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Video Game / Sigma Theory

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Pictured: "Robber", one of the multiple agents in the game

Sigma Theory: Global Cold War is an espionage thriller game developed and published by Mi-Clos Studio (whose previous credits include Out There), and released for the PC through Steam Early Access on April 18, 2019.

In the near future, a paradigm-shifting scientific discovery looms over the world, promising radical new technologies. The world’s superpowers realize that these new developments could destroy the global financial system, wipe out entire countries overnight, or even grant immortality. However, this discovery — called “The Sigma Theory” — can only be harnessed by a handful of scientists. You are placed at the head of your country’s Sigma division, with the objective of ensuring that your nation comes out on top of the new Cold War that the Sigma Theory has now unleashed. To achieve this, your government has granted you powerful resources: a cadre of the world’s most elite covert agents, advanced tactical drones, and — of course — authorization to use diplomacy and subterfuge with the other nations' Sigma teams.

Sigma Theory contains examples of:

  • All Chinese People Know Kung-Fu: When playing China, the first selected agent has the bonus trait 'Black Belt'.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can have as many scientists as you can convert to your side, but your team can never have more than four agents at once.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Agent Shaolin, da. Raised in a Shaolin monastry and Martial Arts expert.
  • Battle Couple: At the start of a run, the player can choose their spouse, all of which are possible agents.
  • Blood Knight: Some agents have traits such as 'Nag', which means they'll never factor in collateral damage, or 'Bloodthirsty', which means they'll always prefer an option involving killing than a peaceful path. One agent that always begins with both of these is Shiva, a former Wild Child meant as a sacrifice to Kali.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Agent Ideal, a crypto-anarchist, and Agent Abertzale, a Basque separatist. The terrorist organisation Anti-Capitalist Brigades also fits the bill.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: One of the technologies that can be developed while researching Sigma Theory, if specializing in Neuroscience, is capable of brainwashing captured agents.
  • Code Name: All of the agents in the game have one, usually giving a hint as to their specialty (ex. "Robber" is good at infiltration and exfiltration, while "Banker" is more suited for bribing and other monetary exchanges).
  • Comeback Mechanic: Hooray, you got 15 Sigma Points and can now get started on the ultimate Sigma Theory which will win you the game! But to do that, you need to pull scientists from your Sigma research to work specifically on this final theory. And unlike the earlier Sigma techs, the theory itself doesn't help you in any way before it's finally complete. So while you're busy with the theory, your rivals who are behind can keep unlocking the remaining Sigma techs and reaping their benefits — and now you're at the top of their hit list. Luckily, this cuts both ways, as you yourself can (and in fact must) keep gaining new Sigma techs when an AI player hits the big 15 first.
  • Continuing is Painful: If the Doomsday Clock is about to strike midnight, it's possible to smooth things over with your country's greatest rival and set it back a few giving them a copy of all your Sigma Theory research, instantly granting them any benefits you had access to, and possibly bringing them closer to the ultimate research than yourself.
  • Continuity Nod: Upon completing the ultimate Sigma Theory research, the player proclaims that they will be "both judge and architect," a reference to the Judge-Architects of Out There
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Ortega Circle, a terrorist organization representing the 0.0001%.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Agent Espoir, an idealist lawyer who doubles as Technical Pacifist.
  • Cute and Psycho: Agent Venom, a pretty and manipulative agent with 'strong psychopatic tendencies'.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Upon completing the ultimate Sigma Theory research, a machine turns the player into this.
  • Doomsday Clock: The state of the world is tracked by one, and if international conflict (including the player's actions) causes it to strike midnight, the game ends with humanity destroying itself via nuclear war.
  • Double Agent: It's possible to convert scientists in enemy territories to your side, slowing down their research into Sigma Theory while advancing your own, though they will break ties if contact isn't made with their converter regularly. It's possible for the enemy to do this to the player's scientists as well, and your agents might outright leave and start working against you if a rival makes enough progress with their own research.
  • Eagleland: America has an easier time convincing scientists to work for them, because America's ideals and way of life are extremely compelling. In short, their special power is being America the Beautiful. Nonetheless, America's Sigma division is as ruthless as anyone else's.
  • Eco-Terrorist: Agent Anuman has a backstory as an animal rights militant that led a guerilla war against smugglers and farmers.
  • Escape Artist: Elite Agent Magician is a skilled illusionist with expertise in exfiltration and jailbreaking.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: When playing France, the first agent picked by the player gains the seduction trait as a bonus.
  • Expy: Thomas Breckenridge, aka 'Maestro', an elite British agent who is an expert in seduction, guns, and cars. He's clearly a James Bond expy.
  • Forced Transformation: One possible event is a scientist asking for your permission to leave to experiment with animals for a few days; if you give them carte blanche, the scientist becomes Agent Wolf, a human-dog hybrid that appears more beast than human.
  • Germanic Efficiency: When playing Germany, the first scientist of the country is proficient in all scientific fields.
  • Gray Goo: The ultimate Robotics project ABADDON combines the worst aspects of this trope with a Killer Robot. It can also fly and is explicitly capable of withstanding a nuclear blast.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The player chooses their name and gender at the start of the run.
  • Humans Are Insects: How the player can see things at the end of the game after ascending, at least in one possible outcome.
  • Impossible Genius: Sigma Theory research is only possible because of a limited number of scientists of different fields possessing this, which the player must seduce, bribe, persuade, or just outright abduct to their side.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Several agents (Gamera, Double K, Mystery, Enigma and Troyan) display both high Intelligence (often paired with hacking traits) and socially-inept traits such as 'Loner' or 'Weak-Willed' which render them inefficient at converting scientists into double agents.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The backstory of Agent Padma.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Captured agents can divulge information if handled properly, with methods ranging from "standard interrogation" to "waterboarding".
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Agent Archer, who prior to his recruitment, protected farmers in his Korean hometown against The Mafia.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In one ending, upon attaining godhood and judging the rest of humanity unworthy, the player wipes all memory and evidence of all Sigma Theory research from the world, before going off to start new civilizations unopposed elsewhere in the cosmos.
  • Legion of Lost Souls: Agent Tiger and Agent Kepi Blanc are former soldiers of the French Foreign Legion. Unsurprisingly, both are strong fighters with the 'Survivor' trait.
  • Macrogame: When first playing the game, there are only a few available agents the player can choose to start with. However, by making progress and accomplishing certain milestones, new agents will become available for future runs.
  • Master of Disguise: Agents can have this as a trait, allowing them to move around even in countries with an arrest warrant for the agent.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: The Caliphate of the Levant group, as well as Agent Caliph, who has strong connections with the Islamic State and Daesh.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on the state of world affairs at the end of a run, and also how well the player handled things, the outcome of completing research into Sigma Theory may be different.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: The player can only have one agent with the "Elite" trait in their starting team (although further Elites can be recruited later, even if they're replacing a non-Elite agent).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A number of agents are inspired by real life persons:
  • Old Master: Agent Saint is a 90-year-old Brahmin who excels at hand-to-hand combat and has the verve of a man half his age.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: While the agents might have to deal with people who prefer dealing with certain genders, the player's own gender only influences their options for a spouse.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Every agent has a Strength score, an Intelligence score, and a variety of different traits that can positively or negatively impact specific missions. Though agents cannot level-up, a player's actions during a run can add positive traits to an agent's profile.
  • Socialite: Three agents fit the bill: Kim Joo-Sun, aka 'Aphrodite', Ece Gürdag, aka 'Green Crescent' and Ruhi Aman aka 'Noble' are all described as members of The Beautiful Elite and their abilities revolve around people manipulation and soft power.
  • There Can Be Only One: As the game progresses, the nations in last place will regularly drop out of the game. At first, this will be because they have abandoned any hope of catching up in the Sigma race, but later in the game, it can be because someone else's latest Sigma tech allowed them to annihilate the losing nation in literally ONE day.
  • The Singularity: The goal of the final Sigma Project. In this game's interpretation of the Singularity, the winner becomes a Deity of Human Origin, capable of destroying or uplifting all humanity with a mere thought. Whether this ends up being a good, bad, or even indifferent ending depends on the state of the world when the game ends.
  • The Spymaster: The role that the player assumes in the game.
  • Story Branching: Most of the gameplay is making decisions, whether it's dealing with a diplomat in order to exchange resources, or providing suggestions to an agent escaping enemy territory.
  • Tech Tree: A limited variant. Sigma Theory research is divided into five fields: Neuroscience, Health, Finance, Robotics, and Astrophysics. Each tech of a field is learned in a set sequence, with each subsequent tech being worth one more Sigma Point than the last. Interestingly, unlike most 4X style tech trees, only the first nation to research a tech gets its benefit. In another difference, the final Sigma Theory (and associated victory) doesn't require you to research ALL the way to the end of the tree — you simply need 15 Sigma Points worth of earlier techs.
  • Tuckerization: Agent Domingo is based on and named after a French video game streamer that had covered the game and provided good publicity.
  • Wild Child: Agent Shiva was one, growing up in the wild after being abandoned in a temple. During missions, he'll curbstomp any Strength challenge, while being almost worthless for any Intelligence challenge.
  • Yakuza: Agent Tsuba, member of the Yamaguchi-Gumi.
  • You Lose at Zero Trust: Lose the trust of your government, and your job will come to an abrupt and fatal end.