I remember when I first started to play World of Warcraft, way back during its alpha phase, and there would be Game Masters physically manifesting in their GM robes to help players. It’s like seeing a god walking among the lowly playerbase—or, at least, someone who has powers in-game beyond a regular player. Of course, GMs were employees hired to troubleshoot and solve problems, but what if such a job existed beyond a specific MMO, and there was a sort of GM that can enter any game and help out for a nominal fee? That’s essentially what a Gamedec is.
Gamedec is a narratively driven investigative isometric role-playing game where you take the role of a Gamedec—like a private eye for video games. They use powers not regularly available in game to solve problems that players are having. Except, these aren’t video games as you know them, they’re full-body immersive virtual reality experiences. That means all of the sci-fi tropes are there: virtual reality can cause your body physical harm, and if you pull them out of it too early, you can cause them to go into a coma. I mean, I don’t know if I’d ever want to play a video game that can cause me to go comatose, but that’s just something people in the coming decades are apparently going to deal with. As a Gamedec you enter into various games and help out your clients with their problems.
While Gamedec puts you into a few different genres of video games, you don’t really interact with the video games as if you were playing them. Instead, Gamedec plays more like an adventure game with role-playing elements. Each case you take on requires a collection of facts, evidence, etc. This requires careful exploration, and lots of conversations to gather the clues you need. Then, once everything is compiled in your codex, you can start making deductions.
Deducing what is happening in any given case is not as easy as collecting the right information. Gamedec requires you to make guesses based on the facts presented. It’s possible to get it wrong. The game doesn’t end if you’re wrong, but the narrative will be affected going forward. Most of Gamedec’s gameplay is through branching dialogues, and choices you make as the Gamedec. Think more Disco Elysium than traditional role-playing games with heavy combat mechanics. It’s possible to “fight” in Gamedec, but it’s usually a zero sum affair: you win, or lose, and that’s it. That’s not to say that combat isn’t occasionally effective, it just isn’t one of Gamedec’s main draws.
That’s not to say there aren’t stats or stats checks in Gamedec. As you make choices, you will be given points into four stats that represent the type of choices you’re making. These four stats are archetypes that have a wide range of character traits being tracked within them, with the four generally being aggression/assertiveness, charm/intuition, logic/caution, and empathy/education with the last perhaps having the most inexplicable range of personality types. These stats increase based on the choices you make in the game, and you can spend these accumulated points on various professions in a rather simple skill tree. These professions don’t have points into them, rather in speech (and other actions) there is a hard check to see if you have the profession or not. Having a certain profession in certain circumstances allows you to perform unique actions, or actions you otherwise couldn’t.
Everyone expects speech and skill checks in role-playing games, so it’s not surprising they exist. However, I was surprised when I discovered (through a bit of save scumming) that I could bypass these checks by reading carefully and responding correctly most of the time. That doesn’t mean that these skills are worthless, but I find it interesting that carefully following dialogue trees will often yield productive results. Dialogue and your choices therefore have a lot of repercussions in Gamedec. This also means there is potential for replayability as you attempt different choices in your playthroughs to see different results. Replayability is good, because a playthrough of Gamedec took me a little under 10 hours.
Gamedec is a narratively driven game, and while its strengths are its storytelling, its overarching story is a little predictable. Gamedec is awash in sci-fi tropes seen in countless IPs, but it manages to use these ideas well enough in its world building. Gamedec’s biggest strength is its characters and their role in each of the cases you take. Despite being surrounded by clichés and following a familiar story, I was always compelled to keep interacting with its world and characters.
Gamedec isn’t a bad game, but I don’t suspect it will make big waves. If it does, it’ll be because of its dialogue and choices. If you’re looking for a combat heavy game, this isn’t it—but it doesn’t have the wit and self-awareness of Disco Elsyium, either—a game it most closely resembles.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.
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