Dex (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 05.09.2016

Review for Dex on PlayStation 4

Dex is a throwback to classic sci-fi interpretation of the future. Set in a cyberpunk, dystopian future, bearing loose similarities to Blade Runner and even The Matrix, this 2D side-scroller blends a bit of platforming with an open-world, RPG action-adventure element. The artistic style on display by developer Dreadlocks is gorgeous to look at from afar, with its beautiful backdrops that help bring this world to life. Set in the gritty city of Harbor Prime, Dex is on the run from an organisation known as "The Complex," using her wit and her hacking abilities to survive.

From the very opening scene, the stylistic cut-scenes with that rough and grunge-look, help to establish the type of world that Dreadlocks was trying to build, and it is consistent throughout the entire game. Harbor Prime is an industrialised, dark city, with an odd beauty to it, similarly akin to the world of Blade Runner. Coupled with the great voice acting and fantastic soundtrack that accompanies everything, and this world really comes to life as the seedy setting that it tries to convey.

It isn't too long before the character of Dex is introduced, and the adventure begins with a sense of urgency, as men come to her house to arrest her for reasons unknown. The rest of the story then plays out in real time, as Dex tries to uncover the truth behind the shady organisation known as "The Complex." She befriends a couple of hackers called Decker (*wink, wink*) and Tony, where they teach her how to hack her way into cyber world, thus compromising the information of others.

While this plays as a 2D side-scroller, the cyber world acts as a twin-stick shooter. The civilians protect their computers and mainframes with defence systems that act in the way of enemies, which come in various shapes and forms, and with unique attack patterns. Information and switches are littered throughout the cyber worlds found in the game, thus encouraging the act of exploring each place to see what secrets lie beneath.

Screenshot for Dex on PlayStation 4

When Dex is not in the cyber world, she is set on a 2D backdrop, with an open-world exploration to it merged with some RPG elements. She can jump, and launch melee attacks on enemies with the press of a button, or she can use a firearm to shoot down foes - she can then block incoming attacks, or evade them. That is basically the entirety of her controls, save for the interaction button. It's a simple mechanic that works well for the most part, except for the combat.

The battles that take place here are very repetitive and uninteresting. Enemies can be taken down with a pattern of attack, attack, block and repeat. Dex and melee enemies take it in turns to attack each other, and then blocking when they are not. This looks even clunkier in practice, and the only challenge is when multiple enemies appear on screen and are all trying to attack at different times.

Some enemies will shoot Dex from afar, but upon reaching them for hand-to-hand combat, they relegate to the generic enemies that Dex encounters in the rest of the game. Sure, some of them have the occasional "unblockable" attack, which must be evaded, but it still doesn't give the battles any justice. Where the game really shines in terms of the battles is when stealth is needed to pass certain missions. Stealthily sneaking around stages and killing enemies from behind is really fun, and avoiding unwanted attention and security cameras is a challenge in itself that ramps up the fun.

Luckily, this isn't built around the battles as much as it's around the story-driven experience. Aiding with this is the open-world, which encourages exploration in the city of Harbor Prime, with both main and optional quests on offer, which result in a plethora of goodies and credits. Each mission has a purpose, and thanks to the great dialogue and voice acting, characters come to life and feel believable that they actually inhabit that world.

Screenshot for Dex on PlayStation 4

The NPC's aren't just generic characters, but people with feelings, and that is reflected on the dialogue options that Dex chooses to go with. Dex has multiple different options to select from when replying to a character, with each option delivering different tones as well. Dex can respond kindly to someone, or reply with anger, and the responses mildly affect the way the characters in turn respond to her.

The side missions and even some main missions also have multiple endings for some of the missions. Dex, for instance, may come across as a package addressed to a gun shop owner. With there being two different gun shops, she can deliver the package to either shop for two different rewards, or else just open it herself and keep whatever is inside it. While these choices do not add up to any game-defining moments, they each contain a measure of decision-making that must be well thought out at least, to ensure that she makes the right decision.

Upon levelling up, she will receive skill points, which can then be spent on a certain part of the skill tree in order to increase her arsenal. This consists of upgrading her melee abilities or firearms, to learning how to persuade people in the dialogue options, or even learning how to lockpick her way into homes or safes. Dex can also upgrade her cyber world "avatar" by increasing her health in that world, or the number of guns that the avatar shoots. However, not everything can be upgraded to the maximum due to the limited number of experience that can be earned in the game, thus requiring careful consideration as to what skill points go where.

Screenshot for Dex on PlayStation 4

Dex, however, is not perfect, and there are myriads of technical problems that really put a dampener on the overall output. The heroine can sometimes get "stuck" in the world and get unable to move, thus requiring a restart of the game to free her, and this is most prominent in the cyber world. Sometimes, when there are too many enemies on screen, or the "avatar" is running and gunning at the same time, the "avatar" will pop onto the other side of the stage wall, freezing Dex and again, requiring a restart to fix everything. This means that saving is vital, because having to restart due to a glitch with the last save being over an hour ago can really break the momentum of the game itself.

This also suffers from heavy frame rate issues, where noticeable lag may occur when there are too many enemies on screen, or even just passing a sprite-heavy background setting. Slow down occurs at times, and trying to compete with enemies as well as the various technical issues shows what can happen when a developer becomes over ambitious with other aspects of the game.

The over ambitiousness is in regards to the story and the dialogue options that result in the different endings that Dex comes to. You see, the whole thing is about making the right choices to determine the fate of everyone, as well as Dex herself. However, the illusion of these choices is just that: an illusion, with no real impact on any of the missions or the overall story because of these choices. Sure, there are different endings, yet both bring the game to an abrupt end that feels quite incomplete.

Screenshot for Dex on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Dex is a fun and simple open-world RPG with a plethora of missions (both main and secondary), to get invested in. The characters introduced are done well thanks to the voice acting, which, combined with the artistic style of the "industrial" setting, helps set Harbor Prime apart from other cyberpunk titles. Though the story and the game world are inspired by other classic sci-fi's that do not seem original, there is enough soul here to actually warrant it a play-through. The poor combat and unfortunate glitches show the real flaws underlying what is otherwise a wonderful game; one that has shown enough to give hopes for a more refined sequel.

Developer

Dreadlocks

Publisher

BadLand Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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