By its very nature, Anshar Studios’ Gamedec is quite a niche game. It’s a point and click adventure RPG that’s heavy on reading, deductions, conversations, and investigations, with no combat to speak of- it’s essentially Disco Elysium in a cyberpunk setting. If that’s the sort of game that appeals to you, you’ll find quite a bit to enjoy here- I, for one, loved Disco Elysium, so there’s a lot that Gamedec does that appeals to my tastes, even if it doesn’t do it as well as I’d have hoped.
Set in the late 23rd century in the cyberpunk dystopia of Warsaw City, Gamedec sees you stepping into the shoes of a game detective, or gamedec for short. In this distant future, virtual reality games are not just a hobby, but a way of life. People dive into virtual worlds of all sorts and spend the vast majority of their lives in their, looking to escape from the harsh realities of their real life and sinking themselves into their fictional selves. As a gamedec, your job is to investigate crimes and cases inside of these virtual worlds- you’re essentially a a cross between a detective and a walking human walkthrough, an expert in gaming that is hired frequently by people to solve their virtual problems.
"Gamedec is a point and click adventure RPG that’s heavy on reading, deductions, conversations, and investigations, with no combat to speak of- it’s essentially Disco Elysium in a cyberpunk setting. If that’s the sort of game that appeals to you, you’ll find quite a bit to enjoy here."
It’s a fascinating setting, especially on paper, and Gamedec does a decent job of using it to transport players to a variety of different worlds. From fantasy worlds to farming sims and everything in between, you’ll be visiting many different kinds of virtual realities throughout your time in Gamedec, and each of them is brought to life with impressive attention to detail. Not only do the worlds stand out visually, with each having very distinct aesthetics and personalities, they also have very specific sets of rules that govern them.
In terms of pure variety, Gamedec’s premise is one of its biggest strength, though I was a little disappointed by how superficially it uses that premise. Cyberpunk settings – the good ones, at least – tend to be strong on thematic depth and commentaries, and I was expecting that to be the case here as well, especially given how heavy on reading, world-building, and dialogue Gamedec is. Sadly, by the time you’re a few hours into the game, it becomes clear that it doesn’t have too much interest in exploring its admittedly interesting themes, which end up feeling incidental to the main experience more often than not.
The end result is an overarching plot that fails to fulfil its potential. Don’t get me wrong, as you progress through Gamedec’s story, you’ll hardly ever be bored- the game does a solid job of keeping you engaged on at least a fundamental level as you move from world to world, and its aforementioned variety contributes to that significantly. The overarching plot, however, doesn’t come together as well as it should have.
When it comes to actual gameplay, Gamedec is quite an enjoyable game, for the most part. As mentioned earlier, there’s no combat in the game. Every case you take on revolves around you gathering clues that would help you get to your final deduction, and this, in turn, is done by interacting with the surroundings you find yourself in, speaking with NPCs, and more. There’s a bevy of clues to be found in each new case, to the extent that it’s effectively impossible to gather all of them in a single playthrough, especially since certain dialogue choices and actions are locked behind specific character builds and decisions made during gameplay.
Something else that raises the stakes when it comes to gathering clues and using them to arrive at a final conclusion is how heavily Gamedec emphasizes choice and consequence mechanics. There are no fails states here, which means no matter what you do, the game will take your actions and choices into account and keep moving forward. Regardless of whether or not you fail to crack a case, regardless of whether or not you’re able to save a person’s life, the story will keep moving forward, and keep changing based on your past actions. Choice and consequence mechanics aren’t easy to implement, to say the very least, and more often than not, games end up falling back on an illusion of choice rather than actual choices, so Gamedec’s accomplishments in this area are quite impressive.
Not all aspects of the gameplay experience are as well rounded out or smooth as they should have been though. In fact, some of Gamedec’s biggest issues lie with aspects of the experience that hinder its most crucial elements. For instance, the game can be frustratingly opaque about the clues you gather, and even how you should be gathering them. Once you have gathered information, it also doesn’t do a very good job of presenting it in a clean and useful way. You’ll be diving into your codex to sift through previously collected details frequently, but it’s not always easy to figure out which parts are actually pertinent to your case. A well organized codex might not be something that can make or break an RPG in most cases, but given the very nature of this game, its deficiencies in this area feel much more pronounced than they would in most other cases.
"It’s a fascinating setting, especially on paper, and Gamedec does a decent job of using it to transport players to a variety of different worlds."
One area where the game does deserve a lot of credit, however, is how replayable it is. Players have the option to choose between several preset characters to play as when starting out, while also having the option to create a custom one, and depending on who you play as, the game can play out in radically different ways. There’s different jobs to unlock, each coming with unique skills and benefits, all of which impacts what actions you can take and what dialogue choices you can pick- which, in turn, determines whether or not you have specific clues or details while you’re in the process of investigating a case. There’s no shortage of games that claim to never be the same for two different players or playthroughs, but Gamedec really does diverge in significant enough ways where that feels true.
Meanwhile, its definitive edition re-release also comes with plenty of new improvements and content for players to dive into, including a new character to play as, new locations to explore, new cases to crack, and other improvements, like dialogue being voiced, among other things. There’s enough here to warrant a second playthrough even for returning players.
Gamedec might not be a giant of the genre, and it might not touch the heights of something like Disco Elysium, but it’s a solid enough game in its own right. Its unique setting and fascinating premise set it apart from the crowd, and even though it doesn’t dive deep into those elements in the way it could (and probably should) have, it does at least use them to deliver a varied and vibrant adventure. Its focus on actual choice and consequence mechanics also serves it very well, and the story that you concoct based on your actions and decisions really does feel like one that is your own. It’s a deeply reactive game, and even if it is a little rough around the edges, and even though it doesn’t fully utilize its ideas the way it should have, it’s got enough working in its favour to make it worth a try at the very least, especially for genre fans.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Fascinating premise; Impressive level of variety; Each world is brought to life with great detail; True emphasis on choice and consequence mechanics.
Doesn't use its setting as well as it should have; Overarching plot doesn't come together very well; Codex is a bit of a mess.