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Video Game / Heat Signature

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A game where you break into spaceships, make terrible mistakes, and think of clever ways out of them.

Heat Signature is a Wide-Open Sandbox Roguelike Space Infiltration game with stealth elements developed by Suspicious Developments of Gunpoint fame, led by "recovering games journalist" Tom Francis. The game was developed over the course of four years, and was released on 21 September 2017. The game is available on Steam here.

The story follows a galactic war between four factions, each acting independently. Each one rules the space stations that dot the nebula with an iron fist, and the hardworking folk that live in them want freedom. That's where you come in: maybe your wife was kidnapped by The Empire and you want to get her back, or maybe your brother was murdered by the Corrupt Cops of The Federation. Or maybe you just need to steal something to pay off an old debt. Either way, you're armed with a Breacher Pod, a short-range non-organic-matter teleporter, and a huge arsenal of futuristic weapons and gadgets to raise the money to fund your potential Suicide Mission to save the ones you love or get revenge for their demise.

Gameplay, as mentioned above, is an insane hybrid of several features going on at once. The player can, at any time, zoom the screen out to show the entire galaxy at once, and using their Breacher Pod can hijack a ship's airlock to allow entry. Once inside, gameplay transforms into a hybrid of Hotline Miami and SUPERHOT, with the player proceeding through the ship, knocking out, killing, or shooting anyone in their way en route to their goal. The game encourages experimentation and careful planning, and arms the player with a huge assortment of gadgets, such as timed grenades, silenced weaponry, guns that switch your place with someone else and hacking tools that turn your enemies technology against them. Need to assassinate someone? You could climb aboard, sneak about, and shoot him in the back of the head... or you could hijack another ship and fire missiles at the ship he's on.

On September 5, 2018, the "Challenge Update" beta was released, adding Contractors, new alarm responses, daily challenge missions, and modifiers for characters.

Heat Signature contains examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: All of the common items you can get from guards are worthless in terms of sale value—they literally sell for nothing. Buying them, however, costs money (though thankfully it's not a whole lot—a wrench will only cost you one unit of acid, for instance). Everything that isn't single-use (or equivalent) costs quite a bit of money, and you start with almost no money at all. Many of the more difficult (and therefore higher-paying) missions feature guards with armor or shields, and you need specific gadgets or weapons to deal with them at all—and those cost money. Worse, since many of the more difficult missions these feature lots of guards with special protection, you need more than one such gadget.
    • Earning money by doing a series of easier missions is certainly doable, but takes time. Unfortunately, a given character's ability to contribute towards liberations diminishes after doing enough missions, so by the time you get a bunch of quality gear, you have to retire the character and start anew. To make matters worse, one of the shops sells items that you haven't unlocked yet (only one such item, and it's chosen at random), but it's explicitly overpriced (usually up to 3x normal).
    • It's also possible to raid non-mission ships for items to sell, but guards with armor/shields may appear on these ships, making the raids not worth the effort if your items aren't Rechargeable/Restockable.
  • Ammo-Using Melee Weapon: The Crashblade can disable any shield and kill the shielded enemy behind it in one stroke, but only has one use before it turns into a regular longblade. Cherry's Fatal Attraction can pierce through shields and armor, teleports you to the enemy you're killing with it, and can be recharged between missions.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different / A Taste of Power: Defector missions allow you to play as mercenaries trying to get out of the organization they work for, and prove their loyalty to the Independent faction by going on a Suicide Mission with some very powerful equipment. Guns are typically Armor-Piercing, Silent, Quickfire, or any combination thereof, and equipment that use charges can recharge in a manner of seconds.
    • Alternately, their missions can be very... unique. One special defector (whose name is always Dan Hardcastle, (for the player who introduced the concept to the devs)) challenge involves boarding a moving ship without a pod; you must propel yourself to the airlock using guns before assassinating your target. Then there's the possibility of getting an assassination mission where your only true weapon is a glitch trap.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Mulitple:
    • If you somehow manage to lock a keycard on the other side of the door it unlocks, you can just teleport it to you. You can also mark items as 'teleport to stash' if you don't have enough inventory space, and they'll be put into your stash when you next dock at a station.
    • Also, armor-piercing weapons in some Defector Missions may use regular ammunition instead of the special and rare AP ammunition.
    • As long as your objective isn't killed or destroyed in a Rescue/Kidnap/Steal Personal Mission, you can retry it as many times as you like. This can be useful if you get a really bad layout for the ship (e.g. if it's full of shielded, armored guards, at least two of which are looking straight at the airlock you enter through, whilst giving you only 90 seconds to complete the mission before the ship docks at a station).
    • As long as you don't set off the alarm on a ship, and it isn't a Time Limit mission, you can fly back to a friendly station and return to that ship as many times as you like. This is really useful if you dock with the ship and realize you need a tool which you don't have right now, but can be obtained from the shop or your stash. Also, because Rechargeable items recharge every time you return to a station, this gives you a practically unlimited number of uses for them, provided you're careful not to trigger the alarm. Once you've removed the pilot from the ship's controls (which is as simple as hitting them, even if they're armored/shielded), the timer will disappear completely.
    • As of the Challenge Update, bringing up the store menu for one store will bring up the menus for all the stores at once - so you no longer have to move about the shops to buy items of different kinds.
    • Also added in the Challenge Update - Upon becoming alerted, guards will shout different phrases depending on what alerted them - if a gunshot or body did so, they will shout "Gunshot!" or "Body!", respectively. In addition, the time it takes for the phrase to be "typed out" coincides with how long you have before they sound the alarm - if you neutralize them before it completes, you're safe.
    • The Challenge Update added a bunch of new clients to work for. Two of them, the "Old Timer" and the "Soft Target" remove two of the most annoying elements of combat, namely contractors and shields.
    • "Automatic" weapons were changed to fire on release of the trigger, to make careful aiming with them actually possible. All guard guns were also changed to be Quiet by default, as a single gunshot could otherwise completely ruin stealth. As it stands it will still complicate things (as any guard in a fairly sizeable radius will hear it, unless there's a wall or door between them and the gunshot source), but you can recover from it if you're quick.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The lethal melee weapons are the Longblade and Shortblade, essentially a longsword and shortsword respectively. They clearly have some social/cultural function within Sovereign society, as many of their ships have sparring areas (complete with faded bloodstains) and Sovereign guards that don't carry guns will carry Longblades instead of the nonlethal pipe wrenches used by other factions. Also notable in that all characters appear to wield the Longblade similarly to the classical European 'Ox guard' style (though on their left, rather than right).
    • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: You can throw anything in Heat Signature, but it works best with weapons. This also offsets the Shortblade's normally extremely short reach; you can just throw it at guards instead of rushing them. Weapons can also be thrown even if they're on cooldown, and a weapon can be teleported back to your character after impact; proper usage of throwing and the item teleporter can allow you to kill five guards using only two longblades.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted, it's very useful. The bright yellow armor worn by guards is 100% impenetrable to everything short of specfic Armor Piercing Attacks or explosives, and unlike a personal shield it can't be disabled with hacking tools. The only thing non-AP weapons can really do to armored guards is briefly stagger/disorient the target by knocking them off their feet for a split second, though close-range shotgun blasts and the concussion hammer can knock them back a long way, potentially launching them through a window.
    • Played straight after the player has progressed far enough in the campaign, which may not be very far if they're lucky and/or smart. Once you unlock armor-piercing weapons, all your characters can buy them at relatively reasonable prices (i.e. after playing one or two regular missions). The Concussive Armor-Piercing Shotgun has 16 shots, can take out a whole roomful of armored guards in one shot, comes in silenced and rapidfire versions, and its ammo is free!
  • All for Nothing: If you're invested in an independent Drift, you get to sit and watch as Sader Fiasco's mysterious client swoops in and takes over the entire system with a titanic armada of siege ships, accomplishing what might have taken you ten to twenty hours in less than a minute.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Everything Gun, which works kind of like the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2. Upon firing, it will instantly teleport any loose objects within a large radius to your gun and fire them out a high speeds in a spread pattern, knocking out everything in its path. Since the projectiles ricochet all over the place, this can also knock you out, too. On top of that, if there aren't any loose objects lying around within range, the gun is literally useless.
    • Armor-piercing guns let you finally deal with armored opponents. However, they only use armor-piercing ammo, which costs six times the price of normal ammo (6 acid per twelve shots, to the preston standard rounds' cost of 1 for the same amount) and are rare to find (and even then, only in small amounts). And since guards don't carry armor-piercing guns themselves, you can't restock your ammo from dropped guns like you can with normal guns. This makes the automatic versions of armor-piercing guns especially impractical, since their high rates of fire are largely irrelevant, given your very low ammo supply.
    • The Sovereign Coldfire is a Breacher pod that uses Stealth in Space to be immune to visual sensors, and it has an alternate thruster mode that makes it immune to "heat sensors" - which are extremely rare. It looks cool, but avoiding visual sensors is quite easy anyway, and you can't shoot out windows from the outside either. The rarity of ship-based heat sensors means that most of the time its alternate thruster mode doesn't seem to do anything else except provide a slower thruster mode that looks cool. You can't even sell it for money.
  • Blown Across the Room: Firearms have a decent amount of knockback, but nothing too crazy. It only really gets absurd if you catch someone with a shotgun blast at point blank - which can (understandably) even stun armored guards for a few seconds.
  • Boring, but Practical: Wrenches and longblades. They'll be the first weapons you pick up and likely see you through to retirement. While they're not the strongest and don't do anything fancy, they can handle any job that doesn't involve shields and armor largely on their own, and even those with a bit of support. They can even surpass guns in utility by being unlimited and silent by default.
    • The Offworld Angel pod makes it much easier to catch yourself and whoever else gets defenestrated into space and reduces the permanent bleed-out timer reduction that normally follows being wounded and then Thrown Out the Airlock down to one-third of its original penalty. Barring the default replacement pod, it is also the cheapest boarding craft in the game and can usually be unlocked pretty early on. It may not sound as intriguing as the Glitcher Tick or the Foundry Brick, but its superior ability to tend your wounds can greatly improve your character's lifespan.
    • Acid and Crash traps only disable enemy gear or remove enemy armor, but the fact that they are self-charging by default means that by using them carefully you can defeat an entire spaceship of armored or shielded enemies without running out of crasher charges or armor piercing bullets
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Glory, accomplished by completing missions that award Glory - which are extremely difficult end-game level missions. There are several levels of Glory mission too.
  • Cast from Money: The primary currency of the galaxy is the corrosive acid that makes up the nebula around you. What if you had a gun that could shoot corrosive acid?
    Sovereign: Our accountants point out that since this region's currency is itself an armor-corrosive acid, existing penetration solutions are actually less effective than literally spraying the target with money.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Mirfak has an... interesting conspiracy theory about who or what really controls Sovereign, and admits that it may be pretty dumb depending on how you look at it.
  • Cool Old Lady: Sader Fiasco claims to be 60 or thereabouts, is a master spy, and has been shot ten times. She single-handedly (more or less) dismantled the Sleeper Fleet - a massive, unknown faction - on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge because they hurt someone close to her.
    Sader Fiasco: "It's a contract. You take contracts. I've taken contracts for forty years. You know what they say about old spies?"
    Player: "They're old, and also spies?"
    Sader Fiasco: "Nothing. They're all dead by thirty-six. You make it to sixty in this job by being very, very, very, careful. And eventually, you get a rep. If you wanna crush an empire in this galaxy, you send an armada. You wanna crush four, you send me."
  • Cool Starship: Offworld Security ships are shining white flying-wing designs, and thus look very sleek and cool. Sovereign ships are also pretty sleek, having a serious case of Red and Black and Evil All Over.
  • Cool Sword: Both the longblade and the shortblade. The shortblade is held more like a tonfa, with the blade parallel to the forearm and tip near the wielder's elbow.
  • Cutting the Knot: Encouraged. While the example above of hijacking another ship and firing on the ship your target is in will work for assassination missions, capture missions and theft missions will result in an instant failure if your target is killed/destroyed. In addition, since you can pause and fast-forward at any time, a solution to a difficult question may present itself if you take the time to think it through or wait for an opportune moment.
    • Subverters and Teleporters also serve as this for doors. Getting through a door normally requires getting a key - either from a guard, or a console. However, Subverters can unlock doors in their line of effect (of any security level), and you can make Visitor teleports permanent if you expend two charges from it.
  • Creator Thumbprint: People being thrown through windows, because this is a Tom Francis game.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Guards may come rigged with deadman switches and explosives, causing them to explode if they take lethal damage from almost any source. They won't explode if killed via the pause menu execution function, but this requires knocking them out first.
  • Deflector Shields:
    • Shielding units are available to both guards and the player. Guards may have emergency shields that only activate when they're alerted, or shields that are always active. You can use a manually-activated shield that lasts for a few seconds. In both cases, shields deflect all bullets and provide immunity to explosions.
    • Defender contractors have a special version that they give to all guards within radius of them that can't be crashed or subverted, requiring the player character to either take out the Defender first (who also always has a normal shield) or get creative with teleporter gadgets (as the vacuum of space does not care whether or not one has a shield).
  • Destination Defenestration: A valid tactic for dealing with guards. The Concussion Hammer in particular can launch guards pretty impressive distances, potentially straight through/out windows. Even armored guards are vulnerable to this, even if it can't actually knock them out.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: This is encouraged by the game, which incentivizes quick-thinking and careful planning to pull off some insane stunts.
  • Dodge the Bullet: If you're speedy enough, then you can dodge pistol/rifle bullets. Dodging buckshot is much harder, and can only be done at long ranges unless you have someone in front of you. Alternatively, you can use a teleporter to get out of the way just in the nick of time. Or, you could just trade places with the person who shot at you.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: If you talk to Mirfak Lagrange and ask him whether he's with Sovereign...
    Player: "Hey Mirfak. You're Sovereign, right?"
    Mirfak: "Is it the hair?"
    Player: "I don't get it."
    Mirfak: "Sovereign have a white hair thing going on these days, dunno if you noticed."
    Player: "But you have no hair."
    Mirfak: "That's the joke. Welcome to the joke. It's bad here now."
  • Dual Wielding: You can only assign two items to active use at any time, but they can be any two. Your character sprite is only ever shown wielding one item at a time, though. Pairing a longblade and a shortblade, for instance, will allow the player to dash forward for a single strike one one guard and then perform a series of shorter, faster attacks on any other nearby guards.
    • Firing One-Handed: Automatic shotgun in one hand, grenade launcher in the other? Sure, why not.
    • Guns Akimbo: A valid tactic, given that even Automatic weapons have a brief delay between shots. The pause and aim mechanics allow you to gun down an entire room of guards with ease. Can be especially useful with concussion guns, which have a hard limit of 16 shots at a time, being energy-based.
    • Sword and Gun: A simple but effective combo - combine a longblade or shortblade with a sidearm. Or if you're feeling like a Technical Pacifist, use a wrench/hammer and a concussion gun.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The Foundry Brick, an expensive type of breacher pod, can destroy a room/square of a ship by ramming it at high speed. This is a perfectly valid way to essentially bypass an entire, very large ship crewed by tons of badass guards and sentry guns, creating an opening right next to your objective. There are catches, however. You can only destroy a room by ramming it at high speed, making aiming rather difficult, especially if your target ship isn't sailing straight. On impact, your breacher pod is sent flying out of control, requiring you to fix it in a minigame sequence, which takes time. Combined with the fact that ramming a ship instantly sets off its alarm, for missions that have sufficiently short alarm response times, this tactic isn't always possible. Lastly, if you're performing a capture mission, and your target happens to move on a patrol at just the wrong time, your ramming might end up killing your target, instantly failing the mission. Even for rescue and theft missions, the difficulty in precisely aiming your ram means that you might end up destroying/killing your target by accident.
    • An easy but risky method is to hijack another ship, then fly it over to the target ship and open fire (the button you use to brake with your pod is used here to fire missiles). Unfortunately, there's no relative brake, handling an actual warship is about five times harder than flying with your pod, and the enemy ship will flee to a station(although firing at their engines will end this attempt) while they return fire. Try to hijack a ship from the same faction as the one you're targeting, or they'll turn hostile when they detect you.
  • Dynamic Entry: The Foundry Brick specializes in this, as explained above. Additionally, it's possible to do a more limited version of this tactic by using a Breach grenade launcher, destroying a room, and then docking with the far end afterwards. This kind of approach to combat is also encouraged, since taking out a group of guards before they can sound an alarm or return fire is a way of maintaining stealth.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Foundry is a society of hardcore engineers, and they view all problems through the lens of a engineer. This includes things like mental health or sociological problems. If there's a problem, they work on a technical solution.
  • Elite Mooks: Contractors, introduced with the Challenge Update. There are four kinds, each kind being noted on the misson briefing if they appear. The kinds are:
    • Defenders: Provide shields to anyone nearby, including other contractors. These shields cannot be removed by any means unless the Defender who provides them is taken down - the Defender has an ordinary shield vulnerable to Crashers and Subverters.
    • Trackers: Always know where you are - and as soon as they see you, they'll shoot you with their High-Velocity Rifles, which are impossible to dodge.
    • Jammers: Lay down devices that disable all gadgets within the field they put up. They can be shut off once you get close enough, thankfully. If you try to glitch into the field the device puts up, the field disrupts the glitch, which may cause you to teleport into space.
    • Predators: Project a purple field that expands and contracts periodically. If you enter the field, they will immediately teleport to you and stab you. Shields won't protect you from their attacks, either.
  • Energy Weapon: Offworld Security's Concussion Guns have a limited capacity of 16 shots and are 'reloaded' by visiting friendly stations. They shoot light blue energy bolts that seem to disable targets through concussive/impact force (since they can still break windows) rather than being Static Stun Guns
  • Explosive Decompression: If a window is shot out, then everyone in the room gets sucked into space. This is fine for you, since you have your Pod and a limited supply of Oxygen, but everyone else faces a cruel death by suffocation. Considering most of the people you kill are bastards, you really shouldn't feel bad. It's also a fun way to make a dramatic exit.
  • Faceless Goons: All Offworld Security personnel aside from Geneva wear fully-obscuring headgear; guards appear to have an opaque-visored helmet, whilst officers seem to have a kind of... ballcap-goggles-headset-balaclava combo.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The launch trailer.
    Ever since Man first knocked Man through a plate glass window, [illustration from Gunpoint] we have looked to the stars and wondered "What if we could do that...but in space?"
  • Flavor Text: Almost all items have some form of flavor text that either sheds a little light on the universe, or is just intended to be amusing. Sometimes both.
    Grenade Launcher: What if grenades but faster?
    Concussion Grenade Launcher: This device profoundly accelerates bedtime. -Offworld Security
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Shared by the Foundry and Glitchers. The Foundry engineers built pretty much every station in the Drift, and can make grenades that 'shoot hack' (see Hollywood Hacking, below). Glitchers, meanwhile, figured out how to teleport things. You can teleport small things big distances or big things small distances, but you never, ever teleport big things big distances.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Offworld Security's culture explicitly forbids killing under any circumstance.. but they're just as willing to throw you out of an airlock as any other faction. May be justified, considering an infiltrator can just catch themselves with their pod (and Offworld is no doubt aware of this).
    • They do however, hire contractors who are likely to carry lethal weapons.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The currency of the region is noted to be a corrosive acid. So, if you designed a gun that could shoot corrosive acid, it would be child's play to make it accept currency as ammo.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: So, so many examples. Most of them intentional.
    • Guards will wander off by themselves, either to "do [an] errand", investigate weird noises, or examine the sources of unfamiliar heat signatures.
    • Guards will ignore weapons/items that are just lying on the floor, because they clearly weren't dropped by Steve who hasn't returned from checking his email yet even though he left twenty minutes ago.
    • Guards will stand in front of subverted sentries surrounded by their dead or unconscious coworkers. They will not attempt to disable or fix the sentry.
    • Guards appear to be completely deaf to footsteps, allowing you to wander up behind them and rifle through their pockets with impunity.
    • Guards will shoot each other in the back in their eagerness to shoot you.
    • Guards will behave the exact same way they do regardless of what weapons the player is wielding. For instance, they will happily teleport into the melee range of a concussion hammer/shortblade - the fastest-recharging melee weapons in the game. They'll also teleport into hazardous situations such as aforementioned subverted sentries.
    • Armored guards will not react in any way at stepping on an Acid Trap and having their armor literally melted away. Their companions will also not find anything strange in seeing their coworkers' armor disappear before their very eyes.
    • Guards will walk past the pilot room and find no cause for alarm at noticing that the pilot is gone if you took him out.
  • Harder Than Hard: The game has five difficulties for missions: Easy, Medium, Hard, Audacious and "Mistake". Audacious missions are tough to complete, and pay well, but Mistake missions often give huge rewards if completed at the cost of it being almost a guarantee you'll die or fail. Special mention goes to missions involving very large ships and very short alarm response times, meaning that a single mistake in maintaining stealth will immediately result in a mission failure, and using a Foundry Brick as a Dungeon Bypass isn't a valid option.
    • The Challenge update also saw the addition of Glory Missions, which are ultra-brutal missions that offer nothing but glory points.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • A guard's shield can be hacked with a subverter device, causing any shots fired within it to bounce back off the inside of the shield with... predictable results. Sentry turrets can also be subverted, to perceive the player as friendly and guards as enemies.
    • Friendly fire is very much a thing. Guards will sometimes gun down one of their own when trying to shoot at you, particularly when armed with shotguns. This also means that, if you time it right, you can use a Swapper-type teleporter to switch places with a guard who just shot at you...resulting in him being hit by his own projectile.
    • On a slightly less direct note, prior to the Challenge Update, guards carrying heat sensors could be more easily decoyed than those without them, particularly on thin-walled ships. It was possible to lure a key-carrying guard through a locked door by walking into his heat sensor radius on the opposite side of a wall, then knocking him out and stealing his key, all with minimal risk of being discovered. Post-Challenge, however, guards with heat sensors will shout "INTRUDER!" and sound the alarm if you step into their sensor radius.
    • Glitch Dash instantly teleports guards to anything they find suspicious, usually your immediate vicinity... which can very much put them somewhere they don't want to be. If you're dual-wielding Melee weapons, having them teleport straight to you before they even think of raising the alarm is always a treat. And it can combine with Life Link in interesting ways, as the guards will instantly teleport to where they felt their colleague die; with a bit of luck, this can result in the entire guard contingent spectacularly wiping themselves out against a singular shotgun blast because they glitched directly in front of the pellets.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Crashbeams and Subverters, which either 'crash' devices to shut them down entirely (the former), or subvert them to work for you instead (the latter). Their descriptions say it all;
    Crashbeam: If it took three years to make it, it takes one click to break it.
    Subverter: All you need to know about Foundry engineers is that they made 'Allegiance' a variable.
    Subverter Grenade: "Can you make a grenade that shoots hack?" "Hack is not a thing. But yes." - Foundry
  • Hollywood Silencer: Played with. Guns are normally quite loud, but can come in Quiet or Silent versions. Quiet reduces the sound radius significantly and prevents it from being heard through walls or closed doors (though the weapon can still be heard in adjacent rooms via open hallways for a decent distance), whilst Silent reduces the sound radius to one or two meters at most.
  • I Call It "Vera": When you retire a character, you can pass on one of their items and give it a custom name. This item can then be found again by your own characters, and by friends if you're using the Steam version and have content sharing enabled.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Fiasco's Facebreaker, a unique weapon, toes the line. It's a nonlethal melee weapon, it ignores armor (which no other nonlethal melee weapon does), it's extremely quiet, it has the full 8-meter dash range of the Wrench/Longblade/Hammer, and it has the same swing rate as the Hammer. Armed with the Facebreaker, you can take down five unaware guards (possibly more) in the time it takes for one of them to sneeze. It's kept from being the absolute problem-solver as it's still of little use against shields and the extreme knockback can be a liability if not accounted for. Still, the Flavor Text says it best;
    Instantly resolves any personnel-related disputes. - Sader Fiasco.
    • There's also Tesh's Instant Connection, a unique concussion hammer that has an instant recovery and a slipstream effect upon landing a hit, and Cherry's Fatal Attraction, a unique longblade that can be used once to both teleport to a target and stab them... through both shields and armor. While the hammer is even faster than the normal concussion hammer, its slipstream effect is hard to control and it can't do anything to shields or armor. Meanwhile, the longblade's teleport ability can only be used once before it simply behaves like a normal armor-piercing longblade. Nonetheless, those two weapons are still much more effective tools than normal. The Space Birthday update also makes a weaker form of the Fatal Attraction more available in the form of the Crashblade that a downed Predator will drop, which does not pierce armor but can pierce shields once.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: The Predator contractor's glitch field is this: step into the purple radius and it instantly glitches to your character and wounds them. This trope also applies to the Predator itself if the player subverts it, causing the Predator to be teleported outside of the ship and asphyxiate.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: The practice mode terminal seems to have been programmed by someone who isn't a native speaker, to say the least.
  • Invincible Hero: Invoked - Your character can get a reputation for this... and it's not a good thing. As you complete more and more missions with one character, stories of your exploits become more and more commonplace, and thus, less inspiring to the resistance, to the point where people just expect you to win all the time and don't pay attention, making all your missions count for less and less towards station liberations. You need to move on to new heroes in order to keep the wheels of the resistance rolling.
  • Ironic Name: Geneva, the (ex-)Offworld Security Station Security Chief. Offworld Security follow Thou Shalt Not Kill to the letter, but are A-OK with torture - unlike the Geneva Convention.
  • It's Personal: Everyone has a goal that they want to achieve and this takes the form of their Personal Mission. Completing them allows the player to turn one of the items on the character's person to be named and turned into an artifact when they retire to be found by future characters and Steam friends. It also immediately unlocks an outpost liberation, even two if the liberation progress is high enough before starting a Personal Mission.
  • Knowledge Broker: Sader Fiasco retires from getting shot and instead helps the Resistance overthrow the four factions vying for control of the sector.
  • La RĂ©sistance: Your characters all contribute to it. A resistance is explicitly stated by ex-Sovereign employee Mirfak to be the best approach to dealing with Sovereign: Sovereign can beat anyone in a standup fleet fight, no questions asked... but they're just not equipped or trained to fight against guerrilla tactics.
  • Literal Metaphor/Visual Pun: During "Space Halloween", ships with skeleton crews were actually crewed by skeletons.
  • Macrogame: Two examples of it in play here;
    • First, the foundation of the game is that you have multiple individuals working to liberate the Drift. No individual can liberate it singlehandedly; instead, you need to work your way through the factions, liberating stations that unlock new tools to make the final confrontations easier.
    • Second, Steam Workshop sharing of heirloom items and captured characters. Items can be passed on and given a custom name when a character retires, then found again in any playthrough. Your friends can find your heirloom items in their games as well, and if one of their characters gets captured, one of your random new recruits may have their personal mission be to rescue that character. If you succeed you'll be able to play as your friend's character, complete with any items they had when captured. Likewise, if one of your own characters is captured, friends can try to rescue them too.
  • Made of Explodium: Rooms with fuel cannisters. They're detonated by a hit from any lethal weapon, venting the room's contents into space (and then the room is impenetrably sealed with force fields). Bad news if the room contained a guard with a key — or laid on the only path through the ship leading to your goal.
  • MegaCorp: Sovereign. They're basically responsible for this entire mess; they sent a 'mining' expedition to the Drift to evaluate the worth of it, "it" in this case being a gigantic cloud of battery acid. When the expedition's long-range drives broke down on arrival, Sovereign abandoned them. The expedition survived, though, hollowing out asteroids to make all the space stations that fill the Drift to this day. The engineer/miner culture of the expedition itself lives on in the form of the Foundry faction. Unfortunately Sovereign has set their sights on the Drift once again, having finally realized how much it's worth.
  • Money Mauling: The Fleshstripper fires the acid used as currency in the Drift as ammunition, capable of stripping even armored enemies to the bone.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: ...also Sovereign. Paraphrasing the Sovereign bartender, Mirfak: most governments get one planet. Sovereign has thirty five. It has one of the biggest military forces in the galaxy. It's not a government, but it sure makes governments nervous.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Remember that part about not teleporting big things big distances? That's how the Glitcher fleet wound up in the Drift.
    Asli Sixty: "Well, it's not my home. But it's about three and a half thousand light years... that way. Meph, where glitch was born. They were good at it there, better than us - they could glitch small things big distances, big things small distances..."
    Player: "Then?"
    Asli Sixty: "They tried teleporting a big thing a big distance. Teleported their entire fleet to the other side of the galaxy, leaving their planet defenseless and their fleet stranded. The fleet adapted: their short range glitch tech was beyond anything the rest of the galaxy had ever seen, so they could jump in and steal whatever they wanted from passing shipments. It was the weirdest war. Everyone's terrified of this hyper-advanced fleet, and the hyper-advanced fleet is just like, can we have some food please. Also does anyone want to join. This is boring."
  • Noodle Incident: Characters with the Blacklisted negative modifier can never use shops. It's not stated why to the player, but it sure sounds like a textbook Incident;
    You're banned from all shops and you know full well why.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Who builds glass windows on a spaceship? Exaggerated when fuel storage units are visible in plain sight, and can even be shot and ignited! This would be fine on a ship where everyone is armed with melee weapons, but on a ship with guns involved...
    • Shoot the Fuel Tank: You can make a pretty speedy escape by shooting a fuel tank in an engine room, and then jumping into space. This can also be used to forcibly eject enemies from the ship you're in.
      • In another case of Cutting the Knot, escaping capture usually requires taking out the pilot. Alternatively, you can destroy all of the engines (via shooting out the fuel cans) - once you've done so, the ship will be drifting, unable to dock safely at its destination. This isn't too hard with most ships, although Glitcher ships have a very odd distributed design that makes this tactic much harder, and Off-Worlder ships distribute their engines and helm evenly and with annoyingly far-spaced segments.
    • Glitcher ships have a pretty severe case of this too, being seemingly cobbled together from scrap and junk. In certain locations, shooting out one or two fuel tanks can cause entire sections of a ship to break off from the main body.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There is a brief plot at the beginning, and the backstory of the game is available if you talk to some NPCs. Liberating the non-Foundry Faction Strongholds unlocks additional station personnel (Asli Sixty for the Glitchers, Mirfak for Sovereign, Geneva for Offworld Security) to talk to, but the focus is purely on the gameplay.
  • One-Hit Kill / One-Hit-Point Wonder: Anyone that isn't you has exactly 1 HP. Each time you take lethal damage, you suffer from bloodloss and you'll lose about four to six seconds off your base thirty-second timer. The health loss is reduced if you receive medical attention from the Offworld Angel pod's autodoc system.
    • On the other hand, armor and shields seem to be effectively invulnerable to most forms of attack, making them a serious challenge. They can only be bypassed with an Armor-Piercing Attack or Hollywood Hacking respectively, short of launching the wearer into space.
    • With the Challenge Update, characters can have the "Frail" modifier, which means that any lethal damage will immediately kill them - with no chance of being picked up by their pod.
  • Please Select New City Name: Liberated stations are given a new name based on a combination their old name and the name of player character that liberated them.
  • Psychic Link: A newer feature is the Life-Link, which connects groups of guards by glowing green lines. If any linked guard is killed or knocked out, the other members of their squad will immediately be alerted. Commonly used on higher-difficulty ships.
  • Punched Across the Room: Most melee weapons except the shortblade have decent knockback, but Offworld Security's Concussion Hammer takes first place here. It can send guards absolutely flying, and is especially effective at sending them through windows. It can even launch armored guards around, despite being unable to actually knock them unconscious.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The ex-Foundry bartender, Breaker Gemini, explains what happened to the Sleeper Fleet when they killed someone Sader cared about; within two hours, she'd killed the Fleet's commander. Then she leaked their cyphers and personally stole around a third of their fleet. Then Sovereign's fleet showed up. The last of the Sleeper fleet was annihilated years later in a freak electrical storm.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Liberators are spawned by the game if liberations are going far too slowly. They are always armed to the teeth with some of the best and most dangerous gear possible, all to deal with the extremely hard "liberation missions" and then be retired. These are actually an optional feature, and can be toggled on or off depending on your preference.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: This game is made for them. Want to play a character who never kills? Go for it! Want to be a Phantom Thief who only does Stealing missions and never gets seen? Sure. Certain missions even impose the most common kinds as 'clauses' that must be fulfilled or else your pay takes a huge hit. A mission only ever has one clause. In order;
    • Bloodless: Pacifist Run non-lethal style. You cannot kill anyone (except your assassination target, if applicable), but KOs are acceptable.
    • Pacifist: Pacifist Run taken to the extreme. You cannot harm anyone, at all, not even knockout attacks. Sentry guns aren't people, thankfully.
    • Enigma: No living witnesses. If any guards see you, you must kill them to preserve your anonymity. Thankfully missions only generate with a single clause - no Bloodless Enigma missions (you'd get Ghost instead).
    • Silent: Stealth Run - no alarms. This generally requires not being spotted at all, and not setting off any explosives or firing any loud weapons.
    • Ghost: All of the above, except Silent. You cannot kill or knock out any guards, and you cannot be seen. Alarms are fine.
    • Unscathed: though this is never a mission clause - merely a bonus noted on the debrief screen.
  • Sequel Hook: Once you Liberate all four Strongholds, Fiasco reveals she's been working for mysterious independent contractor, who owns entire fleets and has the money to relocate every current inhabitant of the Drift with a "generous" resettlement package if it means they get their hands on all that acid. She's ~70% confident that they won't actually kill everybody. If you select 'Mind if I watch it with you?', you get a view of the siege ship armada sweeping across the Drift, capturing station after station in rapid succession. This ends your 'current' run, but you can generate new Drifts and keep playing as much as you like.
  • Shout-Out: Just like one of Tom Francis's earlier games, the game begins with a character being tossed out a window.
    • The practice terminal explains that "NO DEATH IS REAL IN MAGIC REALITY. R TO RESTART"
  • Spark of the Rebellion: The tutorial shows Sader and Breaker liberating Coldrock Haven. The existence of an independent station causes mercenary types to flock to it, kick-starting the rebellion.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The Visitor type teleporter works like this, allowing you to pop into a nearby location only to be yanked back in about two seconds or so. This is often all the time you'll need to do whatever it is you want however, especially with the Pause mechanic. It's especially useful for pickpocketing keys off of guards, or breaking into chests that are behind locked doors.
  • Super-Reflexes: Represented by the Pause function, which allows you to pause the game and take an action, and the fact that time slows down when enemy units spot you. There's also a manual slow-motion function and the Slipstream device, which puts you into artificial bullet time; for ten subjective seconds and one real second, you move super fast and everyone else is slowed down. However, when this effect ends, the player briefly loses control of their character. Take care not to accidentally defenestrate yourself.
  • Super-Speed: While the Slipstream mostly improves your reflexes, your speed shoots up significantly too, enough that you can outrun the bullets you yourself shot, to say nothing of avoiding everything non-Tracker enemies fire at you. Just watch where you're going, as that's more than fast enough to accidentally trip through a window.
  • Swap Teleportation: "Swapper" is one of the three available portable teleporter types. Its basic function is to swap the current Player Character's position with that of another living character (usually a guard) on the current map and can be used to access otherwise inaccessible locations.
  • Tap on the Head: As is often the case in movies and games, hitting someone on the head really hard with a blunt weapon will just knock them out indefinitely, instead of potentially giving them brain damage or fatal internal bleeding. Likewise, "concussive" guns instantly knock out their targets in a single shot...somehow. There are even armor-piercing concussive guns, which makes no sense at all, but is pretty damn convenient for the Technical Pacifist Off-Worlders. Concussive grenade launchers also exist, which knock out all unshielded targets in the blast radius.
  • Technical Pacifist / Thou Shalt Not Kill: Offworld Security's schtick is they refuse to kill others, period, but are A-OK with torture. All of their weapons are nonlethal, even their sentry turrets. The closest they come to killing is throwing boarders out into space - but then, most boarders can rescue themselves with pods.
    Geneva: "Life isn't yours to take. When you kill someone, you override every choice they were ever going to make, all the good they could ever do. It's an irreversible loss of unknowable magnitude."
    Player: "But it's OK to break their arms?"
    Geneva: "That's fine, yes."
    • Later;
    Player: "What if you have the wrong person?"
    Geneva: "That's what we keep asking cultures who kill. All force is wrong when you're wrong. Ours doesn't leave anyone dead."
    Player: "But that makes you quicker to use it."
    Geneva: "You know what? There's a politic answer to this my CO would give to outsiders, about how seriously we take it, but no. It does. We are. I am. I will beat twenty people unconscious if it stops one death. I will break all of your fingers if I think one of them's going to pull a trigger. I'll do worse, for less. Pain ends. Death doesn't. That's the end of it for me, for us. I'm not here to make my culture palatable to you, so if you don't like it finish your drink and leave me the hell alone."
    • The player is also never technically forced to do the killing for Assassinate missions, or ever, permitting this kind of playstyle. If you bring the assassination target in alive, you get an achievement and the debrief notes "You brought the target in alive, but we can fix that."
    • The game's term for a technical-pacifist mission is "Bloodless", where the player is not allowed to kill but can knock guards out. "Pacifist" missions avert this, though: on such a mission, you aren't allowed to even knock anyone unconscious (except your target in the case of capture or assassination missions).
    • As of the Challenge Update, characters may start with a Bloodless vow - they can never cause someone's death, or they fail the vow.
  • Teleportation with Drawbacks: The Glitchers figured out how to do it, and call it 'glitching' - hence their name. In game, there are three main kinds of teleporter and one trap - the Visitor, Sidewinder, Swapper, and Glitch Traps. You also possess a special item teleporter that can transport any item on the ship straight to you. All teleportation is Destructive Teleportation - Asli Sixty is named so because they've teleported sixty times.
    • Visitors teleport you to anywhere in range for two seconds. You can use a second visitor to make the jump permanent.
    • Sidewinders can teleport you to any point within the area of effect, so long as there is a clear path from your location to that point. Even if that path leaves the area of effect. They can't go through doors, walls, windows, or the weird blue atmospheric retention fields that keep ships from depressurizing, but they can teleport you past the line-of-sight of guards and save time on a long open path if the start and end points are within 8-16 meters of each other.
    • Swappers have long range, but require a target for you to switch places with. Useful for getting past doors.
    • Glitch Traps, when activated, teleport the victim in a direction you define when placing it. Mostly, this allows you to teleport guards into space to get rid of them.
  • Terminally-Ill Criminal: A character with the "dying" trait has only ten minutes to live, so anyone with an assassination as their personal mission qualifies.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The guards' standard protocol of dealing with intruders is to shoot them on sight, then dispose of their bodies via the nearest airlock.
  • Timed Mission: If the alarm is sounded, you'll have a limited amount of time to either leave the ship, take out the captain, or get captured. There's a mission modifier that removes the alarm response, and there's another that already adds a timer to the mission, with the timer being shortened if the alarm is triggered.
    • The Challenge Update adds a "Dying" modifier to some characters, which gives them ten minutes to complete their personal mission and retire before they "[run] out of time".
    • Also added in the same update are telepads. On a capture/assassinate mission, the target flees to the telepad when the alarm is sounded, and the timer changes to how long until the target reaches it.
  • There Was a Door:
    • The Brick allows you to destroy a single room by ramming it, at which point you can (after completing the repair 'minigame') dock with the hole you just made.
    • Also, breach grenades. When you need an exit from the middle of an enemy-infested starship in the next five seconds, look no further. When they detonate, breach grenades obliterate an entire room along with everything in it in a massive explosion.
    If god is dead, he was probably screwing with arconite. -Foundry
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • If there's only one guard with the key you need, try not to kill them by glitch-trapping them into space.
    • Guards can enter locked room even if they don't have the key. So don't follow a keyless guard into a locked room and then take them out, leaving you stuck in the room.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Glitcher's Tick, a breacher pod just as rough and junky looking as any other Glitcher craft, complete with parts that constantly rattle mid-flight, yet performs just as well as any other pod and comes with a teleporter-based automatic docking system to boot.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Mirfak notes that white hair is a bit of a thing in Sovereign, lately. If you look closely, you'll see this is true; all Sovereign guards have white (or grey) hair. Also, Sader - though she's old enough that it (probably) isn't dyed that way.