Hack to the future.
Dex sounds cool on paper. A side-scrolling action RPG, with a retro look and a Bladerunner inspired playground – who wouldn’t be excited? Instead, what we have here is a game that misses almost all of the its marks.
Set in a future saturated in neon light, Dex follows the story of the titular character, as she discovers that her existence may not be all it seems. The world she lives in is full of grime; prostitution, drug addicts and hackers. Above it all lies “The Complex”, a mega-corporation that seeks total control of the population. This is mainly done through the collection of digital information and through the oppression of the populous.
Platform Xbox One (Reviewed), PC, PS4
One day Dex is contacted by a legendary hacker called Raycast. He explains that The Complex is out to kill her and that he can help. He directs her to some of his brethren in the slums, and the adventure begins to discover Dex’s true power and the reason behind The Complex’s obsession with her. The game is made up of both the main story and a wide selection of side quests. The side quests don’t really differ that much. Get this, transport that, with the odd quest delving a little deeper in to this dystopian world. Most of the main story quests are voiced, with everything else text based. Expect a lot of reading.
Dex is an 2D side-scrolling RPG in very basic terms. Completing quests, defeating enemies and progressing in the story will increase her XP, which in turn is used to unlock the kind of skills you would expect to find. Increases to health, the mastering of melee combat, gun play, lock picking, etc, etc. The issue I found was that I never felt like I was getting more powerful. Sure, upgrading skills like lock picking allowed me to access to things that I couldn’t reach prior; but improvements to some of the other categories felt meaningless to a degree. It also didn’t help that both the melee and gun combat felt dull.
Unarmed combat is sluggish and often awkward, mainly due to the way in which both Dex and her target move. I often ended up punching the target and moving through them at the same time. Gun combat didn’t really feel much better. It works, but feels boring. Only a few weapons are available and I never really bothered to use anything other than a pistol. There is also a hacking minigame that assumes the form of a twin-stick shooter. But once again, it’s very basic, slow, and not much fun.
The controls are also a bit of an issue. First off, the button mapping is slightly unintuitive, with the developers opting to use the Y button as your main interaction button. I got used to it, but it was still jarring. There is also an issue with navigating the environment when trying to climb up ladders or ledges. It requires pinpoint accuracy, when it should be a simple and fluid action. Then there is the UI. The map system is basic and doesn’t mark any of the quests, and the quest journal gets a little busy. Dex also suffers from some major performance issues on Xbox One. Screen tearing and frame rate issues are plentiful here, which wasn’t the case with the PC version. It’s almost always there and is really distracting, even if it doesn’t hamper the gameplay much.
Dex just never stood out enough for me. The generic and clichéd story left me cold, and the technical issues made the game hard to like. However, it is worth noting that the various performance issues I encountered on the Xbox One were not present on the PC version. So if you feel like you need to check Dex out and have the ability to do so, get it on PC. It doesn’t differ much in general, but at least it will be slightly more pleasant to play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.