list “minimum monitor size” in their System Requirements/Recommendations. There seems to be a new trend in games that require a really big monitor to make out what’s going on.

    My #1 impression watching videos of this game is, “Wow that’s tiny. How the hell can you tell what’s going on or what anything is?”

    • PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

      Zoom.. whoosh!

    • Frank says:

      It has a zoom feature that can be used at any point in the game and moves continuously from a close zoom-in to the full galaxy …

    • Urthman says:

      How close can you zoom? I’ve yet to see a video or screen shot zoomed close enough to see what’s what.

  13. racccoon says:

    I do not get it all, it seems way to basic & unfulfilling.

  14. Reacon says:

    I didn’t notice this in the review, and it didn’t seem to be eluded to particularly much, but you can actually stop the timer by killing the pilot.

    Alot of the deeper tactics of the game actually end up being rather out of the box, to the extent that one can eliminate ships by stealing other ships and depositing them in the path of your target to get you an edge.

    Not sure if this was known, just wanted to get it out there.

  15. renner says:

    Just want to say some of my favorite missions are the “Defector Missions,” which are little one-off challenges available after you liberate a station. You can restart the mission at any time (whereas with normal missions, if you fail, the opportunity is lost) and you’re given a specific set of items that makes it feel more puzzle-y, encouraging you to come up with new strategies/item combos you might not have bothered with before. Been loving the whole game so far, but those have been a highlight for me.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    I’ve been fantastically enjoying Heat Signature, and as much as I of course try to acknowledge that enjoyment is subjective, I’ve been a bit dismayed by some of the problems cited in reviews. (This one is actually the most fair I’ve seen so far, IMO.)

    Regarding complaints of tediousness: I think a lot of that comes down to people picking one play style and sticking to it. I don’t think the game is designed for that. Sure, you can unlock your favourite items and always buy them in the store, but I find things are much more entertaining when you procure all your items from loot boxes and save your money for the green self-charging items in the store — rare, expensive, but always useful. The result is that you get a very random loadout with each character, and that leads to vastly different gameplay each time.

    Ultimately, I feel that any time things are getting at all tedious (or your liberation percent is too low), I feel it’s time to finish your personal mission and cash out — leave a nice item for your other characters, and start fresh with a new and exciting character. Me, I usually cash out by the time I’ve got one or two good self-charging items — generally, that’s enough to complete almost any mission, plus I’ve definitely got something worth leaving by then.

    (If your personal mission got you oodles of cash, don’t forget to buy a nice item or a bunch of mystery boxes to find the best possible item to leave for your future characters. Money just goes with you into retirement.)

    Regarding difficulty: I think a lot of it comes down to understanding all your options, especially those that relate to pausing or slow motion. Aside from being a roguelike game in space, Heat Signature and FTL have another thing in common: If you’re having problems related to skill of execution (and not just “I didn’t bring the things I need to this fight”), you’re probably not using pause mode enough.

    But even in the latter cases, there are also plenty of times when you actually have brought the things you need, and you just don’t realise it. Grenade launchers are great for taking out engines — particularly remote-detonated ones, which let you set up an insurance policy by rigging the engines to blow if necessary. Visitors can be used to loot chests, or steal keys from guards — or just as an insurance policy, since the return teleport is guaranteed even if you’re passed out. Subverters can disable door locks. Gunshots can be used just to make noise and lure guards, maybe into a glitch trap, or just into your wrench. If parts of the ship are blown off, your pod can dock with the broken hallways. Grenades and turrets ignore armour. Capturing a ship can solve tricky situations like “my rescue target is behind a locked door and I ejected all the guards with keycards”. Etc etc.

    I suspect a lot of people are limited by their assumptions, too. For example, the Swapper’s description just says that it can be used to exchange places with another person. It doesn’t say that person needs to be alive and conscious, nor that they need to be an enemy. There’s plenty of tricks to be had with teleporting bodies around — or combining the swapper and visitor (or other teleporters) in interesting ways.

    Once you understand all your options, a lot of situations that seem unsolveable, suddenly aren’t. I’ve had a heist target fly too close to an enemy base while I’m en route, and get shot and go on alert. I docked anyway — to a broken hallway (airlock’s gone), facing five guards with shields and heat sensors, with only 24 seconds on the capture clock — and I made it in and out of there (with prize in hand) in less than 10 seconds, using a Sidewinder, Visitor, and Emergency Shield. (And yeah, there’s no way I could’ve pulled that off without being in pause or slow motion pretty much the entire time.)