Game Review: Deux Ex: Mankind Divided

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It’s been a while since my previous post. I’ve been quite busy with the renovation of what became my new home a few days ago. In fact, I’m still pretty busy with the finishing touches and, frankly, a bit overwhelmed with all the work that’s still pending, more so taking into account I’m only a few months away from becoming a father again. Of course, I still find time here and there to play some games and relax. I’m currently enjoying Hollow Knight but I’m far from being ready to review it. Previously, I played Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and I want to share some thoughts about it.

Mankind Divided was generally well received by critics and fans, but it was specifically criticized for its microtransactions and presumably short campaign length. You can count me in the group of fan series and my perspective may be a bit rosy, but I think it’s a great game. I disliked the whole microtransactions affair, the in-game “triangle codes” tied to a mobile app and other stuff like breach mode, but the really good news here is that you can ignore all of that (it never gets in your way) and still enjoy a great game. It’s not revolutionary like the original Deus Ex and it’s not as good as Human Revolution, in my opinion, but it’s still pretty good.

The graphics and attention to detail in most environments are amazing, even if the appearance of a few characters is still a bit “deusexy”, as I commented in my previous post. The gameplay is good and very similar to Human Revolution, with similar achievements for a Pacifist approach or Foxiest of the Hounds if you want to go that route (I did). I welcomed most gameplay changes. The comeback of Multitools from the original Deus Ex is nice and flexible. It allows you to bypass specific locks if you lack the skill, paying the price of not getting any experience points. Disabling robots and turrets permanently with EMP grenades is no longer possible, favoring other game mechanics like the remote hacking augmentation, the specific computer hacking skills and armor piercing rounds. I disliked the changes to the computer hacking screen. Its GUI is a bit more cumbersome and the “Stop Worm” button location made me click it by mistake many times when trying to reach an object in the upper part of the screen. The increased level decoration detail in modern games sometimes makes it hard to spot interesting items and objects, but the problem is elegantly solved here and integrated in-game with the Magpie augmentation.

As for complaints about the game’s length, I believe it ended right where it was supposed to end. It didn’t catch me by surprise. I may be wrong, but it looked clear to me the game was about to end and leave up some plot lines unsolved. It reminded me of the original Star Wars or Matrix film trilogies. The first films in those stand alone. Due to their success, more films were planned and both second films (Matrix Reloaded and The Empire Strikes Back) end up with cliffhangers and unsolved plot lines. I believe something similar is bound to happen with this hypothetical “Jensen’s Trilogy”. Rumors with somewhat credible sources circulating on the Internet put the blame for microtransactions and splitting the story in two on the game publisher, Square Enix.

The story does have less meat, but it’s interesting to see it slowly tie to elements in the original Deus Ex. We’ve got almost every character there already: Lucius DeBeers, Beth DuClare, Morgan Everett, Stanton Dowd, Bob Page, Joseph Manderley, etc. Even a prototype for the Morpheus AI is mentioned in one of the in-game pocket secretaries. The game side missions are very interesting and provide much needed support to the main story. A fast player will easily get 20 to 30 hours of gameplay and a slower and completionist player like myself may get over 40 or 50 hours out of it in the first playthrough, so I refuse to call it a short game.

Another question is if maps are less varied and if that contributes to the game feeling smaller or shorter than Human Revolution. I don’t think there’s an easy answer for that. The game only has one big hub located in the city of Prague. But it’s so big it had to be divided in two: a small starting area and a larger one. Each of those has several buildings that can be visited, as well as a moderately large sewer system and a number of sub-areas. For example, the large Prague hub includes the Dvali apartment complex and theater as well as the Palisade Bank. Additional maps take you to different areas, including the relatively large and complex Golem City, which is as large as a hub by itself. I’ve praised multilayer maps and levels in the past, with interconnected architecture, and this is one of those games featuring amazing level design, with the Augmented Rights Coalition headquarters in Golem City, as well as the Church of the MachineGod apartment complex, deserving a special mention.

To me, the game graphics, sound and technological aspects are worth a 9 and the gameplay is easily worth an 8.5. The overall score could be an 8.5, bound by its gameplay.

Regarding the future of the game series, I’d like to see one more Jensen game to solve part of the remaining open plot lines. After that, the franchise should probably move to other characters. The Deus Ex universe is rich and complex so it has room for telling many stories. I read someone in reddit say they should make a game about Paul Denton. It certainly has potential and could be nice. It could explain in detail how UNATCO was formed. Eventually, someone should remake or, to be precise, re-imagine the original Deus Ex (probably my favorite PC game of all time). Of course, I don’t mean a mere remake. Human Revolution proved it’s possible to take a franchise and update its core gameplay to modern standards. I read a Human Revolution review that mentioned the game played like a love letter to the original Deus Ex. Not as revolutionary, but a worthy homage to the original game and an nice update to the franchise. That’s what I would be expecting from a Deus Ex remake. A big game following roughly the same plot as the original, with varied locations and updated gameplay, directed with a reasonable but heavy hand and without fear of risks to make necessary changes.

I’ll have mine without microtransactions, thanks.

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