Gamedec is an adventure game where you are a game detective, that is, a private detctive who specializes in cases taking place in full dive virtual worlds. You visit a bunch of different virtual worlds for various cases, and it turns out the future-cyberpunk internet’s a small place, apparently, because you run into a surprising number of recurring characters despite going into a new game every time. The game is driven almost entirely by dialogue, without any of your old school bullshit adventure game puzzles where you have to rub every item in your inventory on every interactable object until plot progress pops out.
I don’t want to discuss the plot in detail because it mostly all works and is pretty well written, and I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a mystery game, so of course any discussion of the plot is going to be spoiling the solution to all of the mysteries, and even discussing the premise for some of the later mysteries gives away the ending to some of the earlier ones.
This is not to say the game has no flaws, just that those flaws are all mechanical. Some of these are intentional decisions that I think were bad ideas, most notably, that you can’t see which dialogue options give you XP and of what type. The game has a skill tree, and having skills on the tree unlocks dialogue options. Unlocking skills requires the right combination of four different flavors of XP, each associated with a loosely related set of personality traits. Whenever you pick a dialogue option that favors one of these personality traits in particular, you get XP. This is a perfectly good system except for one thing: The game never indicates which dialogue options give you XP or of what type. Since you know the XP flavors are tied to different personality types, and since you need XP of all flavors (though in varying amounts) to unlock most of the skills, you’re incentivized to shift your dialogue choices based on what kind of XP you need right now. Picking one flavor and sticking to it isn’t viable – no path on the skill tree can be unlocked without getting at least a few points in all 4 XP types. And not every dialogue option has XP associated with it, so frequently I’d pick a dialogue option hoping to get a specific type of XP to unlock a skill, only to find that it doesn’t actually do that. The end result is that XP comes in basically at random unless you look up a guide that tells you which options give you what.
Other flaws are outright bugs.
The game originally had a default male protagonist with a customizable name (apparently this is not true, contrary to an online discussion I’d read about the game, which makes the sloppy implementation of the protagonist’s pronouns even more egregious), which later expanded to a protagonist with customizable appearance and pronouns, but the implementation of the gender-swapped pronouns is badly broken, with code fragments like “(gender!female” showing up (I can’t remember the exact example, but it was clearly a bit of code for the variable pronouns that hadn’t been closed properly). A particularly annoying one actually affected what ending I could get. According to guides online, it should be impossible to be locked into just one of the game’s six endings. One ending is always available no matter what, but also there’s a boolean variable that you can flip with certain choices in the game which unlocks two endings in one state and one ending in another. This means there should always be a minimum of two endings available. I got locked into just one ending, though, because the game seemed to think I had simultaneously done and not done the thing that affects the other three endings (and I legitimately didn’t qualify for the other two).
Particularly annoying since I played the recently released so-called “Definitive Edition,” so you’d think that’d be the one where they fix bugs as critical as being locked out of endings you’re supposed to have qualified for. Or alternatively, fixing the dialogue so that it’s not extremely misleading about how you qualify for the endings (the dialogue for the ending I got does imply that it’s the leftover for people who didn’t stick to any of the other paths hard enough – but then the dialogue for several of the other endings implies I definitely should’ve qualified for those, so one of these is misleading).
And the mechanical flaws – intentional or otherwise – stack up more the deeper into the game you get, which has the unfortunate side effect of making the ending of the game the weakest part of the whole thing. In the final few scenes, properly investigating becomes a chore as you get swept forward in the plot without warning, leaving me with insufficient information to make what seems like critical decisions in the final case, only to learn at the end that none of those decisions were ever intended to affect what ending I get, and the endings are broken anyway. A disappointing ending to a game that’s 80% good.
3 thoughts on “Gamedec”
Gamedec is one of the most bafflingly bad games I’ve played. Not because it’s broken (although it is) or because it’s writing is bad (although it frequently is), but because the story does so little with the concept and jumps the shark so hard that I can’t take any of it seriously. And the XP system is probably the worst thing for roleplaying that I’ve ever seen.
> The game originally had a default male protagonist with a customizable name, which later expanded to a protagonist with customizable appearance and pronouns
This is not true. As early as Kickstarter launch, the game already had a customizable protagonist.
That’s weird. I read conversations where people talked about character customization being added. What the Hell they were talking about, I wonder?
More portraits maybe?
And I think the pronouns dropdown was added later.