- Developer: Dreadlocks Limited
- Publisher: QubicGames
- Release Date: 24/07/2020
- Price: £17.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by QubicGames
Introducing: Dex Switch Preview
There are few genres I love more than cyberpunk. Its blend of sci-fi elegance and grungy realism fused with high-concept themes has always resonated deeply with me. I don’t own four cuts of Blade Runner, two pieces of art based on the film, and a six-hundred page tome on its creation because I only have a passing interest in cyberpunk. As such, it probably isn’t surprising to learn that CD PROJEKT RED’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 has piqued my interest, and I eagerly await the day it finally releases. Of course, with yet another delay pushing that title further from my grasp, another title caught my attention: Dex. Developed by Dreadlocks Limited and published by QubicGames, Dex looks to offer a similarly open-world cyberpunk-RPG experience.
Scope and Scale
Considering that Dex is a much smaller-scope adventure than the like of Cyberpunk 2077, it’s certainly not fair to compare the two. However, you’d be incorrect to assume that the game’s truncated size makes it any less impressive, as Dex features a fully open-world, interweaving quests, character progression and dialog trees. For a 2D action-RPG of this magnitude, Dex features a surprisingly ambitious and realized world. Having just come from The Outer Worlds, I was continually wowed by the way that gameplay and immersion elements that I came to love in Obsidian’s opus on a AAA scale were reproduced here.
Dex is set in the city of Harbor Prime, and it’s an impressive place to explore. It’s full of locations and people that sell you on the idea that this is a far-future world full of technocratic intrigue, class disparity, and vice. Exploring Harbor Prime’s streets reminded me why the cyberpunk aesthetic is so alluring, and while its footprint is relatively small, it hits all the notes I’d like it to. From the high-society living to street level bustle all the way down to decrepit outskirts, there’s a real sense of organic place in Dex. It sounds the part, too – not only in terms of its audio, but its writing.
This is the element of the game I find myself most engaged by. You can’t converse with every NPC in the game, but those you can chat with all have compelling backstories and aspirations. Even if I didn’t intend to complete a side quest for the person in question, I still paused to converse and gain more insight into Dex’s world and the inner workings of Harbor Prime. As you’d expect from an RPG of this ilk, the conversations can be driven by player input, allowing you to make dialog choices that will genuinely impact the outcome of an interaction and as well as quests at large. Having immediately leveled up my persuasion skills (as I’m wont to do in RPGs), I found a great deal of flexibility in how I approached situations and objectives. This sort of freedom and player agency really appeals to me, and as such, the dialog systems have been my highlight of Dex at this point.
Along similar lines, the overarching narrative provides a good enough pull to get you through the experience as well. While I’ll save most of my finer points about the storytelling for the review, rest assured, what’s here is compelling on the whole. It certainly isn’t a reinvention of cyberpunk storytelling nor is it the best the genre has to offer. However, it is punctuated by characters, plot points, and themes that I did enjoy experiencing.
The trouble with Dex, though, is all mechanical. Whether or not you’re able to get past the flaws with the game’s core design will dictate your enjoyment of it. The game is simultaneously propped up by its world and storytelling but knocked down by clunky gameplay and mission design. Combat feels stiff and movement feels stunted. Quests posit interesting ideas, but they’re often over too quickly. It’s simply hard to engage with Dex due to these flaws.
As of right now, I’m trying to reconcile the tension between the game’s strengths and its weaknesses. What is a game world if not something to be interacted with? As such, having the playability stunted to the extent that Dex’s is – as we’ll discuss further in the review – undercuts some of the game’s successes. As of now, I’ll cap off the preview with this: Dex is a questionably compelling cyberpunk adventure that hits as frequently as it misses. It’s an experience that worked to actively disengage me from its engaging components to some extent. However, as previously mentioned, it is an ambitious experience that has some particular highlights. Only time will tell where I stand on it.
Stay tuned to Nintendad for our full review of Dex in the coming week!