If it weren’t for some frustrating freezes, Gamedec would go down as one of the best games for the Switch this year. Hell, even with those freezes, I’m sure it’ll make it to the GOTY list if I make it that far. So, what’s it all about?
Developed by Anshar Studios and published by Untold Tales, this is an isometric cyberpunk detective RPG. In short. The gamedec of the title is your role – an in-game detective that explores hacks, cheats and vulnerabilities within a program when hired by a client.
Set in a dystopian 22nd century, Warsaw City, to be precise, there’s a class war in Gamedec with the lower level folk living at the base of ‘poleis’ – the only human settlements of Earth, built on the ashes of the cities before. There’ll be a few handouts from your stunning apartment to clue you in on the world, but nothing complex. What you need to focus on is the first case where the client’s son is trapped within a game.
A gamedec is like tech support but with P.I. status. They’ll connect to a game and have free reign to interact with the gamers logged in, NPCs, and of course, highlight any areas of code that need to be investigated. Each game has set rules – it’s a bit like Westworld (there’s even a western-themed game you’ll play early on), but it’s effectively the same isometric viewpoint of interrogation and deductions.
Deductions are crucial to gameplay as you’ll need to accumulate enough evidence to support your convictions, and that typically means talking to everyone. As those evidence pieces formulate, you can choose the next path. There are no right and wrongs per se; if you have enough evidence to draw from, you can conclude whatever you like. Naturally, the results differ.
There’s a fair bit of backtracking in the relatively small environments, and though there’s an objective tracker, it’s easy to get a bit lost on what to do next. Fortunately, from the menu or d-pad hotkeys, jump into your Deduction area, Codex, and Professions. We’ve already looked at Deductions. Codex are self-explanatory, but they’re fantastic for finding out about characters and locations as you can source knowledge from conventional methods and the dark web.
Professions house the skill tree in Gamedec. For each action you take, you’re awarded personality skills made up of a wealth of Aspects such as Determination, Authority, Spontaneity, Energy, Caution, Facts, Listening, and Pacifism. There are four personality skills with eight aspects each. Once you develop a skill, these can be invested into Professions that unlock new dialogues such as hacking, influencing people, using brute force, and so on.
It’s impossible to have access to all these skills, so you have to do what you’ve got and note the greyed-out options in the dialogue trees. If they keep showing up, perhaps invest in them? For example, one of my early skills was Sleeves which is more or less an aggressive approach that can shift conversations to intimidate people or have the opposite direction and have an NPC shutdown to you. The options are vast.
While a lot is going on in Gamedec, it never feels overwhelming, and it’s pretty damn easy to get lost in the experience – especially Harvest Time, where you run your own farm. It’s so addictive! Only two aspects spoiled this experience: loading times and the freezes mentioned at the beginning.
Loading times tend to hang and are erratic. Sometimes you’ll have some information to read through or calmly wait for ‘press any button to continue’; other times, it’ll jolt straight into the action and fast-forward a few seconds. This wasn’t so major, though. The issue for me would be where I could no longer control my character, and they would be stuck behind an asset. The only way to counter this other than saving frequently is to use the right stick to lock on to a point of interest and hope your gamedec walks there.
In my playtime, this happened half a dozen times, and at one stage, I left the game for a day in frustration. It’s strange as all other buttons work; it’s just the left stick. I made a point of trying different controllers but replicated the same issues. This isn’t great as if you removed this issue; Gamedec plays so well on the Switch. The controls feel mostly intuitive, the visuals are great, but more importantly, it’s immersive.
In truth, I’ve become a bit disconnected with the Nintendo Switch these past months – finding myself playing the PC followed by the PlayStation, but not so much this pocket rectangle. Gamedec has changed that. I constantly jumped in and out of the game at any opportunity. I thought this was a Switch exclusive as I hadn’t heard of the game until the news piece, but it makes sense you can get this on PC too. I would suggest giving the demo a run-through on Steam before you buy, but from my perspective, aside from the technical issues, Gamedec is one of the best Switch games this year.