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The Signifier

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 26 - 2020

Step into my mind.

 
The idea of being able to read a persons mind, or see their memories, is something that has featured in popular fiction for a long time, from stories and movies, to video games. It’s an intriguing idea and Playmestudio’s The Signifier on PC has taken that idea and created a narrative adventure in which the player will solve a mystery by digging around in some else’s memories. Prepare to get freaky.

 


 
In The Signifier, the player takes on the role of Frederick Russell, a rather clever chap who is not only an expert in psychology, but also happens to have co-created an advanced AI called Evee and a machine known as the Dreamwalker. This machine could well be an early version of the Animus from the Assassin’s Creed series in that it allows the user to explore and even interact with a person’s memories. Okay, it doesn’t quite go into their past lives, but being able to discover the truth of things through wandering around in someone else’s memories is still a pretty cool concept. The setting for The Signifier does already suggest that this technology could potentially have nefarious uses and is under close scrutiny by the powers that be. It raises plenty of privacy questions after all.

 
As for what the player will be using their AI and this interesting machine for in The Signifier, well, the story is one of the highlights of the game and it would be a crime to spoil it. Let’s just say it starts with the suicide of a tech executive, but Frederick is brought in to examine the victims memories as everything may not be as it seems. What follows is an exploration of the mind of this victim, which is really freaky in and of itself.

 


 
Through the course of the game, the player will visit different locations. These may be within the Dreamwalker’s interpretation of a memory, or in the real world. Visiting a real world location and then seeing it again in the Dreamwalker world is quite amazing as the memory can skew reality even when it is working objectively. However, there is also the chance to view these memories subjectively where things may be warped by emotions related to the memory. This is where things will be at their most abstract and potentially disturbing, more so when it comes to areas of the memory that cannot be accessed by the player in their current state.

 
The real life locations that players can jump to by clicking on a map are nicely represented and look great. Locations in the objective memory again look good, although there can be the occasional glitch from the new technology. Apparently the machine struggles with rendering glass, resulting in some very odd looking views for the player. The subjective memory can be very freaky, with the likes of tears or warped and out of place objects leaving the player having to interpret what is going on. It is not just about the visual memory either, as sound will come into play with little snippets of music or voices that give the whole situation a surreal edge. It can be difficult to remain in some of these situations for an extended time. It can be uncomfortable and unnerving.

 


 
The player is trying to piece together what actually happened, and so will need to use what they have already learned along with clues that they find to work it out. The player will be swapping between objective and subjective memory states, comparing the two, and looking for items to examine or interact with. They may find items that Evee will have to examine for clues, and they may find pieces of raw data in a memory, objects that have not rendered in their right place in the memory, and then be challenged to work out where they go. Keeping it more interesting than just clicking on items, sometimes there may be part of the scene that can actually be played out for the player, giving further insight, or they may have to take control of someone from the memory in order to access areas of the scene that are closed off for whatever reason.

 
This is as much a narrative game as anything else, and as such it can be a bit slow going. Frederick will comment on everything he examines, which slows things down further, but also adds a lot more depth to the tale. Things going on outside of the memories are probably the least interesting aspect, but go a long way to providing an engaging narrative experience.

 
Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Signifier is the way it leaves the player with questions. There are multiple endings and so players will be able to answer some questions by playing the game through again. However, it is the questions outside of the game that are most memorable. It asks questions about the advancement of technology and of individual privacy, but it also challenges the player to look at how their own memories may be skewed by emotions.

 


 
The Signifier may not appeal to all players, but those that invest the time in this fascinating mature story will find it sticking in their memories. While the actual gameplay itself may be quite simple, the story is very well done and the game has some great ideas on how to visualize the memories of others. Despite the deliberate roughness of the memory scenes, The Signifier is also a great looking game, and the sound is equally on par. Players looking for a mind-bending narrative adventure should look no further and check out The Signifier.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 



 

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