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Review: Dex, kick-ass and hack the planet

Lately, I just can’t get enough of Cyberpunk styled games. This is what led me to Dex, a side-scrolling, action RPG, set in a cyberpunk universe from indie-developer Dreadlocks based in the Czech Republic.

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Dex, at times, plays like a love letter to classic sci-fi media works Blade Runner, Deus Ex, and The Matrix. However, it does this with a style and story that gives Dex its own unique charm.

The game follows the story of Dex a hacker that finds herself thrust into a web of conspiracy and intrigue as she discovers her own path and unique talents. The setting is Harbor Prime, where corporations wage secret wars against one another, while the city is plagued by poverty and crime.

Visually the game reminds me of classic point-and-click Sierra adventure games with its 2D perspective and semi-retro-styled graphics. Having played many of those classic games, this visual style was very much a joy to run around in. Dex, thankfully, has much improved art, character animations, and music, compared to its predecessors.

What will be immediately interesting to our community at Nerd Appropriate is that the game is nearly fully voice acted. Each NPC that you encounter in the game is voiced. So, you’ll never encounter a quest-giver or shop owner to read lines of text that appear above them. However, I would have liked to have seen more of the dialogue options from Dex, herself, to voiced. Nonetheless, it is impressive for a indie studio; I believe there are around 30 voice actors credited in the opening sequence.

The RPG elements of the game are fairly standard, but successful in the game’s execution. There is a main story line, supplemented by numerous side quests that provide additional details about the narrative and the characters that inhabit Harbor Prime. There is a character sheet to build out, and some inventory to manage, but none of it is overwhelming. I would estimate the entire game is a healthy 10 hours, so you definitely owe it to yourself to fully experience as many of the quests as you can find.

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That being said, the storyline is somewhat mature, which makes sense for the genre. There are some humorous moments in the game too. I’d highly recommend pursuing a quest involving a pop-singer and her obsessive fans.

The action part of the action-RPG revolves around three main elements: melee, ranged, and cyber combat. Being sort of a purist in a cyberpunk game I honestly didn’t dabble in the ranged combat, mostly because the melee combat is so much fun and the cyber combat is so integral to the rest of the game. The melee combat is almost Double Dragon-like with more moves that can be unlocked via the character sheet. There is even a light stealth mechanic, that gives Dex the ability to perform takedowns on unaware enemies!

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The cyber / hacking mechanic is truly unique. Dex can hack cameras, turrets, etc. in the game environment in “AR” mode, and you can hack computers by going into those systems. At those moments the game changes to a top-down 2D perspective with a twin stick mechanic. You battle elements within cyberspace that seek to boot Dex out of the systems in Geometry Wars style combat. Pro tip: You’ll be doing a lot of this so it will be to your interest to invest in your cyber-skills early!

To describe each of these elements separately sort of sells Dex short. What makes Dex worth playing is that the game is ultimately more than the sum of its parts. While there are certainty similarities of individual elements to other things, there isn’t really anything like Dex out there right now. It’s a well-crafted cyberpunk RPG with great action, that gives the player a healthy amount of freedom to craft their own experience within an interesting narrative.

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Dex came out last year on PC, but is now available on Xbox One and PS4. If you’ve been waiting on Dex, now is the time to plug in. The Enhanced Edition of the game for console features expanded stories and additional outfits to find that are tailored to different play styles. Highly recommended for fans of cyberpunk settings, action RPG, and standout work from indie studios.

Happy Gaming!

Dex was reviewed using a digital retail code provided by the publisher.

Scott

Hi, I’m one of the founders of Nerd Appropriate and the Rated NA podcast. I like good and bad sci-fi films and tv, pho, and the retrofuture. I am primarily an Xbox gamer, but also do some PC and Wii U gaming as well. By day, I am a research scientist, mostly in topics related to human-computer interaction and user experience. Before all this, fellow NA co-founder Matt and I played music together in various bands. I also used to make "comedy" videos for my high school morning news program before there was a place to post them online. Favorite Star Wars character? Admiral Ackbar. Best Bond era? Timothy Dalton (Craig a close second). Game of all time? Maybe System Shock 2. Thanks for being a part of this labor of nerdy love with us.