Warsaw City’s best Gamedec is on the case!
There’s a faraway future where games are not only important, they’re an integral part of daily life. I’m not talking about consoles or PC games using a controller or keyboard either — I’m talking sitting on a couch with a special suit and helmet and plugging into virtual worlds. Think the Matrix, except instead of going into something boring like the real world, you go inside something like Farmville. That’s right, instead of begging your Facebook friends to water your crops, they can hop on a couch and teleport inside the game and water them in person… kinda. Sorta. You know what I mean.
Since everyone is living it up in a plethora of virtual worlds, there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. People go missing, blackmailers find tons of dirt, cheating runs rampant, and don’t even get me started on the many sorts of technical issues that can occur… but that’s just part of a normal day for a gamedec — game detective — in Warsaw City. The CRPG Gamedec follows one such gamedec as they solve mysteries for various clients, uncovering a conspiracy far deeper than they could have possibly ever imagined…
At first glance, Gamedec may feel familiar to those who love a good tabletop RPG-inspired video game. Some of the marketing collateral has drawn comparisons to Disco Elysium for its non-combat detective story, and at first glance, those comparisons are very well deserved. To quickly sum, players will take the role of a nameless gamedec as they solve several seemingly unconnected mysteries around Warsaw City, their investigative methodology up to the individual player. Do they brute force their way through or consider all options before making a decision? Do they freely speak their mind or keep their opinions close to the chest? There’s some wiggle room when it comes to closing a case, and it all depends on how the player wants to explore the different virtual worlds for clues.
Speaking of virtual worlds, there are several — a seedy pleasure-seeking alleyway, a wild west farming town, an Eastern-inspired temple, and more. The gamedec’s world will also be a regular scene, with a few haunts become crime scenes outside of the games. Each world has its own rules, and each gamedec has their work cut out for them when it comes to interrogating other players, collecting evidence, and even playing the game. After all, why not spend some time watering crops in Harvest Town? Those pumpkins don’t plant themselves!
Gamedec’s lore is extremely deep, and the majority of it is delivered through the codex. You might click on something interesting or speak to someone about a certain topic to gain a codex entry, which can be read at the player’s leisure. There is a LOT of reading upfront, followed by an endless amount of reading as players continue making progress. This isn’t like your standard visual novel-type reading either — there’s that too, of course, but in addition to that, there’s what amounts to an entire database full of information on this world. The team tried to spread out the writing styles to give the information some variety, so some of it is in the form of an interview, others an email between colleagues, and others still like a Wikipedia page; with that being said, if you collected every single codex entry and read them all, about a third of your time in-game will be spent in the codex. Keep those reading glasses handy!
Like any good RPG, Gamedec allows you to dump the points you earn throughout the game into various attributes, called professions. Certain professions will unlock dialog options and actions that would otherwise be unavailable, like the “scalpel” being something akin to a doctor and the “infotainer” prying more information out of people to relay to their followers. These professions are unlocked with a combination of tokens that are earned through gameplay — for example, one might need 1 puzzle piece, 2 hearts, and 3 lightbulbs. By reacting in a specific way, players will receive said tokens; unfortunately, players don’t know which option will yield which token, so you’re often left with a lot of one type. I found I had an over-abundance of lightbulbs by the end of the gameplay, most of the professions remaining locked for me since I never really got any other type.
One aspect that I loved about Gamedec was the deduction screen, where you unlocked clues that allowed you to deduce the answers to specific questions. If you don’t unlock every clue, you cannot have all possible deductions available to you, which I absolutely loved. Although part of me wanted to stay in scenes longer than necessary in an effort to unlock every last deduction, I realized that I’d have to adopt multiple personalities to achieve this goal, and that felt a little inauthentic after awhile. There’s a fear of getting these things wrong, but Gamedec not only does a good job in allowing the player to rationalize their reasoning with what little information they have, they make it… not all that important in the long run.
I don’t want to give away too much, but Gamedec is unfortunately a fairly linear experience, and I will say that, if you’re paying attention, you can see the ending’s twist from a mile away. It was still a very exciting experience and I loved jumping into all the different worlds on offer, but the culmination of all your personality choices don’t really have the impact I was looking for in the long run. You also never get to sink into a world for too long, nor do you really get attached to any of the characters. Additionally, there are a number of text errors, such as broken hyperlinks and completely untranslated lines, that interrupt the information dumping flow.
I think the biggest twist, however, is that these design choices and even its errors work in Gamedec’s favor. Again, I refuse to spoil too much, but giving everything a little more thought made me realize that this is one of the few games where linearity, lack of a deep character creation, and typos can be explained away by game lore. It doesn’t change the fact that, when you’re in the middle of it, these things might feel a little frustrating, but it’ll all make sense once the credits roll. In a sense, it’s hard to fault Gamedec for much, considering any perceived real-world slights actually provide ludonarrative harmonious results. Quite literally, the phrase “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” rings true.
Any issues aside, I still had a lot of fun exploring Gamedec, getting sucked in trying to interact with just about everything I possibly could. I approached Gamedec in the same way I might approach a puzzle game, which I think helped the overall experience. Those looking for another Disco Elysium are surely barking up the wrong tree, but on its own, it’s a pretty enjoyable way to spend a weekend.
Gamedec seems to show exactly how far you can pare down a cRPG, stripping away some of the deeper mechanics to streamline a tabletop-inspired experience. Those new to the genre will enjoy this opportunity to get their feet wet, while established veterans will feel this virtual “one-shot” campaign was executed succinctly. If you love cyberpunk detective stories and want something that will absolutely suck you in for 10 – 20 hours, you can’t go wrong with Gamedec.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Anshar Studios; Developer: Anshar Studios; Players: 1; Released: September 16, 2021; MSRP: $29.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Gamedec provided by the publisher.