I started playing Dex tonight, a 2D cyberpunk sidescrolling RPG. As a bit of forewarning, I’ve only gotten a couple of hours into it, so this will not be a complete review. Expect more once I get more playtime in. Throughout this, there will be very mild spoilers, so be forewarned. I’m going to try to keep it light, but I can’t really critique a game without talking about what happens in it.
In Dex, you play as the girl on the left in the above picture. The game opens up very directly, with a short tutorial of you escaping some unknown assailants and being led to safety by a mysterious benefactor. It’s very The Matrix. I spent a little while unsure of what was going on because the initial tutorial doesn’t make it clear what I need to click on vs move through, and which of the three different interaction buttons was the appropriate one to use.
In general, I feel like the tutorial doesn’t adequately explain how to play competently, but this isn’t terribly important as the first segment of the game is extremely easy. I’m basically shunted into a quick dungeon run, as I work my way to safety through that ever so convenient escape route: the sewers. Thus far, I’ve met a grizzled old veteran who works a bar, a teenager-like hacker, and a mysterious, cryptic benefactor who everyone else reveres.
If this sounds a little cliché, you’re hearing my biggest criticism of the game thus far. It’s great that the dialogue is all voiced, but several of the characters feel like caricatures thus far, and the writing feels somewhat forced. There’s a lot of dialogue, but the quality is all over the place. Some is great, some is iffy at best. It feels like the game is trying to sell me on a dark, gritty, hedonistic future and is getting way too heavy handed with it. I’ve picked up three different items that suffice as the game’s “trash loot” that you sell to vendors for money that are all types of porn. Of the five vendors I’ve found in the game, three sell condoms for some reason. It isn’t quite enough to turn me off of the game quite yet, but the details feel very sophomoric.
That being said, the overall plot arc (such that I’ve seen) is interesting, and I want to find out what happens next. The characterizations are effective– I may dislike some of the characters but they’re better than vanilla, robotic dialogue. The biggest problem I have is that I feel like I can see the entire arc of the game within the first hour of playing it. I may be wrong, and I’m hoping I am. Expect more on that once I’ve played it a bit more.
On the other hand, the art is FANTASTIC. I’ll let it speak for itself, here’s the trailer:
The environments are evocative and stylish, the characters are varied and interesting, and the animations hit that old-school 2D platformer sweet spot– it all looks really good, and messages surprisingly well minus some of the details. I want to wander around the streets of this cyberpunk city, and that appears to be the point of the game, which is great.
The controls feel fairly tight and responsive. Movement feels fairly good, but I feel needs some more interesting options. I may be able to unlock those with time. My biggest issue is that enemies with melee weapons outrange my fists, causing me to awkwardly chase them around, but I also haven’t unlocked various weapons or anything, and the enemy variety is interesting and messaged well already, within the first hour of play. Combat is simple: attack, block, dodge-roll, with new options opening up as you level up. You can also get guns, though I haven’t figure out how to use the one I just got yet.
One of the other big gameplay features is the hacking game, which is a fairly full-featured minigame that’s akin to a scaled-down Geometry Wars. It might be interesting, but I haven’t seen enough of its features yet to make a judgement call. Currently it’s a bit underwhelming but I suspect it will scale up quickly– I haven’t done much with it yet.
As you play, you level up, and can put points into a variety of skills. These seem to have either noticeable flat bonuses (like more health) or new combos or special abilities. There are also a set of “special” skills, things like lockpicking, charisma, etc, that appear to be used to unlock additional options, whether that’s getting into a locked door or charming your way past someone. Me being me, my first two levels’ worth of skill points went into charisma and lockpicking. Thus far, I’ve already seen significant returns on these points. Multiple characters have had “charisma” dialogue options, and lockpicking has come up enough times that I’m glad I took it.
Right now, it’s a game I’m looking forward to putting more time into. It’s got some rough edges, and some questionable content choices, but none of it is enough to turn me off completely. I’ll be back with more once I’ve had more time to play it.
Source: Digital Initiative
Tam Tries: Dex (part 1 – initial impressions)