Cyberpunk Mysteries Require a Cyberpunk Detective
The cyberpunk genre seems to be the dominant setting in gaming these days. Some of this awareness is likely down to the anticipation, disappointment and, I suspect, a little bit of schadenfreude after the release of Cyberpunk 2077. If we ignore the outsized effect that that game has had on the discourse, cyberpunk as a setting and genre has never been healthier, and Gamedec is a prime example.
Gamedec, from Anshar Studios and Anshar Publishing, is ostensibly an RPG tasking the player with controlling a Game Detective or “Gamedec” in “Inworld” parlance. You are a freelance troubleshooter, hired by the rich and poor alike to investigate rule-breaking and virtual crimes in the “Virtualim”, a catchall term for the virtual worlds that most of the citizens of this world seem to spend their time in. It is a world that has almost everything in common with that seen in Ready Player One, minus the licensed nostalgia-bait of ‘80s pop culture. As a Gamedec you are basically an uber hacker/programmer able to go into games and nose around, as well as access underlying systems, all in pursuit of your contracted goal.
The world-building is impressive both in the Virtualim and “Realium” (the real world). Borrowing from other cyberpunk genres, you explore a society divided along class lines which is, heavy handedly, depicted as a world physically stratified. The rich live on high, while the lower classes live and barely surviving in the Low City. As a Gamedec you are just about middle class and live in a flat in-between the Low City and the upper classes above. The places you in the middle, both in station and physically. This separation neatly, and maybe too obviously, shows your struggle as being caught in the middle of two factions. You accept contracts from both sides, and try to serve your own sense of justice and morality while trying not to take a side.
Gameplay choices play out via dialogue options, enhanced by the RPG-lite mechanics that unlock potential actions you can undertake or further conversation paths. Throughout the game, your dialogue and action choices will reward you with an increase in four attributes. Depending on where you accumulate these points, you can unlock varied but simplistic “jobs” on a skill tree. The skill tree is not at all complex, making it easy to assess and pick from the sixteen or so jobs available.
These jobs, i.e. skills, will enable you to discover clues in each mission, vital to the game’s “Deduction System”. If you’ve played Frogwares Sherlock Holmes and the Devil’s Daughter, you might have a passing familiarity with this system. Each conversation has the potential to unlock a new clue, which will lead you to draw a conclusion that takes you a step closer to solving whatever mystery you are tasked with unravelling. As an example, dialogue choices in the first mission can lead you to successfully discovering what happened to your client’s son and saving him, or they can lead you to solving the mystery but being unable to save the boy. The pathway to full or partial success is never blatantly clear, and that is where the challenge and delight in the dialogue puzzles lie.
Each choice is consequential, as is the order in which you ask questions, as they may lead you to a new clue that or add a point to one of your attributes. Picking the optimal line of investigation and unlocking a skill early is often essential to discovering a vital clue or dialogue option you need to successfully solve your case. These divergent choices ensure that players will come back time and again, as they try to unlock all possible solutions. This is a good thing, as your first playthrough will probably take only 8 or so hours but, with subsequent playthroughs, you could eke out another 10 to 12 hours of gameplay.
For players looking for all-out action, you might be disappointed. Even when you are forced into a “battle”, your choices to engage are determined by your attributes and boil down to a dialogue or action choice. There is no hands-on battle system. In a pistol duel in the farming world, my relative success or failure came down to my observation skills and whether I had chosen the right skills when attribute points were awarded to me. Gamedec may have an RPG skill-tree system but, ultimately, it plays more like a ‘90s adventure game with complex puzzles and your pathway to victory determined by your ability to put some obtuse clues together and solve the mysteries laid out before you.
Each world that you visit is wonderfully crafted. The sex world, encountered in the first mission, is suitably dark and seedy, reminding me of a film set in 1980s New York. The world of the farming game looks like something that stepped out of a Hollywood version of the Wild West. The game is built in Unreal Engine 4 and runs as well as you would expect, although I did experience some crashes and slowdowns with the early review build, all of which should be resolved with subsequent patches leading up to the full launch.
Gamedec is a wonderful entry into both the cyberpunk genre, as well as the extensive library of adventure games that have seen a revival in recent years. For fans of detective novels and films, the opportunity to play as one in-game, solving high tech mysteries is excellent and proves that players can be just as good as Poirot and Holmes if given the chance. Players can find the culprit using nothing but their little grey cells and solving a case is always provides a great sensation in Gamedec. Gamedec is highly recommended for anyone looking for a brainteaser – a slower-paced game that relies more on your ability to puzzle things out, and not your ability to memorise enemy spawn patterns or react fastest on the trigger.
A Review code for Gamedec was provided to Gameblur by the publisher
Gamedec (PC) ReviewGamedec (PC) Review
Graphics8/10 Very Good
Sound8/10 Very Good
Ease of Play9/10 Amazing
- Well-crafted mysteries
- Simple, yet consequential skill system
- A ton of replayability
- All choices have a consequence
- A lack of direct control during the fight sequences