Dex takes place in the distant dystopian future where cybernetic enhancement is the norm, in a city that goes by the name of Harbor Prime. The titular character, Dex, is forced to flee for her safety from a group of mysterious and powerful individuals that are only known as The Complex. Guided by an equally mysterious and powerful hacker named Raycast, she seeks out Decker; an elite ex-hacker, to help her bring the fight to The Complex and discover why they are hunting her. The story starts out strong but eventually peters out into the usual sci-fi trope of an all-powerful AI being used to control the world. The multiple endings are pretty basic, too. They mostly amount to a single choice being made at the end of the game and result in a short, unsatisfying ending. But where the ending falters, the journey there is where all the fun is to be had.
The combat takes on a free and easy approach, much like the rest of the game. It caters to a multitude of playstyles so how you want to handle each situation is usually up to you, whether it be stealth, hand-to-hand, guns blazing, or a mix of all the above. The hand-to-hand combat is handled well, which is a good thing since it is probably what you’ll be using in most situations. I like that Dex can block, dodge, do combos, and learn some special moves to top it all off. The melee mechanics were meatier than I was expecting, to be honest. Whenever Dex gains a level you are awarded skills points to distribute as you see fit. She has a plethora of handy skills that offer immense benefits and generally make your life easier. Putting points towards the melee and ranged categories enhance your combat capabilities in those areas while increasing the endurance category gives you extra HP and allows you to install more cybernetic implants. There are non-combat related categories too like lockpicking, charisma, and barter. Be warned: there aren’t enough skill points to learn everything so choose wisely. When I beat the game I was level 17 and I bought every item in the game that grants you an extra skill point when used and I’m still missing some skills. Once a certain quest is complete, Dex will have the option of purchasing cybernetic implants from Dr. Niles. These offer you incredibly useful buffs, but you are limited by your endurance level as to how many you can have installed. Some of the more important implants to acquire let you jump higher, breath in gas without dying, and traverse electrically charged paths without taking damage. So we have a futuristic city, we have cybernetic implants, what else do we need for a good old-fashioned cyberpunk romp? You guessed it, hacking!
There are two ways of hacking in Dex so we’ll take a look at the more traditional version first. Manually hacking into certain terminals initiates a hacking minigame. You take control of a glowing sphere as you traverse through the computer network from a top-down view. You navigate through obstacles while fending off attacks from the network that come in the form of countermeasures with various abilities such as stunning you or sucking you into their damaging attacks. Taking damage depletes your focus meter. Once your focus meter is fully depleted you are ejected from the network and you suffer damage to your HP bar. Most of the time, your objective involves getting to a node at the end of the area and activating it. The second form of hacking is a special ability unique to Dex alone. It is called alternate reality hacking or AR for short. Dex can activate this at any time to pause the game and take control of the glowing sphere. Controlling the sphere, you can then hack into various objects in the world, mostly cameras and turrets, and shut them down. If you level up the appropriate skill, you can even use it to stun enemies. I found the turret and AR hacking annoying at first, but I started enjoying it a lot more once I leveled up my hacking skills.
Despite suffering slightly from a lukewarm story, Dex hits all the right notes for me. A glimpse into a dark dystopian future where people are enhanced beyond human means through the use of cybernetic implants. Secretive, all powerful organizations ruling from the shadows. Satisfying RPG elements and skill progressions. A quirky cast of fully-voiced characters. Non-linear gameplay and a city to explore as you please. All these factors combined have assured Dex a spot on my list of highly recommended cyberpunk material, among the likes of Johnny Mnemonic and Shadowrun.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
+Sidequests are genuinely fun to do
-Some sketchy character dialogue
-Multiple meaningless endings