The Signifier, Director's Cut




Genre: Adventure    

Developer & Publisher: Playmestudio/Raw Fury             

Released: October 15, 2020               

Requirements: Operating System: Windows 7, 8.1, 10 64-bit

Processor: Core i3 (3.4 GHz); AMD A8-7600 (3.1 GHz)

Memory: 8 GB

Graphics: Minimum, Nvidia GeForce 660/AMD R9 270;

DirectX: Version 11

Storage: 20 GB available space












By flotsam


The Signifier

Playmestudio / Raw Fury


It took me a while to finish this, as I kept putting it down to play something else, but it kept bringing me back. Having finished, I then waited a little while to write this, as I sorted through how I felt about it.

You play as Frederick Russell, an expert in Artificial Intelligence and psychology, and developer of the Dreamwalker (christened Evee),  an experimental technology that enables Frederick to scan a person’s brain and then “enter” and explore simulations of their memories. Following the death of Johanna Kast, a high-ranking Executive of the worlds biggest tech company, the Technology Safeguard Bureau comes knocking on his door, twisting arms and looking for answers as to what occurred.

So you get to work.

You will investigate the real world, but the majority of the game takes place inside the memory simulations. These are limited at first and always imperfect. The developmental nature of the technology and the nature of memories themselves produces fragmented and at times almost Lovecraftian environments. As well, you can access the memories in either the objective or the subjective state; the former focuses on recreating the simulation from sight and sound, filtering out any subjective elements, while the latter leaves everything in (emotions for instance). What that means is the objective state is closer to reality, but neither is what you would call real.

The ability to view them from two perspectives is integral to progressing through the game. There are things you can perceive or experience in one and not the other, and flipping between them is necessary to move through the game. You can also manipulate various aspects of some simulations, and you will come to recognise the sorts of things you might be able to interact with. Your interactive curser will help.

It's not a straightforward game, which is part of its attraction, but I confess to feeling lost at times as to what on earth to do next. Evee can help, integrating uncovered bits and pieces into the simulations to produce a more complete realm, as can deploying data blocks that you find. You also get feedback from the game that can help. Looking at things can produce an insight that might eg. suggest switching to the other state and looking again.

Nonetheless I did spend a fair bit of time utterly clueless. Sometimes that was resolved by just doing something that presented itself – jumping into an avatar for instance – but other times a walkthrough was essential, the required way forward being a hotspot hunt beyond me.

Having said that, the nature of the simulations do result in some unique puzzle solves. A fragmented staircase that isn’t there until viewed properly is an example, and there are others. Manipulating and using the things you find (and can inhabit) is necessary to overcome the obstacles to progression. So too is trial and error, and not in a bad way; do things to see how the environment works. It's one of the strengths of the game.

It's visually interesting as well, almost discordant at times. The fractures, gaps and glitches inside the memories produce realms that can ebb and flow from mundane to surreal to a cacophony of polygons. More so of course in the subjective state. It can be disconcerting, but also fascinating. Again, I thought it was a plus, despite getting confused about which slippery tunnel to proceed through next.

The story too is an ambitious one. Political overtones, conspiracy undertones, the State v. private enterprise; all are built on by choices you can make as to how you might engage with a number of entities. Near as I can tell some of those choices do impact the endings you can get. And then there’s your daughter. It’s a detailed and layered endeavour.

The game autosaves fairly liberally as you go, and WASD moves you around. A combination of mouse and keyboard does everything else. You need to be close enough to a hotspot to generate the active curser, which might be one of a few actions. Some of your choices are time limited, but I doubt that will be an impediment to deciding which way you want to go. The voices are fine, the sound effects effective and the music sparing but well used.

The end does come a bit suddenly, and leaves some things up in the air, but I didn’t actually mind. And you might have a big choice to make.

After about six hours of playtime, and a bit of reflection, I liked this game. It has its flaws, but what game doesn’t, and it strives to be different. Which for me is a reason to play, especially given what it does well.

I played on:

OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit

Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz

RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB

Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB



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