The modern world is a crazy place, huh? Remember back when you had to go outside for anything ever? Sure, we’re not fully immersed in the metaverse just yet, but it’s possible to get your groceries, household supplies, entertainment and more all using the magic of the Internet. When we take this a couple steps further, we might wonder why we continue to exist in the real world at all. That’s one of the questions inherent in Gamedec, a detective adventure game based on the book series by Polish author Marcin Przybyłek. Games based on the works of Polish authors are getting a lot of attention lately, eh, Witcher?
Gamedec’s setting is going to seem familiar because we’re already well on our way there. The world’s run by technocrats and the average person doesn’t have a lot of hope; even many of the rich are seeking an escape. That’s led to the rise of fully immersive virtual gaming worlds, places where people completely submerse their minds using advanced drugs and hardware. You put your body into what’s essentially a coma and get to playing.
That’s a dangerous idea, as you might imagine, and with so many people partaking of these games, there’s bound to be some mishaps here and there. In particular, crime in virtual worlds has become more and more an issue as games have become more popular. This has led to the rise of a new profession: the gamedec, or game detective, who possesses investigative skills and puts them to use solving virtual crimes. As a gamedec, you know better than most that virtual crimes can have very real consequences, and it’s up to you to hit the digital streets in true hard-boiled fashion.
Gamedec is most easily compared to indie darling Disco Elysium. It’s a heavily narrative isometric adventure game that focuses on character development and interaction as well as ensuring that the decisions you make matter. Your gamedec is going to solve crimes using their head and their wits rather than a weapon most of the time. Their detectiving abilities are determined largely by the path you take down the Profession tree, which basically consists of skills that you can unlock to give yourself an edge. A hacker might be able to get through problems in a more sneaky way, but it’s equally possible to beef up and deal with things by being intimidating and using brute force. Skill points needed to unlock new Professions are earned through dialogue. Your choices also affect your character’s growth as a person, shifting their Aspects, which serve as a sort of personality meter.
Using your Professions and Aspects during a case – or not, if you don’t happen to have what’s needed – will allow you to gain information, which is then used for Deduction. This is Gamedec’s standout system, allowing you to create your own solution to problems given what your character knows. Whether or not that will be the correct solution is the question, really. A decision that your gamedec reaches without having all the pieces of the puzzle runs the risk of being wrong, after all. Much like in real life, it can be difficult to rethink your conclusions when it comes to light that you don’t have all the relevant information. You’re not always forced to go with the results of a deduction, either, so it’s still possible to make decisions while considering every circumstance – if you logically don’t think that guy committed a crime despite your detective’s intuition screaming otherwise, for instance, you can let him go, but it’ll be on you if you’re wrong.
It’s difficult to talk too much about Gamedec’s plot without ruining the entire point of playing the game, in other words. Your first case involves a wealthy young kid who’s apparently stuck in what amounts to a cyber-brothel, for instance. Was he, though? Whose fault is it? Can he be released? It’s your gamedec who has to figure out these answers and determine a way to get the job done. The truth might be surprising, especially since there’s many “truths” that your gamedec can arrive at based on their skills, aspects and deductions. You’re also bound to some extent by the rules inherent in various virtual worlds – trading and player-killing rules, for instance – and this might come to play in your investigation,
Gamedec’s aesthetic is another thing it has in common with Disco Elysium, with both games offering a colorful isometric perspective of each area that’s packed to the brim with detail. More importantly, Gamedec’s writing is fairly competent as well, though there’s the odd dialogue bug and typo here and there that suggest the game could have used just a bit more tlc. Nothing’s so bad as to ruin the experience, though, and if you were fond of Disco Elysium’s style of detectiving, you’re going to get a lot of the same feels out of Gamedec.
The runtime is fairly short; you’re only going to spend five or six hours per playthrough. That’s because it’s an experience focused on replayability and exploring paths that you didn’t take before. From that perspective, players who enjoy the life of a gamedec might squeeze thirty or so hours out of this one, which is a pretty sizable chunk for this sort of adventure. Disco Elysium fans and those who’ve checked out the books would be well-served to take a look at Gamedec; newcomers to the intuition-adventure sort of concept on offer here may be best served taking a look at Disco Elysium first and then heading this way immediately afterwards.