Cyberpunk Dystopian RPG Adventure
Or something. Dex is a Cyberpunk adventure, that buzz-word generated ages ago, and made quite popular by the likes of Phillp K. Dick, and William Gibson. We've seen load of Cyberpunk-style near-future games with all sorts of storylines in the past. Dreamweb, Shadowrun (fantasy Cyberpunk), Deus Ex and more. Now it's the turn of Dex, and whilst it's been out for a while - we've only just got around to this one.
Taking cues from the likes of Flashback, and the seminal point and clicker: Beneath a Steel Sky, Dex is a 2d side-on action RPG with a focus on a fairly comprehensive story, and the adventures of the protagonist - a woman with little memory of who she is: Dex. Dex is also pretty special, for reasons which will become clear later on in the story.
You'll be running, jumping, exploring, talking, and taking on all sorts of side missions between various 2d districts of the Cyberpunk city of Harbour Prime. Castlevania, and Metroid also seem to be big influences with Dex in this regard. All of this in an open world area too, sounds like a dream come true right? Yes, and read on for the 'No'.
Big Problems in Little Harbour
Dex isn't a bad game per-se, but it falls down on the actual gameplay elements of the game. And whilst you can earn XP, power up, buy augments ala Deus Ex: Human Revolution etc, you may spend a lot of your time in combat. The combat system is supposed to be fluid, and it just doesn't feel that way at all... many times enemies will use unblockable attacks, so it becomes a war of attrition, kicks, punches, dodges, and rolls become your staple diet and it leaves a very bland meal.
Firearms bring their own problems, with the use of the sticks to aim feeling imprecise and unintuitive.
Movement is tricky, and when you have to rely on pixel perfect jumps for some of the later puzzles - it gets downright annoying.
If you're trying to sneak, that has issues, often the camera doesn't work in Dex's favour so you'll end up running into enemies you haven't seen yet.
Dex can hack, and hacking is a minigame. When she's hacking objects and cameras, she'll need to fend of viruses and so forth as the hack completes slowly. Forget it though, this particular element is rock solid to begin with, and until you get a good few upgrades, you're best blazing through or sneaking if you can.
Then there's the hacking mini-game which turns Dex into a 2d top down shooter, with a maze-like level design. Dex needs to move on through the system, shoot the viruses, blow up boss-like guardian protective systems at times, and navigate a boringly designed tedious environment to steal files, and complete the objective so she can get out of the system.
The Cyber and the Punk
What is a crying shame about Dex is that the game is good in terms of the environmental 2d art, the setup, the storyline, the NPCs and the various quests you're on are all pretty interesting. There's a lot of care to try and blend a Witcher-esque action/reaction system into the whole experience with some quests turning out badly or better based on your previous choices. It's just a shame that all this great aesthetic, world building, and design is bogged down by the problems above.
It's no fun levelling and exploring if the systems to do so make you frustrated to begin with.
If you can forgive these things there's a lot to like.
The animation however is pretty stiff when it comes to combat, and movement in general. The art style's nice, and the environmental art as previously mentioned is really good.
It's an old computer saying: Garbage In/Garbage Out. In this case the game's not garbage, far from it, but it is frustrating to see those combat systems and so on let the whole thing down. You get out of Dex what you put in, and if you can work to get used to those systems, get used to the flaws, you'll find a pretty elegantly crafted story beneath.
However, like anything else, you can quickly grow tired of the game fighting you and lose interest.
The point at where you really become a badass might come too late for some, and that's a shame, we're not saying we'd recommend the game - but you certainly may find something to like here if you're a fan of Cyberpunk and neat storytelling.