Cyberpunk is a genre not visited enough. While we are still many years away from CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, a little game called Dex has been released and it scratches that Cyberpunk itch quite well.
You play as Dex, a young girl living in Harbor Prime. Upon waking up one morning, a mysterious voice alerts her to the fact that hired henchmen are about to break in and kill her. Leaving her apartment, it seems the young woman is on the run from a shadowy organization called The Complex.
She makes it to Fixers Hope, after a brief stop in the sewers, and meets a man named Decker. While meeting Decker, and his friend Tony, she is introduced to Raycast, a legendary Hacker, and also the voice she heard in her apartment. It seems that young Dex is special. She has the ability to hack into ports without a connection, a feat no mere normal person has.
Raycast reveals to Dex that she is part of a program called Kether. Kether is an Artificial Intelligence program that was actually created by The Complex, but shut down after the company lost control of it. Dex is told that she has extraordinary hacking skills and should she want to become powerful enough to take down The Complex, that she’ll need to level up her skills and gain access to augmentations.
Earning those Augmentations are easy enough through spending the currency you’ll earn by selling items at the various shops around town. These Augments allow you to jump higher, resist electricity, toxic gas and more. You can find special trinkets to sell to a certain buyer in the Chinese Market that will pay a premium for them. You’ll need a special item to unlock the ability to buy the advanced Augments from Niles, the Doctor who installs those Augments.
By progressing in the story as well as tackling some of the very entertaining side quests, you’ll earn exp, find items, and gain enough money to upgrade Dex to become even more powerful. You’ll start with simple punches, then unlock the ability to kick, sweep and perform combo’s for even more damage. You can also upgrade your weapons skill to not only wield pistols, but shotguns and the illusive laser gun, should you find it, here’s a hint: Redwood. Another essential skill to upgrade is your conversation skill to allow you more options during moments when you need more information out of a NPC.
There are a few other things to upgrade, but one skill to put as many points in as possible is hacking. Upgrading hacking is essential to get through some tricky spots later on when the hacking becomes incredibly hard. Hacking is essentially played as a twin stick shooter style mini-game. You control a circular avatar that fires blasts and with each upgrade you unlock for hacking, those blasts become stronger, split in two and then eventually four. You can also upgrade those skills by finding items that level those individual attacks up. At first, hacking was difficult and I would die often. After a few upgrades and some item gathering, I was able to hack with ease.
Hacking serves essentially two purposes. Hacking terminals to bypass security or find information, and then hacking security cameras and turrets. Hacking cameras will turn them off but hacking turrets will cause them to attack everyone but you, which comes in handy. You can eventually upgrade Dex to hack into the minds of people and cause them to be stunned long enough to beat them down.
Combat for Dex is really enjoyable once you give Dex a few skill points into fighting. Dex has the capability to punch, kick, sweep and drop kick. I thoroughly enjoyed the combat and felt it was a very strong aspect of the game. Even taking on multiple enemies was easy enough as you could drop kick or sweep down a few and then put the hurt on the ones left standing. Some enemies are close range while others are packing heat and can shoot you from insane distances. Eventually I got to the point where I could hack the whole lot of them, turn on the turrets and just punch and kick my way to victory while hell rained down from above, it’s glorious.
Side quests in the game are extremely well designed and are really entertaining. You’ll do everything from help an Officer with an unsolved case, stumble upon a food contamination conspiracy and an obsessed fan who wants the vocal cords of a popular singer. There is even a mission where you’ll need to rescue a sex worker at the Aphrodite sex club, regardless of his desire to stay. The game is definitely adult, there’s no mistaking that. There are lots of quests to take in and each and every one of them felt fun and worthwhile to complete, with nearly all of them having some sort of alternative ending to them. There is even the illusive Soto, who is hidden on top of a building somewhere out of sight.
Dex looks fantastic, with 2D sprites that have some fantastic animation to them. I loved that the city was split into segments, thus allowing very different looks between the sections. Each location is really well detailed and there is a lot of map to explore. You can unlock a few different outfits as well that not only look cool, but offer some perks as well. You will need certain augments to discover some of them.
I also really enjoyed the audio in the game. The soundtrack is great and the voice acting just borders enough on cheesy to make it both hilarious and well performed. There is a lot of dialogue in this game, and with the alternative endings to quests, there is so much hidden your first time through.
While Dex plays and looks really great, it does have a few hiccups that make the game suffer a bit. Frame rate can drop in some busy areas, but screen tearing is everywhere. While that is something that could be patched at some point, it’s really noticeable when you run around the game.
Dex started its life as a Kickstarter project and once completed, the initial version received the Game of the Year award in 2015 for Artistic contribution for the Czech gaming industry for its efforts in 2014. The current version available is the enhanced version, of which this was the version I played.
Dex was such a fun game to go through and with the alternative endings to not only the side quests, but the main story as well, this 14 hour adventure is just begging for me to rip through it again.