We’ve seen a number of games take on the cyberpunk genre, many looking to deliver RPG experiences that let the player be whoever they want. Anshar Studios’ GameDec is yet another RPG set in a cyberpunk world, where players take on the role of a detective that investigates matters within virtual worlds. Though the game could use some polishing in several areas, I found GameDec to be a refreshingly new take on the cyberpunk RPG.
Escape from reality
In GameDec, you play as, well, a GameDec, which is shorthand for Game Detective. You specialize in cases that take place within virtual worlds. The year is 2199, and people use these vastly immersive virtual worlds as a means to escape from everyday life. The lines between reality and fiction are blurred, as people can spend days in these created universes. I liken it to The Oasis in Ready Player One.
These virtual worlds are visited by using a device referred to as a “couch,” that users sit in with a VR helmet strapped to their face. As players progress through GameDec, their cases will take them to a plethora of different worlds, all vastly unique from one another. From a dark and rainy city district ridden with crime to villages in the mountains inspired by Asian culture, there’s a variety of offerings in GameDec.
The cyber chase
In GameDec, players will employ real detective skills in order to solve cases. This includes collecting clues and making deductions based on the evidence gathered. Players will discover clues and evidence by speaking to characters and investigating their surroundings. In the deduction menu, players can view the information that they have, and come to conclusions based on that knowledge, pushing the quest forward.
There’s always so much information and secrets to uncover, it’s nearly impossible to find every nugget of information for a given case. There were quests where I felt like I had exhausted all of my options and sources, but half of the decisions were still locked off. It works as quite a good detective simulator in that sense.
One of the coolest aspects of GameDec is that there is no fail state. If you botch a case, or come to an unfavorable outcome, then that’s just it. There are consequences, and the game moves forward. The game doesn’t hold your hand, and forces you to reckon with poor decision-making. Though it sounds like a negative, this was one of my favorite parts of GameDec. It made the stakes feel real, and it was infinitely rewarding when I successfully pieced together evidence and solved a case. There was one instance where I tried to save a woman that was stuck in a world, being targeted by a hacker. I had to act fast, but a string of poor decisions meant that I wasn't able to save her. I wasn't able to reload and try again, everything just kept moving forward.
Getting to the bottom of things
As an RPG, GameDec is quite heavy on dialogue. The game is done in a point-and-click style, so your interactions with other characters and the environment is the primary source of gameplay. I found the dialogue to be exceptionally well-written, with characters feeling like real people with unique issues, rather than interchangeable NPCs in a bunch.
Properly navigating dialogue is a big part of being successful in GameDec, as well. Characters have real reactions to how you treat them, and rubbing somebody the wrong way could be the difference between learning a big piece of information, or getting told to buzz off.
In one mission, I was trying to locate a young boy that had wandered into an adults-only world with his friend. His friend was incredibly anxious and distraught, so I had to be very careful when questioning him. Instead of immediately digging for answers, I asked him how he was doing, told him how cool my job was, and assured him that he wasn’t in any trouble. There was a bar that illustrated my progress, and once it filled, he opened up and told me everything I needed to know.
Discovering certain clues or information will often add new dialogue options, or even alter the response to existing ones. Because of this, I found myself having the same conversations with the same characters over and over, checking back every time I made an advancement in the quest. It felt a bit tedious at times, and I wish the game did a better job of either illustrating when new dialogue options have opened for a character, or completely blocking off dead-end options.
World’s best detective
GameDec also leans heavily into RPG elements with its implementation of professions. When you create your character, the game asks you to select your values. There’s ten different options, such as power, hedonism, and tradition. The values will determine the set of aspects you begin the game with. One aspect is represented by a flame and features traits like determination and authority. The second aspect is represented by a lightbulb and is characterized by traits such as inspiration and optimism. The third is signified by a puzzle piece and features traits like logic and calm. The final aspect is a heart and includes traits like empathy and trust.
Many of the choices that players make will give them one of the four aspects. These aspects are then used to unlock Professions, which are abilities that will grant players extra options during gameplay. For example, I took the “Scalpel” Profession early on, which gave me an increased knowledge of the medical field. Because of that, I was able to identify the anxiety in a witness, give them the proper medicine, making them much more willing to talk and divulge information.
As I played through GameDec, there were always a variety of dialogue options that weren’t available to me, because I didn’t possess a specific Profession. Knowing that everybody will play the game differently, no two playthroughs of GameDec will be identical.
GameDec is certainly a full experience, but there’s aspects of the game that certainly need some polishing. There are a handful of bugs that I ran into while playing, including ones that made my character run backwards. The developer has shared its intentions to get many of these issues fixed, but that won’t be done at launch.
Anshar has also stated that it will be adding voice over to GameDec, as it currently stands, the game’s dialogue is entirely text-based. Though I found that to be serviceable, vocal performances will hopefully add more nuance and distinction to the characters.
GameDec does right by the cyberpunk genre by using it as a backdrop to an excellent detective story. The series of virtual worlds makes for a diverse range of environments, filled with characters that all have their own unique characteristics and motivations. The lack of a fail state raises the stakes, and makes it important to learn the ins and outs of dialogue and deduction. Though some bugs and missing functionality can make it rough around the edges, GameDec is still an overall quite enjoyable experience.
This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. GameDec launches on September 16, 2021 on PC for $29.99 USD. The game will come to Switch at a later date.
- Intriguing detective mechanics
- High level of replayability through Professions
- Well-written dialogue
- No fail state raises stakes
- Visual bugs
- Lack of voice over at launch