The world is a circuit. Everything is connected, if it’s by handheld devices, home appliances and the cloud space. Whether you think it or not, we are all being accessed, evaluated and being led down a path by a marketing machine; if you like this, comment, share… Slowly we are losing our free will and we don’t even know it. People fear the machines taking over but they are unaware it’s happening right now, we are monetised. The game is question is Dex, developed and published (published physically by Bad Land Publishing) by Czech company Dreadlocks Ltd. Dex is an Action RPG, 2D side-scrolling platformer focusing on non-linear gameplay, exploration and conversing with NPC’s.
Set in the future, you play as Dex. A young girl who has been targeted by The Complex, an oppressive security organisation controlled by corporations. Hacker; Raycater, informs you The Complex are coming for you. Upon speaking with Raycaster he tells you that you are the Fragment of Kether whom is a supreme Artificial Intelligence developed by ‘The Complex’. You join the resistance in stopping The Complex oppression other Harbour Prime, the games location. But there maybe more to yourself than you originally thought…
Dex also features many side quests that really build Harbour Prime as a living location. Like many RPG’s, it’s these small contained stories that end up being more impactful than the main quest. Stories such as a young male drugged up working as a sex worker against his will, reuniting two long lost lovers or dealing with a stalker of a famous singer; it’s in these side quests that Dex’s narrative and world building really shines.
As a cyber-punk title, Dex art direction is heavily inspired by the pop culture reference within that genre such as Blade Runner, Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Light pollution merged with the grit of a contaminated cityscapes drench your screen like a layer of dirt. The team did a nice touch of each area having its own economic class, the further you leave the main city the more gentrification and depravity you come across.
The games art style is that of old 90’s PC’s adventure games as well as graphic novels, adapting a more hand drawn aesthetic than your typical pixel art sprite. It’s that hand drawn aesthetic that lends to the games polluted atmosphere and mature tone, providing a level of detail and depth pixel art cannot provide.
In Dex you’ll have main quests that will take place in Harbour Prime and locations outside of Harbour Prime just designated to a singular mission. Yet there are many side quests within Harbour Prime by conversing with NPC characters scattered around the various areas. Both main missions and side quests have various ways of completing them be it by stealth, speech -usually with various speech choices- or other means; example using a radio signal to shut down a formidable foe’s augments. Completing the quests will grant you with experience points that help you level up your skills, items and weaponry to use and money to buy augments. Augments provide you with powers to help your certain type of play, you want to be stealth well then how about a camo upgrade, you want to go in all action then how about body armour or if you want to play save go for the regen augment. You can equip several augments, but certain augments take a slot on your body part. It’s surprising how well and refined the RPG mechanics are in this game, as it is an indie title, the game can hold it own against some of the heavy weights in the genre.
Combat is either stealth approach by silently taking down foes by the good old sleeper hold, a good old fist fight or using the right analogue to aim with firearms. As the stealth and gunplay aspects work very well, there is much to be desired of the hand to hand combat as your sprite moves forward making you sometimes punch through and past your enemy.
You can also Hack with the mini-game being that of a twin stick shooter segment. Once again, exploration in these segments help as there are XP bonus to be found.
This game is exactly the definition of a hidden gem. As the main story may lack certain punch to it, some of the mission were enjoyable but it’s the side quests that are the real hero in this game. Watching my decision play-out -for better or for worse- in these missions really give the illusion that you shaped that entirely. You’ll meet a rich cast of characters along your journey and as the voice acting could be better, it certainly harkens back to those early PC games it is paying homage too.
Exploring Harbour Prime to find secrete areas, loot and other quests is a blast. The game world isn’t massive, yet it has the depth that so many open worlds games lack; this is the size of a puddle but deep as an ocean.
Though the game isn’t perfect, Dex more than makes up for it with polished RPG mechanics making it one of my favourite RPG experiences on this generation. Dreadlock pure absolute love into this game and it really shows, this is a game made by people who wanted to make this game.
As for you collectors, the physical copies for PS4 and Xbox One come with manual and CD soundtrack.
In short, Dex is worth your time.
Guest Blog Post by Jack @ThePnutbean and YouTube
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