Dex – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Dreadlocks Ltd.
Publisher: Qubic Games
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita
Tested on: Switch

Dex – Review

Site Score
7.5
Good: Fully voice acted
Bad: Inconsistent visual style
User Score
8.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)

With a port of 2015’s Dex, Qubic Games are bringing a techno-punk experience to the Switch. The key art and setting might bring Cyberpunk 2077 to mind, but Dex is a different beast entirely. Still, with CD Projekt RED’s big title a few months away, is it worth your time to get stuck in with Dex, if you’re looking for a cyberpunk-esque RPG to hold you over for the time being?

Story

Set in a dystopian future, in a place called Harbor Prime, the game focuses on the titular Dex, a young woman. Harbor Prime is ruled by megacorporations united under the banner of a mysterious organisation known as the Complex. Dex’s story starts when the Complex sends assassins after our heroine. After being saved by a hacker known as Raycast, Dex learns that she is the fragment of Kether, which is why the complex is after her. Kether was an AI that went rogue and had to be shut down by the Complex, as they couldn’t control it. With Dex being the fragment of Kether, she holds the key to take down the Complex. With the help of Raycast’s allies Decker and Tony, Dex starts training in order to fulfill her destiny. Given that Dex’s story is integral to experiencing the game, we’ll try to avoid going into too much detail as to avoid spoilers. Most of the story is experienced through dialogue with short scenes that feature static full-screen artwork instead of cutscenes. Be prepared for a lot of reading if you’re planning to get stuck in. 

What follows is a well-written story that heavily borrows from pretty much every expected trope imaginable. Dex won’t win any originality awards when it comes to its story, characters or worldbuilding, as it’s stuffed to the brim with clichés and predictable storylines. Surprisingly though, it just works, as everything is implemented in such a way that it feels familiar to the player rather than overdone. Given how expansive Dex’s worldbuilding is, being able to instantly familiarize yourself with the world’s logic is a tremendous help, especially because while the writing itself is excellent, the story structure feels inconsistent. There’s a sense of urgency in the main storyline, but it’s never really enforced, and you’re free to roam around without consequences for large parts of the story, as you get stuck in side-stories and their associated sidequests. One thing we do have to point out is that the game isn’t family-friendly at all: Harbor Prime is a seedy place, where sex and drugs are around every corner, so the 18+ rating is well deserved. 

Graphics

Dex looks gorgeous, but it just can’t seem to stick with a singular style. There’s the pixel art that encompasses the majority of your screen. Then there are the more realistic talking heads that appear during dialogue. There are dialogue scenes that are barely animated, with full-screen artwork that seems to have been drawn by a variety of artists in a variety of styles. Even the game’s menu icon doesn’t fit with the visual aesthetics that the rest of the game displays, seemingly drawn in yet another style. None of the styles utilizes here mesh very well, but this smorgasbord of aesthetics surprisingly fits the techno-punk atmosphere of the game. Nothing about Dex’s visual style is supposed to mesh, just like the world is supposed to be a melting pot of various cultures juxtaposed against a dystopian reality. We were also surprised by just how explicit the visuals get. We were expecting a suggestion of nudity when visiting one of Harbor Prime’s nightclubs, for example, but instead, we got to see full-on 16 bit boobies. For those wondering: Dex also has the option to engage in some passionate lovemaking with prostitutes -of both genders- but there are no actual sex scenes. Instead, the game makes a time skip if you decide to have her share the bed with someone.

If there’s one thing we can really fault Dex when it comes to its visuals, then it’s how the dialogue is barely legible. There are a couple of settings when it comes to text size, but even the largest one was a bit of an eye-strainer. Given that the game is dialogue-heavy, this does detract from the overall experience, as having to concentrate this hard on reading can get really tiring. 

Sound

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the game is (almost) fully voice acted. Apart from Dex herself, every character you encounter will perform the on-screen dialogue. Not only does this help with the aforementioned legibility issues, but most of the voice cast does an excellent job of conveying the right emotions. Of course, there were a few exceptions: Raycast’s voice felt a bit flat and Tony’s was outright annoying, but given that even vendor NPCs got the full dialogue treatment, we can overlook that not every actor hit the right notes. The soundtrack fits the cyberpunk aesthetic, though the heavy bass tones overpower the rest of the musical notes as well as the dialogue, so we recommend adjusting the music volume settings accordingly. 

Gameplay

Just like how the visuals and stories are all over the place, Dex doesn’t limit itself to a single style of gameplay. Although it’s billed as a 2D action RPG, you’ll find yourself getting stuck in Metroidvania-style platforming, sections that feel like visual novels and even an arcade-style minigame. The RPG part is arguably the core experience, although most of that is driven in the aforementioned visual novel style, where you can make limited choices that affect the flow and outcome of your quest. Dex’ ultimate goal is of course taking down the Complex, an endeavor that will take you upwards of 10 hours to complete, but there are plenty of sidequests to get stuck into as well. Navigating the 2D world feels very much like a platformer, with enemies lurking around as well as classic obstacles, such as pits filled with toxic waste and steam emerging from pipes. Enemies can be taken down in a variety of ways, ranging from a simple fistfight to gunning them down and even sneaking up on them to take them out with a chokehold. As Dex levels up, she’ll unlock new abilities and improve her stats. Additionally, cybernetic enhancements are available for purchase, allowing you to customize Dex to fit your preferred playstyle. These enhancements play an important role in the main storyline as well. 

Then there’s the arcade-style cyberspace mechanic, which takes on the form of a minigame, where the aim is to take down firewalls and defend yourself from viruses. This is Dex’s representation of hacking into enemy systems. It’s not too bad, although the controls take some getting used to. Performing badly in this minigame has a negative effect on your HP in the main world, so we’re happy to see that a practice mode was implemented at Tony’s hideout, where Decker will train you. Overall, you’re looking at a game that throws a lot of different things at you, with some sticking and others not so much. We weren’t a fan of the Metroidvania-style platforming sequences but we really loved just walking around the derelict alleys of Harbor Prime, engaging with NPCs and clearing sidequests for them. Meanwhile, we were indifferent about the cyberspace minigame. Of course, it’s a matter of preference and you might end up absolutely loving the parts of the game that didn’t appeal to us as much. 

Conclusion

We’re not quite sure who the target audience for Dex is. The adult nature of the game already puts it in a certain niche, and the scattering of gameplay styles probably means it tries to cater to as many different players within that niche. The result is a game that fails to be consistent, which is probably Dex’s biggest weakness. With the multitude of different gameplay styles implemented, you’ll likely find something that appeals to you somewhere inside Dex, but whether this means you’ll enjoy the entire package is a different matter entirely. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, as we really enjoyed our time in Harbor Prime. As inconsistent as Dex is, it’s ultimately one of these titles that people will either love or hate. If you think it will appeal to you based on its presentation, we can guarantee you’ll end up in the first of those two categories. 

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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Dex - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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