I have a long history with the Deus Ex titles, stemming all the way back to when J.C Denton first stalked New York and other locales with his nanite based augmentations. Because of this, as much as I am loath to pre-order titles Deus Ex is one of those series that I make exceptions for.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the second in a new series of games, set before the time of J.C and his brother Paul, the question is does it live up to the originals and its predecessors (Human Revolution) pedigrees?
Microtransactions and DLC
Starting on a negative, there are a few things that bug me about this title. The first would be the fact that the game features micro transactions allowing you to buy in game upgrades, credits and Praxis kits to allow your player to add more augments or purchase more items in game. Including something like this in a full price AAA release sets off more than a few alarm bells for me and smacks of cash grab tactics used by companies like EA, this combined with the fiasco of Squares pre order plans suggests that Square are heading down a very dark path, where cash is king, games are simply commodities – a means to an end of making them more money and customers are simply cattle to be milked for all they can take.
I genuinely hope this isn’t the case, but time will tell. Next up is how the pre-order bonus mission was handled. To access it, you need to select a section of the game menu called Story missions. At a guess, I would image all future DLC missions will be available from here – not too bad since this means you don’t need to play through sections of the game to get to the new content… At the same time this does mean that if I am right, the story is basically locked in place and will never be altered from its current incarnation which could have an impact of limiting how repayable the main story becomes overtime. Add to this the fact that the initial pre-order DLC looks like it would have fit quite comfortably in the middle of the main story and I start to worry about cash grabs again. It feels like this content may have been cut from the main story line and thrown in as an extra to incentivise pre-orders, which makes me wonder about future DLC also being made of content that was cut prior to release. As it stands the core of the game is a lot shorter than the previous title, which when looked at in light of the fact that the first story mission feels like it would fit right in the middle of the main story does support this viewpoint.
Prague, the world’s most ventilated city
Next up is level design. Now, fundamentally the levels are fairly well crafted affairs, Prague itself is a bit of a confusing mess of streets, but I like how it feels due to this, the problem I have is that you can’t walk more than a few steps without encountering a vent. These things are literally everywhere, I can understand the inclusion of them to give players alternative options to get around some parts of the game world that would otherwise be locked to them, such as door locks that require higher levels of hacking ability, or a heavily guarded spot for the player who is trying to take a non combative approach, but it seems like they have been overused in many places. It’s a shame that the level designers had to fall back on this single contrivance to aid the stealth aspect of the game considering there are other ways of handling this aspect as demonstrated by other titles such as Thief.
Onto the good stuff
Now the unpleasantness is done with, let’s talk about what the title gets right. Thankfully, the list is long and more than makes up for what I wasn’t happy about.
Mankind Divided is gorgeous, maybe not the most graphically demanding of titles, but its general appearance and visual style is utterly sublime continuing on from HR’s previous aesthetics all of which are enhanced with a nice bump in texture quality and overall increase in fidelity, of course it wasn’t particularly broke so why indeed bother fixing it? As mentioned, level design is well done, with a lot of thought put into how players may want to approach problems, giving both horizontal and vertical options – often accessed via air vents – plenty of items are littered throughout each level to help the player too. So for those who aren’t so skilled in hacking, data pads are conveniently left in offices containing access codes, got someone who can crack walls open? Great, fair few weakened walls dotted about should help with that. Overall due to how many potential methods players may take to complete a mission a lot of work has been done to try to accommodate any playstyle and any combination of skills.
So many tasty options
Overall this feels a solid successor to Human Revolution and indeed a worthy addition to the Deus Ex universe, building on what was done right in the previous game and eschewing that which didn’t work so well. Fans will be pleased to note that aside from at the very end of the game there were no boss battles in sight and even the one that it does have gave you multiple options in terms of how to end it. One thing that has been built on significantly is player choice, every problem you encounter has a staggeringly large amount of methods of resolving it. With more than enough different bits of equipment to back you up; grenades, lethal and non lethal guns; all of which can have ammo switched out to suit the occasion as well as mods applied improving their damage, changing how they fire adding scopes and silencers and so on. In addition to the impressive array of equipment is the star of the series, Jensen’s many and varied augmentations. There have been a few additions in this area since HR was released, the main and most obvious one being that Jensen has come into possession of a load more augmented abilities, including the ability to create a full body suit of armour, use a Nano blade launcher, hidden in his arm and other wonderful little toys for the player to pick and choose from. These augments function in the same way as skills from more traditional RPG’s which Jensen being able to add in more or upgrade existing ones via using something known as Praxis Kits, which are awarded to the player when they hit certain XP levels, you can also sometimes find these dotted about the games many locations or even buy them from traders in game too.
Despite the inclusion of some of the new augments to use, I found myself focusing more on a stock few and barely upgrading or even enabling many of the others, by the end of the game (played on the games hardest setting – Give me Deus Ex) I still had more than enough praxis to spare, so depending on your particular playstyle you may find that you barely actually touch some of the more esoteric add-ons than I did. One caveat to the newer augments is that Jensen can only support so many different systems at once, so if you do end up picking them up early on it becomes a balancing act where you have to choose to power down systems to allow you to play with the newer toys you can enable. Though this is later disappointingly circumvented later in the game, turning Jensen and by proxy the player into an almost unstoppable entity, which depending on how heavily you invested in augmentations earlier may end up making the game substantially easier to play through.
Give me Deus Ex
The plot is effectively a continuation of the previous outing, with one or two changes, time line wise this is set around 2 years after the previous title. The Pangea incident plays heavily into the overall story line, which is set against a backdrop of anti aug hate. Multiple agencies are set up against each other in both pro and anti-augmentation camps, which can often make it hard to know just who to trust from the list of NPCs the player interacts with as you gradually progress throughout the main story arc. Due to this there are many shades of grey to almost every conversation had, which can often make choice between who to aid and who to hinder fairly difficult. Due to the various twists there is often no clearly defined antagonist until closer to the end of the game, meaning that the much maligned boss fights of the previous title are thankfully missing here. The game itself, while fairly full of activities to do, such as side quests, areas of interest and various locations to explore to your hearts content, the main plot is actually shorter than that of Human Revolution and could be compared to Invisible War, the sequel to the original Deus Ex. This said, to date I’ve clocked up about 35 hours playing on the Give me Deus Ex difficulty setting, but then I have been pretty meticulous in exploring every location as much as I could, so your mileage on this may vary.
At its core, Mankind Divided is a nice addition to the Deus Ex universe, shorter than I would have liked, but with a good focus on being open to the player to let them decide how they choose to play, the level designs are solid enough and offer many potential avenues to complete missions, as do the various augments and equipment pickups available. While it’s not perfect the last 35 hours or so of gameplay have been thoroughly enjoyable, though let down slight by the convenient placement of air vents at what feels like every few feet, leading some sections to become impossibly easy due to just being able to either bypass areas where a fight could happen or enabling the player to just vanish from in front of an enemies face by diving into a nearby vent.
In addition to the main campaign is Breach mode, a VR themed asynchronous multiplayer experience. Breach uses a smaller set of the augmentation tree and enforces tighter limitations in this area. Breach is quite different to the main campaign insofar that you want to limit the way you do things, rather than being able to take things slow and experiment, Breach is all about scoring points for being as fast as you can be in each mission.
While divorced from the main story, Breach does tie into the main game universe by presenting new conspiracies for the player to unlock, which requires gems to be collected on missions.
I can’t help but feel this may have been tacked on to provide some form of multiplayer, based on market trends, since it has a certain ‘free to play’ feel about it. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable, it is. It just has something about it that makes it feel like a late addition to the title, done perhaps at Squares behest.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided is a short but reasonably worthy addition to the ever expanding Deus Ex universe. The microtransactions and potential cash grab nature of the DLC had left a bit of a sour taste, additionally I’d have liked there to be less ventilation in Prague, since it seemed the inclusion of so many of them allowed the game to oft feel like it was becoming too easy in places. Thankfully that was soon forgotten as I just enjoyed the game for what it was, an enjoyable play in a beautifully realised Prague of the future with an insane amount of player options in terms of how they approach puzzles and obstacles in their path. While much like Human Revolution it pales in comparison to the original game in terms of scope and complexity, it makes up for it in providing a fulfilling and rewarding experience in a beautifully realised location.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided39.99
- More player options than you often know what to do with
- Beautiful art style
- Having shades of grey leads to the player often questioning their choices
- Bonus add on of Breach mode
- Micro transactions
- DLC feels like it may have been cut from the main story