Dex :Future corporate warfare pits human against machine

In videogames, the future is never a nice place. What would we do with ourselves if we pushed start only to find that everything was fine? Dex is set to continue this pessimistic trend as a nostalgic 2D action-RPG.

Humanity is a cybernetically-enhanced nest of individuals, struggling to accept themselves in a world where corporate interests rule over all and the value of a machine outweighs that of a person’s life. Still, there are people who are trying to make things better. You’re one of them. Or are you? If it sounds similar to the backdrop of PC gaming classic Deus Ex that’s probably because it is, but Dex seems to have its own voice, its own style and its own ideas about how to tackle the complex subject matter.

There’s an emphasis on freedom in Dex. The game wants to be as flexible as any open-world RPG, and that open-endedness extends to how players complete quests and solve problems.Punching, kicking and shooting have their part to play, but there’s also platforming, hacking, sabotage and sneakiness.

While the stealth components are a little less convincing in the current Early Access build, there are promised tweaks and tools that will soften the experience to a point where it’s a feasible option. Your character, Dex, can evolve to specialise or diversify in the manner that works best for you, and new pathways will open up accordingly as a result. This all ties into a cyberpunk narrative where the lines between good and bad are more than just a little fuzzy, and players get to decide where they sit on the Saint/Bastard spectrum.

The sub-plots and quests on offer make the most of Dex’s grimy backdrop: you’re tasked with rescuing “flesh and blood” (read: non-augmented) prostitutes, tackling vicious cyborg mercs with barely a natural organ left in them, and fetching deadly chemicals from an abandoned factory, among other things.

Dex’s world is looking diverse and impressive. More than that, it feels alive. The streets are peppered with random pedestrians going about their business; vehicles and crowds pass back and forth in the immediate foreground; commercials and holographic displays flicker on the walls. Go to some of the rougher neighbourhoods and the disparity between rich and poor is made obvious with crumbling buildings, drug dens and gangs.

In restricting itself to a 2D playing field, developer Dreadlocks has managed to build a game that’s in many ways bigger and more convincing than would be possible in 3D. Dex is looking more and more like a praiseworthy contender in the RPG landscape. Once all its gameplay systems are in place we could have something very interesting here.

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