The Signifier preview (multi)

Coming out in the near future through publisher Raw Fury and being developed by Playmestudio, The Signifier is a story-driven tech-noir mystery adventure that involves hacking into people’s memories and subconscious in order to uncover what really happened. Despite a lack of physical trade shows this year, Raw Fury facilitated a preview session for us and here’s what we came away with.

What we know

The story in The Signifier focuses on protagonist Frederick Russell, who is an expert in the field of AI and psychology but suddenly gets thrust into a detective-like role as the vice president of the world’s biggest tech company ends up dead in her apartment under what looks like suspicious circumstances.

Russell has developed a brain scanning device called the Dreamwalker, and it gives him access to people’s (more objective) memories as well as their (more subjective) dreams. Combining elements from both of these dimensions with the physical reality he lives in, it’s up to him to uncover and piece together the puzzle before him as he explores the mind of the recently deceased.

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What we saw

Hosted through Discord, we were able to experience a developer-narrated live playthrough of a few scenes from the game, highlighting some of the mechanics that make up The Signifier and showing off some of the visual styles used for the three realms in which the narrative unfolds.

What we thought

We absolutely love the central premise for The Signifier, which channels the stories by authors like Philip K. Dick and movies like The Matrix and Minority Report. Although this is far from an action game and feels more akin to a walking simulator with a lot of adventure game elements, the vibe of those epic sci-fi setups is definitely here in this smaller indie production.

The real world in particular looks very impressive in terms of detail and visual effect, with the realms of memories and dreams looking increasingly warped – intentionally so, because they’re harder to interpret even though you have an AI voiceover helping you.

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The actual gameplay involved jumping back and forth between the different realms, with memories telling you where to look in real life or subconscious dreams helping you interpret what you’re seeing inside a memory. One dimension influencing another is a mechanic we’ve seen more often in games, but here it’s not just the core mechanic of the game – it’s there to support the narrative, which is front and center.

With a premise that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster, we can’t wait to experience the full story that The Signifier has to offer when it comes out. It may not scratch the right itch for puzzle game fans, but gamers who enjoy narrative experience in a sci-fi context should look forward to this one.

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