Release date: September 16, 2021
Platforms: PC, Switch (TBA), consoles (TBA)
Developer: Anshar Studios
Publisher: Anshar Studios
Gamedec bills itself as a cyberpunk take on Disco Elysium and I think that’s a fair assessment. This combat-free isometric RPG certainly feels impressive, with its depth and the choices it offers the player. If you’re a sucker for anything cyberpunk, Gamedec is a worthwhile game.
There’s more to Gamedec than just its aesthetic, though. You'll solve crimes in virtual worlds where everything you do has weight. The dialogue choices, skills you invest in, background you select for your character and deductions you make all affect how the story plays out. That means the game has plenty of replayability, too.
In this Gamedec review, I’ll walk you through what it’s like solving crimes in virtualia.
Gamedec review: Gameplay
Gamedec is an isometric point-and-click RPG. That means you use your mouse to move, select objects and choose dialogue options. This is a classic control scheme, hearkening back to the computer RPGs of old. It works quite well in Gamedec’s case.
As its design suggests, it is an RPG through and through. There are several stats that you can improve over time. Doing so allows you to purchase new profession options, which unlock certain dialogue and mission choices. For example, you can be an internet celebrity and use your fame to influence some characters.
You don’t fight anything in Gamedec, relying instead on your wits, deductive reasoning and skills to solve mysteries. You’ll explore a variety of virtual worlds, from a depraved urban setting to a feudal Japan locale. It’s hard to grow bored with Gamedec, as there’s always something new to discover.
Since the whole game revolves around solving mysteries and collecting information, you’ll be doing a lot of searching for clues. Some are pretty obvious, and the game highlights them as soon as you’re in range. Others require very precise mouse placement, and therefore can be a bit obtuse. I got stuck a few times until I happened to hover my cursor over the right spot. This requires patience, but that’s par for the course in a game like Gamedec.
Gamedec review: Story and setting
Gamedec sees you play as a gamedec, a detective who specializes in solving mysteries. In the far-future Warsaw City, virtual reality is king and what takes place in VR has lasting consequences in the real world. These games are so real and vivid that people who play them physically experience some of the stimuli. It’s like the Matrix or Sword Art Online.
As a gamedec, you’re a freelancer who solves cases to make your living. You start by creating a character, choosing your background and avatar. This is a cyberpunk future, which allows you to choose your preferred pronouns (male or female) to accompany said avatar. In the build I played, however, the game did not always match the pronouns I chose in dialogue. This didn’t bother me, but it could annoy some players out there.
You jack into different virtual worlds, each with its own setting, rules and tasks to complete. The game doesn’t pull punches, as things kick off in a hedonistic virtualia. There, you must find an underage boy who’s gotten locked inside the game. While Gamedec isn’t graphic per se, it definitely has the adult themes you’d expect from the cyberpunk genre.
From what I played, Gamedec doesn’t make too many statements outside of the usual cyberpunk dystopia messages we’ve grown used to. This isn’t a bad thing, but considering the comparison to Disco Elysium I drew earlier, Gamedec doesn’t have as strong of a narrative as it could have.
Gamedec review: Visuals and sound
Gamedec doesn’t feature the neon-drenched, sweeping cityscape of Night City, nor the grisly and crowded metropolis found in The Ascent. Instead, you don’t see much of the real world outside of your character’s apartment. The focus is on the game worlds you visit to solve your cases.
There in virtual reality, things are different. Each game is unique, with its own color palette and visual presentation. Just when you get used to one world, you hop into another one to solve another case. The art direction keeps these disjointed elements together. Whether it’s the character avatars or the menu, Gamedec feels cohesive.
As far as sound goes, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. The composer Marcin Przybyłowicz — best known for his work on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — oversaw Gamedec’s soundtrack. Instead of the dark, synthy vibe we’re used to with cyberpunk media, Gamedec takes a more neo-noir approach. However, in the build I played, the music wasn’t working properly.
There’s also no voice acting, except for very rare snippets (like from the TV in your apartment). The developers stated that they wanted to spend their limited budget on making a good game, which I can respect.
Consequently, you’ll be doing a lot of reading. But I came across several typos and errors, such as the pronoun issue I mentioned earlier. Developer Anshar Studios is Polish, and localization is expensive. I don’t think Gamedec’s English is bad by any means, but it comes across as a bit stiff and awkward in places.
Gamedec review: Verdict
If you liked Disco Elysium, you should give Gamedec a try. While it’s not as polished and refined as it could be, Gamedec is nonetheless a fun combat-less RPG with a cyberpunk flair. It doesn’t tread new ground or break any barriers, but it’s a good time with plenty of replayability.
Gamedec is based on the book series of the same name by Polish author Marcin Sergiusz Przybyłek, who worked with the development team to craft an engaging story. I thought Gamedec was a nice change of pace from the titles I usually play, which are often intense battles for survival. I enjoyed taking a step back to analyze and deduce my way through situations, instead of just barrelling through them with a gun, fist or sword.