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Science-Fiction Weekly – Dex: Enhanced Version, Star Trek Beyond, And Star Wars Land

by Andrew Reiner on Jul 12, 2016 at 10:00 AM

After spending roughly 12 hours with The Technomancer, any promise shown in its opening hours has vanished under a tidal wave of glitches and hilarious exploits. If combat encounters weren't going my way, I learned that I could simply back up 10 to 20 feet to make the enemies forget about me. They would reset to their prior positions, giving me enough time to heal up and approach them in a different way. Outside of bosses or scripted fights in small enclosed spaces, this technique worked without fail. I would often focus my efforts on one enemy, eliminate him or her, then back up and direct my attacks on a second foe.

The Technomancer's story, which begins as a heavy data dump of lore but settles into a fairly intriguing mystery about the mystical abilities on Mars, comes to a near screeching halt when the second hub location is accessed. The focus shifts away from the conflict at hand to repetitively-designed missions and side quests. Some of my progress was also lost in numerous ways, starting with an NPC character that I needed to follow freezing up and ending with a button prompt not appearing on a door. I had to reload early saves to play through previously cleared sections to attempt these missions again. I like The Technomancer's world setup and combat design, but mission variety is lacking, the story flow is wildly uneven, and the glitches and exploit techniques are unacceptable. Give it a hard pass.

I would instead recommend you direct your attention to the revamped version of Dreadlocks' Dex, which just launched on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Designed as an homage to 16-bit RPGs like Shadowrun, Dex is a cyberpunk thriller that unravels across a sprawling 2D open world. The game begins with Dex, a blue-haired, trench coat-laden woman, reflecting on life as she gazes upon the neon-lit nightlife of Harbor Prime, a city that 13 million people call home. She retreats to bed, a moment used to show us her neck is made of metal cybernetics. As she fades away into slumber, she is bombarded with visions – a rundown house, the city turned upside, some kind of bio dome. She's startled awake by the voice of an A.I. character named Raycast. "Wake up! Wake up! They are coming for you. You need to get out of there," he says.

This intro succeeds on a number of levels; setting the tone of the world, establishing an interesting character, and planting the seed for the mystery at hand. Why do I need to leave? Why am I being attacked? By who? The music and visuals that accompany these introductory events are beautifully retro while still showcasing a high level of detail in the environments and character designs. It's a nice looking game that, while showing clear inspiration to Blade Runner or Shadowrun, has its own unique style and touches. I'm particularly impressed by the amount of ambient life in the world. A nice variety of pedestrians walk the streets or are interacting with the world, and you'll also see dogs and birds and other animated things in each environment. NPCs are not just static characters standing around, either. They are often inserted into the environments in interesting ways, such as a sick woman huddled under her covers at home while her son leans worriedly against the wall. In the seedier part of town, you'll even see men and women dancing seductively and making out in well-lit tubes – an unintentionally funny visual given the characters never stop doing the same dance moves and kissing motions.

After the initial world setup, Dex is forced to flee her home. The fastest route is across the rooftops, a sequence that the player has complete control over. The running and jumping feel good, but the only excitement comes from the setup, as there is no challenge to leaping away to safety. Dex isn't a platformer, and instead finds gameplay complexity in hand-to-hand and weapon-based combat. These actions all unfold in real time, but are a bit too clunky to give the player a true feeling of ownership over most encounters. Some enemy animations have tells that can be read easily, others unleash attacks without notice. When you know what's happening, a block or evasive roll can be used to gain an edge, and Dex's combat shines. When you don't see the attack coming, you just hope you make it out of the encounter without sustaining too much damage. Combat has a bit of a side-scrolling, beat-em-up feel to it, but stealth tactics, like sneaking up behind foes or hiding in the shadows, can also be used to complete encounters without throwing any punches at all.

Since Dex is an RPG at its core, customization is offered in cybernetic augmentations, and a basic selection of character skills. The most fun I've had in this cyberpunk setting is exploring the rich world, and taking on missions for its denizens. The quest lines are quite interesting, even if the writing is a little campy at times, but the big problem comes from the world itself, which is huge and confusing and hard to navigate unless you take the time to memorize it. The game does a poor job of leading you along, also suffers from a horrible amount of screen tearing whenever the environment scrolls. Although I'm just learning about Dex's hacking abilities, the twin-stick shooter minigame attached to this activity takes far too long and, like the platforming, hasn't given me a run for my money yet.

Despite these early problems, I am enjoying the old-school charm and story of Dex. I want to see where it goes, and will definitely stick with it for now. If you played the original PC version last year, the enhanced edition sounds like it alleviates many of the complaints people had with it. You can now save anywhere, use weapons while crouching and walking, and the controller interface has supposedly been improved.

Outside of the video game realm, Ultraman, the giant kung-fu robot from Japan, turned 50 this weekend. Tsuburaya Productions celebrated the big guy's birthday with the release of a new television show, Ultraman Orb. You can watch the first episode (with English subtitles) over at Crunchyroll.

The villain of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film has been revealed in a YouTube video (see below). He's named Krall, and according to the movie's director Justin Lin, he's going to "deconstruct the Federation's ideas in a way where he has a very valid philosophy." We also learn he's a "soloist" and "nihilist," which sounds oddly similar to the bad guy in Star Trek Into Darkness. The more I learn about Star Trek Beyond the less excited I get for it.

And lastly, in Star Wars news, Disney unveiled another picture of its forthcoming Star Wars Disneyland expansion, which consumes 14 acres of land, making it the largest single-themed exhibit in Disney history. We obviously won't see real X-Wings flying over head, but if the expansion ends up looking anything like the picture below, I should probably find a way to live in this world. It's the only place that will feel like home. My first stop, which will likely be yours as well, is going to the replica Millennium Falcon.