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Need some Ex Machina up in here!

  • Liberty
  • 01/31/2019 01:10 AM
DEX: Strange Residence was created for the IGMC 2018. This review is based on the contest version and doesn't take into consideration any bug fixes or changes made since then. As such, it won't have a score tied to it, officially, though I'll certainly add a mention of what I would have scored it in the summary.

Presentation for the game is a bit mixed. On the one hand, the mapping and visuals are pretty good. While there are some clashing tiles here and there, and some strange oddities, the game does look nice. However...

There is a huge problem when it comes to the writing. The spelling and some of the grammar in the game can be pretty bad. There's a lot of mistakes scattered through the text, of which there is a lot, and it's very noticeable. That said, the characters were written competently, though they suffered from a bit of over-talk-itis (who am I to judge that, though?). They weren't great but they also weren't bad.

Plot-wise, it was a very standard RPG horror game. You have a group of people stuck in a mansion filled with ancient evil and zombies. Very par-for-the-course. Unfortunately, I was unable to see if anything interesting happened as there was a game killing bug that stopped progress, but I'm going to assume not due to how generic the rest of the game was.

I did question a fair few design choices when it came to the gameplay - having some items shown on the map while others were hidden, having menu choices that seemed to be added just to be 'cool' instead of being useful... that kind of thing was rather annoying and just made the game feel inconsistent and bloated. There were systems set up that didn't need to exist (especially in that build of the game, even if they'd be added in at a later date - they just drew attention away from what was there).

I liked that there were on-map items that had uses, like the broom being used to sweep up some broken glass (though you could have just walked over it without issue and the trigger for using it was a bit weird) and the boards being able to be picked up and reused. That felt nice, though the broom being suddenly full of glass was a bit weird (since you can just give a broom a shake to dislodge items stuck in it. Felt a bit ham-fisted as a way to limit it's uses).

As to the sanity system. It's alright. I noticed people were comparing it to Darkest Dungeon and I don't really see it - it's not the first RPG horror game to use a sanity system in and out of battle. It just felt like another stat, like a TP or stress counter - even more useless though as I don't believe we saw any changes from it.

Battles were a bit on the easy side once you had your characters equipped with weapons that suited their builds, and tying skills to weapon type was a nice idea. I wasn't big on the reappearing enemies, however, as this kind of game should probably be tempered around set encounters and not reappearing foes, but at least they weren't too difficult (even if I died in one or two battles).

I also got to a point where I was 20 minutes in and just wanted to do something beyond talking to more people. The first 20 minutes should try to hook the player and when you're forced to talk to people in order to progress, and they want to talk about random stuff, it can feel a bit bland. If the whole meet and greet waited until you actually met the characters in the 'dungeon', it'd feel a little more interesting at least and you wouldn't be inundated with everyone's life story all at once, especially after two already-long cutscenes introducing the main character and the security lady.

Also, that whole aspect of having to be within a certain area to see the shiny plot trigger after you trigger your special power was not a great way to get the player to remember to use that ability.

Overall the game was okay. Decent but with some issues and there were a lot of things that need fixing, polishing and thinking about. Sometimes less is more, and cutting out ideas that don't quite jive with the idea of the game is a better idea than running with every idea you originally had.

I'd give it 2stars - not horrible, but not good either.