I must admit that I was quite intrigued when I first heard about Gamedec. This new offering from Anshar Studios has you playing the role of a game detective in a futuristic Warsaw. Given that I’m a huge fan of narrative-driven titles with multiple dialogue options and branching paths, I thought that this would be right up my alley.
Unfortunately, Gamedec is far from perfect. Indeed, while there are some novel ideas presented, it’s marred by clunky and unintuitive systems. Likewise, there were a few bugs that forced me to restart investigations.
Becoming a game detective
Being a game detective (or “gamedec” for short) means that you’ll be solving cases in a cyberpunk-themed Warsaw. In the far future, our reality and the virtual world have almost merged. Many citizens look for an escape in simulated environments, preferring it to the confines of their daily lives. Then, when trouble arises, such as life-threatening glitches, missing persons, virtual crime, or infiltration by rival companies, that’s where gamedecs come in.
Gamedec sets the stage for what could’ve been a profound look at a reality that’s not too far removed from our own. Indeed, there are even references to clan wars, trolls, video game addiction, Farmville-esque activities, and loot boxes.
At the very least, the first case that you attempt to solve, that of a business tycoon’s son who has been trapped in a simulation, manages to pull you in. You’d interact with several objects and NPCs in a small office. You’ll be looking for clues and interrogating witnesses. There’s even a part where you attempt to free someone from a sensory overload, all while a hacker’s intrusion tries to stymy your progress. Unfortunately, as time wore on and the more I progressed, it became a tedious endeavor as I’ll discuss shortly.
The essence of deduction
The important clues that you discover in Gamedec will be added to your Deduction screen. Think of this as akin to Sherlock Holmes’ Mind Palace. Depending on the leads that you obtain, you could then come up with a Deduction, your guess as to what may have caused a particular incident.
For instance, in the first investigation with the mogul’s son, you’ll enter a VR game where the kid’s consciousness is trapped in. There, you’ll encounter a loop and you’ll have to escape. While there is a “correct” or “factual” conclusion based on the narrative (and assuming you found all the relevant clues), Gamedec still allows you to make haphazard guesses. Yes, you can potentially cause harm to other characters or bungle your investigation, but it’s all part of the process.
Technically, you aren’t heavily penalized at all. However, those who consider themselves completionists or highly engaged when it comes to details might want to check and recheck every possible item or object that can provide the best possible outcome.
The professions in Gamedec
Gamedec has four attributes that you’ll want to take note of. I simply nicknamed them based on their colors (i.e., red, yellow, blue, and green). Each one governs a set of behaviors or tendencies. For example, red is all about aggression and authority. Green, meanwhile, focuses on empathy and compassion. As you gain points in these attributes, you can unlock perks (also known as professions) in Gamedec‘s skill tree. Once you have a specific perk, you can choose that dialogue option to aid you in conversations.
There’s just one glaring problem here. The attributes increase via the regular responses that you choose, but you don’t actually see those effects on the same screen prior to selecting them. You have to guess, based on context, whether a particular answer is more akin to cold logic or just plain intuition. If you’re curious, you could open the Professions panel to see if you gained a point in an attribute, but I usually found that too unnecessary and confusing. As such, I simply replied with whatever came to mind, only looking at any point gains whenever an option could be unlocked.
Because it’s unclear as to how or when you’ll gain attribute points from various replies, this process is pushed to the back of your mind as opposed to being something that you’re actively engaged in while playing. It certainly diminished the role-playing aspect.
Other issues in Gamedec
There were several other issues in Gamedec. One that’s apparent as soon as you start the campaign is related to your character’s values (which simply determine your starting attributes). Two are similar (i.e., Conformity and Tradition). Meanwhile, Benevolence seems as though it has higher values compared to the rest (i.e., a 1/1/2/3 spread). But, these were actually incorrect. The attributes were 0/1/2/3, which meant that you can’t obtain some perks early.
Then, there’s the overarching narrative and campaign. The story and characters were just not interesting and it’s hard to feel attached to any of them. Also, while you’re supposed to be someone who’s visiting several virtual worlds to solve crimes, certain limitations meant that each “world” only had a couple of very small and confined environments. This meant that these destinations are simply comprised of a dingy alleyway, a samurai base, a poolside party, and a couple of others that I can’t spoil. At best, you’ll click on icons to find clues and, after a couple of hours, you’ll realize that you’re just going through the motions.
In addition to the above, the top portion of the UI sometimes changed depending on the location that you’re visiting, such as a wild west theme in the Farmville-like setting. But, you’d also scratch your head as to what other features were for, such as a character’s level or the amount of gold that you’re carrying. My guess is that these were added as a means of immersion, that you’re simply a character entering a game. Regrettably, it just looks tacked on.
A glitch in the Matrix
Truth be told, Gamedec has some intriguing concepts. The investigation-focused gameplay will have you guessing which deductions are viable. Likewise, it’s great to see your choices branching out or generating new ideas.
Sadly, the aforementioned problems can be hard to overlook. Moreover, Gamedec, by design, has no combat, and there’s no voice acting either (at least for this particular review build). Because of these factors, you’re mostly looking at thousands of lines of text, which can get tiresome after a while. And, yes. it’s a little rough around the edges. There were dialogue options that were, apparently, meant to end the entire conversation even though they’re placed on the top of the list. Conversely, there were others that will remain present, making you wonder if you already read those parts or not.
Worse, there were also bugs that left you with no choice but to reload a save. In these instances, you simply can’t close the dialogue box no matter what you did. I even experienced a bug where the connecting corridors didn’t spawn, which meant that my character was stuck for good. Additionally, some NPCs would react as though you haven’t done a specific action yet even though you did. If you rely on the autosave system, know that it only occurs whenever you enter a new area. Because of a limited number of maps, this usually means restarting at the very beginning of an investigation. Although you can reload your manual save, that’s only if you were mindful enough to make one just prior to encountering these bugs.