Gamedec, a Kickstarter from Anshar Studios, promises to be an isometric cyberpunk detective RPG. That's a lot of info to take in as it is, but what I didn't expect is just how much much of this game made me physically cringe. Gamedec's complex RPG systems, branching dialogue trees, and dialogue skill checks remind me a bit of detective RPG Disco Elysium, but it all ends up fading into the background as all dialogue devolves into a 13-year-old boy's understanding of sex. Three hours with the Alpha Build for Gamedec left me feeling equal parts gross and disappointed.
An Interesting but Tired Setting
Gamedec has a few strengths to discuss before I get into all that, though. The artwork is intriguing right away, for one. This is a bit of a reach, but imagine a 2020 version of the long-forgotten 1997 point-and-click game The Longest Journey, and you have the exact aesthetic of Gamedec. Anshar Studios 100% commits to their cyberpunk aesthetic and even hints at the larger "punk" theme of their setting. Similar to Ready Player One or Snow Crash, the world of the far-future sees an entire virtual world that anyone can choose to live in. This kind of setup isn't new for a sci-fi world, and especially for a cyberpunk game, but it's one of those things that keeps being used because it works.
There are a near-infinite number of worlds to visit; some are for exploring, some for shopping, some for video games and some to just escape into until you die (or even after you die, Black Mirror style). Gamedec mentions all this in passing and then lifts to curtain to reveal that the only thing it's really used for is virtual sex. The corporate overlords run every piece of everyone's life, and it's up to you, the scrappy down-on-his-luck detective, to crack some of the worst cyber crimes imaginable. But again, they are all very concentrated around sex.
A Combat-Free RPG
Gamedec has no combat, much like the aforementioned Disco Elysium. Instead, the protagonist picks a class at the beginning and has a skill tree that can be filled out by navigating through dialogue trees. Each class only gives the player a boost in that specific skill set, rather than locking them into it; if you choose to be a hacker, you can still apply earned skill points to charisma and conversation-based stats. Clicking through specific dialogue options is usually pretty freeform, but occasionally you'll say something to lock you into a specific timeline. A story map will appear to warn you that the decision you're making will have further ramifications. I want to note that there were a ton of spelling and grammar mistakes in this Alpha build. I counted several dozen. In a text-based adventure game with nothing else going on, it's pretty sloppy to not even get the text right.
In practice, most of my time with Gamedec was just clicking through every possible option in each dialogue tree to try and progress the story. Gamedec has a small window that tells the player their next mission, but it's often vague with no real explanations. It ends up being a lot of clicking everything you can find until something happens. Each of the characters I met were, to put it mildly, reproachable, including the protagonist. None of them were interesting, all of them were pathetic in some way and at least half of them were on-duty prostitutes. Every single woman I met was a prostitute and carried herself in a way so demeaning to women I cannot for a moment believe a single woman was involved in the production of Gamedec. Which leads into my next point.
Gamedec is Unbelievably Horny
Gamedec is so obsessed with the idea of sex that I have trouble finding words to convey it. Starting right from the beginning as you take your first mission in the Alpha, you're assigned to investigate a billionaire's underage son who has hired an adult prostitute to have sex with him and his friend in the virtual world. The dialogue almost immediately devolves into what I can only describe as a 13-year-old boy who has never talked to a girl thinks flirting is. Gamedec's idea of "flirting" is an adult man telling an adult woman that her boobies are big and squeezable. It's not a one-time gag - the dialogue got even more cringey as the Alpha build went on. Gamedec is quite serious about how excited it is about the prospect of sex. The complete dedication to making Gamedec a male power fantasy was surprising to me, as I have seen no indication that this is what the game was supposed to be on the Kickstarter page.
Once I hopped into the virtual world to start game-decking, I found that all ten of the individuals available to talk to only wanted to talk about sex. Most of them were completely focused on propositioning my own bland, emotionless protagonist for sex, either in exchange for money or for free. There was a very horny unicorn (har har) that kept making inappropriate sexual advances on my character, and by the time I was tied up in an alley in a sub/dom experience with a dominatrix I was wondering how my life had taken me to this point. I guess I locked myself into the dominatrix timeline, because I had to grovel, lick her boots, and call her mistress in order to continue progressing. I made it through that sequence extremely uncomfortable. Again, checking Gamedec's website and Steam page gives absolutely no indication that this is what the game is.
A Wildly Uncomfortable Experience
I want to know if Kickstarter backers are happy with what this product became, or if they're going to feel misled and cheated. Overall, the basic RPG aspects of Gamedec could have delivered a cyberpunk experience similar to Disco Elysium. Instead, it chose to hone in on cringe-worthy sex sequences, domination sessions, awkward flirtations, and a frankly disgusting treatment of women. To be blunt, I'm appalled by Gamedec. If you are looking for a non-anime hentai game, well I've got just the thing for you. If you're looking for a cyberpunk RPG, well, Cyberpunk 2077 is just around the corner. You can wait.