Dex – Cyberpunk Metroidvania Role-Playing
Dex: Enhanced Edition has made the jump to the Nintendo Switch, bringing its dirty and dangerous cyberpunk world to your hands wherever you are. Take control of the titular protagonist as you work to uncover the truth about the complex, a shadowy organisation that secretly controls the city of Harbour Prime, and engage with a wide variety of characters as you shoot, fight, hack and upgrade your way through Harbour Prime.
Dex: Enhanced Edition is a 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania action-RPG that sucked me in once I started playing it. After a cryptic warning of impending doom from a master hacker known only as Raycast, Dex sets out to find out who is after her and why she seems to be the only person alive who can hack parts of the world without having to ‘jack in’. The search for answers takes Dex all over Harbour Prime and will have you constantly going back and forth as you unlock new ways to progress through the world via skills and implants.
How you choose to play the game is entirely up to you. As you gain experience and level up you can tailor Dex to your own playstyle. Prefer to take out your enemies in a hail of bullets? Increasing Dex’s gun stats will give you greater accuracy and allow you to use more powerful guns. Want to play a stealth-based build? Invest some points in hacking and buy yourself some implants that will help you get the drop on unsuspecting enemies. While there are different play styles to be had, no one method will lock you out of completing a quest objective. Don’t have the implants to negotiate dangerous gas and electricity to shut down an automated turret, go and find an authorisation card so that the turret won’t fire. Each questline has multiple ways to complete it, so even if you fail a speech check you won’t fail the quest and the majority of quests have multiple resolutions, that will depend on your choices and actions as you make your way through them, sometimes netting you more rewards and experience, depending on what you choose to do. For example, there is a side quest involving an ageing singer and her fan/stalker. There are three different ways that the questline can play out, one of which results in the death of both involved.
In a game like Dex, with a myriad of side quests to discover and work through, keeping track of them yourself can be a bit of a chore. Thankfully a journal keeps track of each of your quests and the progress you have made. If you find yourself getting a bit stuck or you have been away from the game for a few days and can’t remember what you are supposed to be doing you can always take a look in the journal. Sometimes it will tell you exactly where you need to go, other times you have to work it out for yourself, but having access to the journal helped me a number of times when I got stuck and was just wandering around aimlessly.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Dex was the freedom that is given to the player. You are free to explore as much or as little as you want and unlike a lot of games, you can inadvertently affect events that occur later in the game through your exploration. In these types of games, I always tend to explore as much as I possibly can. If I find an area that I can’t yet traverse I will try and remember so I can go back and check it out later. One of these areas led me to a computer that I could hack. After going through the hacking mini-game I was awarded some XP and I continued on my way, not really paying attention to what it was I had just hacked. Fast forward another 6 or 7 hours of playtime and I am told I need to find a way to shut down an automated turret or get a digital pass so that I can get past it without being filled with bullet holes. It turned out that I had already disabled the turret in my earlier exploration/hacking diversion, and thus was able to just continue on the questline then and there. In a lot of games, actions like that are locked until you reach ‘x’ point in the quest. Being able to have taken care of it just through random exploring and hacking was a refreshing change from being sent back to an area I had already been just because it was now time to access a certain computer.
While I quite enjoyed my time with Dex there were a few issues that did put a dampener on the experience. The gunplay felt clumsy when aiming and thus I shied away from it and was more focussed on melee attacks and silent takedowns from behind. I also found the hacking experiences when you hack into computer networks were often monotonous and frustrating. You essentially control a little blip that is shooting at different types of network defences, taking damage to your ‘focus’ level as you hack the network. If your focus drops to zero you exit the hack and take a little bit of physical damage. However, the focus only regenerates to around 25% of your total overall and you have to use Neurostims to fill it back up. The problem is that you will lose so much focus very quickly while hacking networks that it was often more prudent to enter the network and do what damage you could before getting knocked out and then continuing on once the focus has regenerated again. You use a lot fewer health resources than Neurostims with this method and in the end, save yourself a lot more cash that can be put towards implants and health kits.
While nowhere near the same size and scope of a certain upcoming game with the same setting, if you want to sink your teeth into a cyberpunk mystery Dex will scratch that itch. While it does have some flaws in the gunplay and the hacking aspects, overall the game sucked me into its world. The animated graphic novel style cutscenes and full voice actors for every character you meet help bring the world of Dex to life. The inclusion of the journal to help keep track of what is going on means you can play the game whenever you want and won’t be left scratching your head on what you were supposed to be doing if you don’t play for a few days.
Dex was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by the publisher.