Developed By: Dreadlocks Ltd Published By: Qubic Games Categories: RPG, Cyberpunk Release Date: 07.24.20
The first thing to comes to mind for majority of Western RPG games for me is top down, turn based, themed in Tolkein-esqe fantasy. Of course, this isn’t and has never really been the case, but it’s always an underlying generalization of the genre that sits with me. Dex isn’t really anything under this pretense. It’s a sidescroller, it’s cyberpunk, and it’s never based on turns. Call me a casual to a genre, but these pique my interest.
Your journey begins escaping from your apartment after being alerted by some digital being to the news that you’re being hunted and need to escape. Dex, the titular character possesses the power to connect to the cyberspace without physically linking to a jack for it, which makes her a very hot commodity. This all sounds rather standard for cyberpunk stories and it is. but the cast of characters often makes up for it. Your escape on the neighboring rooftops acts as your tutorial. It teaches you the basic platforming and combat mechanics. It’s as early as this tutorial where one of my biggest issues with the game comes up. Environments do not stand out incredibly well, I found it difficult to decipher at times if something is a ledge you can grab, if it’s just in the background. I’d find myself making leaps of faith, often falling to my death. You can save and load the game at any time and death ultimately just means going back to a save, but it ultimately becomes more of a pest to guess if something is part of the back or foreground. Combat on the other hand is solid enough, you can punch, block, and roll from the start. You’re rather weak and can’t do much, but that can be fixed. You soon find firearms and while you can’t do or carry much like heavy weapons at first, that too can be fixed.
You’ll soon get enough experience to level up. Upon this, comes the beginning of the mechanics that turn Dex into a WRPG and opens the game up. You’re given the option from a variety of upgrades, all of which can define how you’ll play the game. Early enough, you’ll run into a group of thugs near a sewer. I saved shortly before this encounter just to experiment with the upgrades and how I could handle myself. You can talk belligerently with them and get in a fight, considering how basic your default fighting skills are, you’re probably not going to come out of it in a good place. Upgrading your fighting skills at level 2 can give you a trip move to knock one of the violent characters down and not immediately get ganged up on. My first choice in upgrades was to make myself a better linguist, to get myself out of a confrontation. Doing this, after quite a lengthy conversation made the thugs in the immediate area go on my merry way, with no fight. Say you decided to instead choose the lockpick ability. In the sewers you’ll find quite a few places that only can be accessed with that ability. None of the upgrade choices seem like wrong choices, even early on the in the game and that’s refreshing as so many games period seem to incentives brute force above all. In addition to these level and point based upgrades, the game also allows and at points demands you get augmented implants. Most are stat boosts, just like leveling up, but a few give unique powers like jumping higher, or one I regretfully admit I could have used many times, negating fall damage.
Soon after escaping the sewers, you find yourself in a run down, typical cyberpunk city, this where the game opens up a bit more in the narrative sense. With this comes another one of my issues with Dex. While I had no issue with the characters and quite a few are interesting enough to spice up conversations, dialogue can and will come too drawn out and wordy at times. Fortunately, dialogue outside of your own is all voiced. Voice acting is serviceable at best. It gets the job done, and voices all do fit their character, but I did have an issue with one character in particular. A Chinese Woman you meet not too far in related to a sidequest speaks to you in an incredibly stilted way that makes me think either the accent she has is fake and forced, or the voice actress in particular is not giving a good performance. This isn’t to say on the audio front it’s all middling however, the music stands out and I would sit in areas for too long just to hear it. A song that plays in a shady looking weapon store is a personal favorite and reminds me of an Akira Yamaoka song. It’s definitely a soundtrack I’d buy.
Returning to gameplay, getting to the city starts to give you your first sidequests. The first of which, is a small tutorial on how diving in the cyberspace and hacking into cameras, computers, and turrets works. This has you playing a bit of a top down shooter minigame going to a certain place and staying for a short while, while also shooting viruses off. The tutorial in particular shows the more in-depth hacking procedures that take place in a maze. Instead of just defending yourself, there are firewalls to take down, items to heal concentration, which works as your health for hacking, and even files to read. One in particular early on describes a character’s…interesting purchases. You’ll find random junk items around like adult material, “protection”, or pills, which some characters might be requesting to assist with their grand plan. You’re given a parcel early on to deliver to a man. If you do so, he quickly brushes off what is actually in it, saying it pertains to his job, but if you open it yourself beforehand, it’s just erotic magazines. Bringing up the sidequest with the Chinese woman, her brother went missing, and she asks you to help her find him. Her lead sends you to find a peculiar woman, as she’s the last person he’s been known to be with. This woman turns out to be of the “charitable” sort and you can indeed take up her services. I’m not sure if it helps when speaking to her for information, but I took her up on her offer, going back to her place, and did proceed to get the information I wanted after some talking. I then noticed I was in her apartment before, turns out with my lockpicking ability, I broke into her place earlier. It was at this point where it started sinking in more how much more open the game can get with certain abilities.
Dex was enough of a departure from the standard for WRPG to make me interested in playing. I’ve only gone relatively skin deep, but I’m intrigued enough to want to continue. It was rather refreshing for me as a whole to play something that felt so free with how I decided to make my path.
Buy Now: $19.99 Digital – 29.99€ Physical
*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes