Check out my previous Final Thoughts for Rogues’ Adventures. Keep up with my adventures in backlog gaming via the Facebook group.
Rogues’ Adventures Season Eight
Final Thoughts #59
Developer: Eidos Montréal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 23, 2016
I’m finally back on the backlog gaming grind! As I feared I already got behind in my first game of season eight, but not nearly as bad as last season.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the long-awaited sequel to 2011’s Deus Ex reboot/prequel, Human Revolution. I adored Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It presented a unique mixture of open-world RPG with linear missions that still offered plenty of options and ways to tackle them. The stealth gameplay and cool cyber-tech stuff was top notch.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is basically more of the same. That makes it a solid sequel, but it’s astonishing that it took five years. Many of the basic gameplay mechanics, particularly the UI, now feel dated. The story is decently compelling as you work as an agent to foil a terrorist plot, but it feels like it’s building to a much grander tale only to abruptly end once the immediate threat is over.
At the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, augmented people around the world are given a signal that makes them turn into feral monsters, destroying anyone around them. While Adam Jensen was able to ultimately stop them, the damage was done.
Mankind Divided picks up two years after the “Aug Incident,” and the world has become a far harsher place. There’s some interesting background noise and social commentary as militarized police brutally capture and assault augmented people, and many live in sectioned off slums.
That world is well-realized in Prague, which acts as your hub-city as Detroit did in Human Revolution. Prague is dripping with delicious Eastern European flavor, with the Dvali crime gang, corrupt cops, and regular people just trying to get by. Prague offers a wealth of side quests, hidden treasure troves and fun areas to explore.
I enjoyed that the story is broken up into a three act structure, and each act brings new quests and a slightly tweaked environment. Act 1 introduces Prague during the day, Act 2 lets you sneak around at night, and Act 3 goes into full-blown lockdown with police and sentry robots guarding the streets. It forces you to use your knowledge and lay of the land to get around, creating an interesting layer to your usual exploration.
Unfortunately Prague is divided into two zones with an annoyingly lengthy load time between them. It’s hidden by taking a subway train between the two areas but it definitely cuts down on the free roam fun. It’s particularly egregious when a side trek involves going back and forth between them.
The main story returns us to heavily augmented badass Agent Jensen. Instead of working for Sarif Industries he’s now working for Interpol as an anti-terrorist agent for Task Force 29.
After the opening/training mission a bomb explodes in the train station when he returns. It’s a convenient way to damage his systems, essentially reverting you to level 1, and at least briefly. It also starts off a criminal investigation into the Augmented Rights Coalition, who are blamed for the attack.
The plot teases the wider world of the mysterious Illuminati and the dystopian cyberpunk setting that the world is headed toward (HR and MD are both prequels to the original 2000 Deus Ex). But about halfway through you meet the big bad villain and the story becomes focused on simply learning about Victor Marchenko, discovering his big evil plot, then stopping him. It evokes a typical Summer blockbuster action-espionage film – and in no way is that a bad thing.
I enjoyed the plot’s simple focus on foiling a terrorist’s plans, and the action keeps things exciting and immediate through each mission. Each mission gives you a large area full of armed baddies that you can either shoot your way through or sneak around in.
I went full stealth – and the game became ridiculously easy almost immediately. There’s a bevy of environmental shortcuts you can take, and all of them open up after only a few skill points put in the right places (jumping higher, lifting heavy things, punching weak points, and surviving poisonous gas). You can simply circumvent at least half of each level by exploring ceilings and vents. It’s easy but still feels rewarding for the patient stealth player.
Agent Jensen is also a complete badass. In the early game you restore your powers and once again earn Praxis Points (skill points) as rewards for completing quests, finding hidden cachés, and taking out the bad guys.
I spent most of my points on getting around and improving my hacking ability. Laptops are littered throughout the world and can help give you new information, codes, and important locations.
The remote hacking ability is probably one of the coolest additions, letting you shut down sentry turrets and cameras while behind cover using a quick mini-game. About half a dozen crazy powerful new augments were added. I had a tesla cannon in my arm that, with a few upgrades, could incapacitate four people at once in a room.
It’s fun to have this level of power fantasy in what amounts to being a cyberpunk superhero, but the game just doesn’t scale with you at all. Even if you spend most of your points on non-combat stuff (as I did), it’s still ridiculously easy to sneak up on people and knock them out. I never even purchased the energy upgrades as I was always completely full of health, energy, and all the ammo I could ever want.
Speaking of loot, the grid-based inventory is a complete pain in the ass. I enjoy an Action-RPG as much as the next person, but playing inventory-tetris while trying to grab a weapon mod is not enjoyable.
It didn’t help that I was flush with loot for most of the game. I carried around a giant sniper rifle and never once had to use it. The tranquilizer gun you can get in the opening mission took care of anything that I couldn’t sneak past.
I’ve listed a lot of grievances but Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is still an incredibly fun game and a worthy sequel. The increasingly cyberpunk setting is fantastic, even if Jensen himself is basically immune to the surrounding discrimination and hardship. The plot leans a little too hard on the superhero power fantasy – Jensen always says and does the perfect thing in every situation.
With all the powers and loot at your disposal missions are too easy, but still fun. Level designs are varied and interesting, from snowy research facilities to cramped apartment high-rises, and an enjoyable finale at a crowded convention center. In many ways, this Deus Ex series is what I wish Mass Effect had evolved into, with its fun mixture of classic RPG elements and first-person shooter gameplay.
The next Deus Ex needs a new game engine, UI, and improved balancing and I’ll definitely be on board. Hopefully it doesn’t take another five years.
- Awesome mix of cyberpunk skills and weapons for killing, stealth, and exploration
- Many well-written and enjoyable side quests
- Stealthing through levels is very satisfying
- No more mandatory boss fights
- Excellent voice acting
- Simple but focused plot with a solid villain
- Lengthy loading screen that divides the hub city
- Once past the early stages the game becomes incredibly easy, particularly with a full stealth run
- Grid-based inventory is annoying
- Graphics and UI feel dated, character models and lip syching particularly bad
- Story teases a bigger picture and plot, and an exciting major character twist – then it ends