Review: DEX: Enhanced Edition
Over the past 5 years, crowdfunding has become a new funding model: you take money from the players, with the sole promise of what you are hoping to accomplish. This allows developers to double check and pinpoint the target audience, taking more or less a risk of distorting their initial vision with a bunch of stretch goals. Personally, I have nothing against this economic model: some companies abuse it, others really need it. What bothers me though is the lack of imagination from the majority of the crowdfunded games, which once goals reached sometimes starts resting on its fluffy pillow, and discovering a gap between the intentions of the developers and the interpretation of his promises by players.
DEX, a “2D Cyberpunk RPG,” is one those games. Don’t get me wrong, DEX is not a bad game, but it’s not a great game, and it disappointed me a lot in terms of design errors. Indeed, because the differences between what it promised and the end result is not fair for most. While the main intention was clear and sounded great when announced in late November 2014: mix brilliantly action platform and RPG elements, borrowing some ideas from the Deus Ex duality of combat and stealth, with a mature and deep storyline. Was it too a presumptuous project? Now that the game is released on consoles as DEX: Enhanced Edition, i got the chance to try it, and let you know that while intentions are great, there’s overconfidence in its final render.
For me, Cyberpunk is a genre that has lost its luster: it’s a style that was overdone in the 1980s but did not survive the trends of the mid-2000s. It’s not that the genre disappeared, but it is much less present and, too often relegated to a sub-form of the science fiction trend, dominated by the plethora of space adventures. Yet, the period is fertile of the style, considering the kind of world we live in nowadays, and titles like Shadowrun or the latter Deus Ex try to offer an exotic vision of the world, but this is not the case of DEX: it plays it safe by reaching to its conventional roots and doesn’t try to innovate.
DEX starts in Prime Harbor, a town like many others, sparkling and luminous city – but also dirty and decadent. The bourgeoisie lives in secured areas away from the middle class drowned with nightclubs and flanked by the slums of the oppressed, while the whole town is run by a coalition of business conglomerates known as The Complex. In the midst of this is a war zone where the “free people” are fighting against the authority, and this is where you, a young woman named Dex come along. I won’t go that much into details to not ruin the story, but Dex is inspired by the classic, but not really groundbreaking.
DEX is good though when it comes to immersion, with a very pleasant art direction, with witty item descriptions, and other smart little details. The other narrative means is none other than a series of dialogues: each quest will begin and end by a wordy exchange – and often in between. The writing quality is good, and the scripts are well thought out and allow you to get a good idea of the main objective for each quests and the character’s motivations, as well as learn more about Harbor Prime. Sadly this is where DEX loses points in its originality: all these side characters, including Dex herself, although at first well characterized and properly introduced easily fall into the trap of stereotype.
Thankfully the game does not lack content: while the quests are a handful, DEX will keep you busy for a little over 20 hours. The real problem is the lack of life throughout the game. Quests are often linear, and offer very binary and sometimes illusory choice. That said, the various intrigues remain a good thing. It’s the themes though that are not helping: if you read the Sprawl Trilogy (consisting of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive) by William Gibson, you will have a vague idea of the universe and topics based on the premises that a wicked corporation wants you dead, but a strange AI saves your life because you are special.
As mentioned previously, DEX is a platform game, and I would have thought the developers would’ve exploit that. In a sense it does, with some hidden spots to discover, but for the majority of the environments, the level design is basic. The RPG part though is in the way it handles the main character’s skills and game mechanics. Despite its ingenuous side, Dex has many skills. Melee fighting, Gunplay, Hacker, Charisma and endurance in cyberspace (AR)… So many traits to pay attention to.
DEX: Enhanced Edition was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by BadLand Games. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and the original version came out on PC via Steam. PlayStation Vita and Wii U versions are expected later this year, and a physical version on PlayStation 4 is available in some regions. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The immersive universe
• Artistic direction
• The Humor and witty parts of the game
• Comes bundled with all DLCs released previously on PC
• The combat elements
• Linearity of the story
• Lack of originality
• Poor level design for a platformer