Gamedec is a point and click adventure game based on a series of short stories with the same name. Players will dive into the world of virtual reality video games in a futuristic Warsaw. As a gamedec or game detective, players will solve mysteries that need to be handled with a little discretion and a keen mind.
As a point and click adventure advertised as having a branching storyline and long-term consequences, Gamedec has a lot of lofty promises to fulfill. The writers have done an excellent job living up to the promises. There is an impressive number of branches to follow based on how players react, their professions, and the direction of their investigation. The player can usually approach an investigation as competent or incompetent as they wish. Of course, this is all at risk of long-term consequences. Someone the player may have helped in a previous case can be called upon for assistance later down the line. At the same time, lying to get a job done today may become a roadblock tomorrow.
The writing is excellent. Characters feel realistic whether there is a live person behind the character or a brainless NPC. The most impressive part is the writer’s ability to explore the grey areas of morality and ethics. Too many games create binary options for players: good or bad, forceful or polite. Instead, Gamedec provides a variety of approaches and hard decisions for players to make. It gives the game a more realistic feel.
Gamedec has an incredibly rich lore. It is an imaginative twist on modern video game culture taken to the next level. There is a great contrast between the shiny veneer of the rich playgrounds and the dark, gritty underground that lays beneath. The deep lore is likely helped by the fact that Gamedec is based on a collection of short stories that have already set the foundation for the game.
The lore is conveyed in a reasonable way that lets players go as deep as they want. Like most lore heavy games, a majority of lore is conveyed through optional intelligence files that can be perused at the player’s leisure. Files can provide a few extra clues about the world that may influence a person’s choices on how to approach the story, but this is purely a morality or personality basis.
Gamedec is a point and click adventure driven by the player’s decisions. Each game world is inspired by popular games in modern times and capture the spirit well with a combination of sharp visuals, writing, and the odd game mechanic to tie up the package. The game also offers a few slick puzzles that give players an edge or open an option in the future. The puzzles can be difficult, especially since there is no retry short of reloading a save. The consequence of failure is very reasonable as it doesn’t completely ruin long term success.
Professions are Gamedec’s take on the classic skill tree. Every major dialogue choice with an NPC will award a profession point in one of four categories. Abilities are mechanically balanced as each tree has its time to shine with different NPCs. On the other hand, the point balance is a little off. Almost every skill as a minimum cost of one point every category. Each category has a list of different conversation approaches that fall under its umbrella, but there isn’t enough overlap. Players who approach the gameplay with a particularly focused personality type may find themselves overflowing with one or two categories and trying to eek out another. This will force players into a corner where they either need to occasionally, but consistently take an approach that may go against the personality type they are trying to use for the playthrough. An easy and much needed solution is rebalancing the skill costs to require three out of four point category.
The investigation and deduction system is where Gamedec really shines. Each case offers branching options, each offering two or more deductions players will need to make based on the clues they have uncovered. While the end of the tree will usually converge at the same ending, the long-term consequences is what really gives the decisions weight. Uncovering clues can be a little tricky as some come from the most innocuous places; on the other hand, there is a good bit of fun in just making a wild guess and dealing with the consequences later. The system really makes players feel like a sci-fi Sherlock Holmes and is easily one of the best executed deduction-based video game in recent memory.
The controls and quality of life features is where Gamedec struggles a bit. The point and click control scheme is very standard. Hotkeys helps players navigate conversations a little faster. The real problem lays in how players find hot spots to interact with. Currently, players need to be a few steps away for the options to appear. When the player is a little lost for direction, this easily results in a lot of time wasted as they wander around trying to get on top of the right spot. To make matters worse, interacting with non-human objects can be a little inconsistent, especially when there are a lot of other things in the area. The controls would benefit from a mechanic that allows players to see hot spots from a longer distance, whether this is a toggled ability or a short-term radar ping.
I like how past player choices are clearly affecting the current situation. Everything of importance is signaled with square brackets and coloured text. Players with longer memories can rely on these clues to guide them to different results in future replays.
Gamedec offers an excellent visual style. The team did a fantastic job of taking video game and sci-fi inspirations and making it uniquely their own. The video game worlds are the best of the bunch as no two worlds are the same yet everything feels familiar to gamers who have experienced many game genres and settings. The only knock against the art is the creepy NPC silhouettes that replace actual character portraits for minor characters. It breaks the immersion of the game and would benefit from being replaced in the future.
The audio experience in Gamedec is excellent. The layers of sound effects in the game make the world feel populated and alive. The soundtrack does a great job of subtly moving players into the right mood without being a distraction. The music shines during the tense moments of the game. As a non-violent, point and click adventure, the game is completely reliant on music to put players under pressure at important moments of the game. As a result, I often found myself making choices faster with less deliberation.
Currently, there is absolutely the bare minimum of voice acting in the game. The developers have promised partial voice acting in future updates as a stretch goal from their Kickstarter. Frankly, I am content with the current state as poor voice acting runs a good risk of ruining conversation heavy games like Gamedec.
Gamedec is an excellent point and click adventure that does justice to the mystery genre. Its dark and gritty writing that explores the grey areas of morality and consequence is fantastic. The investigation and deduction system is well done and is one of the best Sherlock Holmes type experiences in a long time. The game still has its fault as there are some minor quality of life issues and a need to rebalance profession point costs, but these minor imperfections can be fixed in a future update. Gamedec is a very good title that is worth taking a look at, even for those who aren’t fans of the point and click adventure genre.
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