Dex is a game in which the gameplay gets in the way of the good bits. With a well thought-out world, interesting characters, and an intriguing story. The problem is that while the design of the game itself is sound, the execution of gameplay falls far short.
Developed by Deadlocks and out now on PlayStation 4, Dex is set in a far-future cyberpunk world. The world itself though is easily its most enjoyable aspect. It's essentially the best of all the cyberpunk tropes all together but done particularly well. If you're a sucker for cyberpunk like I am, then Dex is something you should definitely play despite all of its major shortcomings.
Dex is an open-world 2D Action Role Playing Game set in the city of Harbor Prime. The game begins with you running from Armed Forces that are breaking down your door. Here you run from the richer city location through to the slums. This gives a great sense of diversity to a city that actually feels lived in. Each major area feels and looks different and does a great job of delivering a problem city not seen by all but severely impacted by many. I simply wanted to walk around every area, talking to the residents and embrace my surroundings, no matter how shitty they were.
The game offers an impressively deep and extensive upgrade system that unfortunately devolves into a non-necessity by the end. Chances are that by the end you'll have most of the upgrades meaning you'll pretty much kick ass at everything.
As each main mission ramps up the difficulty and by the fact that there isn't a ton of main missions, side-missions is where you'll get stronger and enjoy the world and story a bit more. The problem is that you'll more than likely want to complete most of the side-quests and then you'll fall into a situation where you are too strong and will complete the main missions with ease. It's honestly not much of a problem because the side-missions are the stronger part with tough choices that affect Dex's relationship with other characters.
The main shortcoming lies in the gameplay which lacks depth, variety, and a certain sheen of polish. Everything you do in the game just doesn't feel very satisfying. Melee combat is bare bones and regardless of the enemy you'll fall into a routine of a few punches, a block, a few punches, a roll etc. Gunplay doesn't fare too much better and always has a lair on jank when trying to line up shots.
The last part of the gameplay, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows cyberpunk, is hacking. This is done in a top-down shooter style that just doesn't move smoothly enough. Trying to move and shoot simultaneously feels too unresponsive and can be frustrating when too many enemies are rushing to you on the screen.
Visually the game adapts a pixel-art style full of details and is honestly pretty amazing to look at. This isn't the minimal pixel art style you're most likely to be used to. There are excellent looking assets, detail, and animation on show. Funnily enough though, despite it only being pixel style, the frame rate can sometimes get choppy and is a little bewildering. Dex is an incredible game, one with a fascinating world and characters hampered by the execution of the gameplay. Unfortunately, the gameplay diminishes the game so much that I find it hard to recommend to anyone except those dying for anything cyberpunk.
Plenty of cyberspace for improvement. 3/5
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