It's pretty easy to be skeptical of this given that the description is a horrendous little salad of exhausted buzzwords - immersive sim, cyberpunk, open world, procedurally generated, dystopian, early access, voxel graphics - but it's actually pretty damn good, even better than expected after their Steam NextFest demo.
Going to get this out of the way early: This game is buggy - you'll get some framerate hitching and some pretty severe pop-in, not to mention the bugs that can occur when something is too close to a wall. I'm sure there's a chance of running into something game-breaking, but I haven't seen it - the closest I've encountered is a single instance of falling through the earth when trying to enter a building (which just resulted in some hospital bills that I... decided not to pay).
If you're not falling through the earth, though, it's magical. You gotta do the actual legwork of piecing everything together, and the game is not going to make any connections for you. Maybe you'll be a little frustrated when your case board fails to connect the address for "K. Zoungrana" to the existing entry for Keyon Zoungrana, but it's a very easy quirk to work around. Once you learn how to arrange the board in a way that suits you, you can begin knocking out these cases like clockwork. Sometimes a murderer may as well write their name at the crime scene, but sometimes you pick up a "freebie" photography assignment only to notice that the only "clue" you have on your target is that they're a 26-year-old security guard... somewhere.
As a detective in a world run by the Coca-Cola Cops, you're treated more like a hobbyist or a DoorDash driver than someone with any authority, and it works pretty well to encourage player creativity. The first time someone spits in your face after you offer them two hundred dollars for their name, you'll probably wonder what else you can even try. There's actually some pretty creative evidence trails and potential solutions I've seen pop up, so your problem is likely one of two things: 1. You haven't explored more creative solutions, or 2. Your conscience is too clean. I, on the other hand, have learned that I have no morals whatsoever. Try this: Knock on the suspect's door, and ask if they'll let you in. You can stand there for ten minutes trying to bribe them with ever-larger sums of cash, or you can close the door in their face and ram through it, knocking them unconscious with the impact, rummaging around in their apartment while they sleep it off. Is it court-admissible evidence? I don't even know if they're taking these guys to court! Not my problem!
Even the largest cities here are pretty small, but they make up for it with their depth. Every person has a place to sleep and something to do during the day, and this alone allows for so many angles of attack on any given case. You might be schlepping back and forth across the city just to collect pieces of paper, but with such a broad tool set it rarely feels tedious when every search is fruitful - at worst, you're building up your database so future investigations are easier.
It does settle into a formula with time, and once you start seeing patterns it's easy to feel like some of the magic is lost. NPCs suffer the most, because you only get a handful of interactions with them - I'm not sure why you can ask someone for their fingerprints but not their occupation, for example. The core investigative loop, though, is still pretty fun even if you feel like you've seen it all. Again, your arsenal of data gathering options is so large that just determining the right approach feels like you've done something clever, and finally being able to clean up a completed case board at the end of the day remains satisfying from hour 1 to hour 20.
For now, I should get back to it. I've just learned that my next door neighbor was murdered while I was searching my
unconscious landlord's apartment for a burger that ended up making me sick.
Reviewed on May 30, 2023