I’m currently playing through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and considering how long it’s going to take me to “finish” playing, much less write a review, here’s something to bridge the gap until I can give my opinion on it. I’m currently traveling and writing this on my phone so unfortunately you’ll have to rely on my incredible descriptions and paint the picture in your head.
So far what I can say is that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a game that, in both good and bad ways is teaching lessons to the gaming industry that hopefully every other developer (and their respective publishers) can and will learn from; starting with:
1. Pre-Order Bonuses need a dramatic revamp.
This is one of the bad things developers should take a note of, as it proves just how greedy the gaming industry has become in the past couple years. For preordering the new Deus Ex, you get an improved combat rifle, a bunch of in-game currency and other cool gear. The catch? As soon as you move it into your inventory, the gear is locked to that save file. If you start a new game, you won’t be able to use that gear again, unless you want to pay another $5. Pre-order bonuses are known to be poor investments, at least for the most part, but this is a new low. The only time you’re warned about this is right before you move any of the gear to said inventory. It’s not just a bad business practice, it’s a poor way of getting people to spend $5 right after they’ve spent more than 60. Here’s hoping the massive amount of negative reception is enough to ward off future developers from making the same mistake.
2. Stop Making a Big Deal of Playing Your Way
Ever since Far Cry 3 popularized the idea of “playing your way” pretty much every open world game has advertised the same thing. “Go guns blazing or move like a ghost, look! We’re going to go super stealthy at first and then by sheer accident get detected and have to show off our just-as-great combat!”
What makes Mankind Divided feel refreshing is that it doesn’t go out of its way to tell you that there’s multiple ways to explore: rather, it drops the player into a level and let’s them figure out if they’d prefer to find a stealthy route to the objective, or if they’d prefer to tackle their mission head on.
Probably the best part about this system however, is that it doesn’t punish you for choosing the combat approach. Too many “play your way” and immersive sim games have created a false choice for players by allowing them to go in for a kill, but punishing them for doing so, by not giving as much XP or labeling them “the villain.” Mankind Divided reverses that and instead just rewards the player in a different way. Simply put, the game makes sure that playing “your way” isn’t the wrong way. And that’s a significant step forward for gaming in general.
3. Details Matter
More than anything, Mankind Divided proves it understands how to build a real world. The game only has a semi-open world (meaning once you leave an area, there’s no coming back to it), but that makes it all the more noticeable how much this game pushes the little things. You’re encouraged to search for every secret while you can, or never have a chance of finding them again. And every section of the game has a story to tell. My curiosity is constantly getting the best of me each time I play, so I’m always invading another apartment in hopes of finding something that will aid me. Before I go any further, it’s worth noting there are some minor spoilers ahead.
I approach an apartment that’s in a very wealthy area. They probably won’t miss too many valuables I’ll make much better use of right? I hack the keypad to their door, and open it, with the hope of finding a nice wall safe or at least some emails that will clue me in to another spot worth robbing. I find something much worse, however. At first, I see an incredibly messy apartment. The floor is hardly visible, considering the garbage that should be in a can is instead providing a second layer for me to walk on. I’m not even halfway finished with my self-guided tour when a burglar’s worst nightmare decides to make itself known: the security system.
Now in my idiocy, I brush it off. “It’s a videogame, there’s no way that alarm will actually change anything.” After about five warnings however, it alerts me that authorities have been contacted and I should back into a corner and wait. I’m a little on edge, but not enough to take it seriously. Big mistake. 10 seconds later two officers arrive, and I dive into the bathroom and start to plan how I’m getting out of this situation now. They both don’t think too much of the situation. One of them comments that it’s likely a neighbor’s cat and that these new security systems are too sensitive. Naturally I can’t help but agree. I take both officers down quietly and non-lethally with ease, and now I’m much more interested in this pigsty. None of the other apartments I’ve been to had their security system enabled. Why would one with so much junk worry this much?
I head up to the second floor to see what else I’m missing. I take note of how strongly the garbage clashes with the clean aesthetic of the apartment. Whether the design is purposeful or not, it’s something I take note of; however it’s the bedroom that holds the most surprise. To the right of the bed is a dead girl. I search her person for any clues that would lead me to the cause of death, and I find a note from someone close to the victim who warns her that a drug known as “Neon” has the potential to kill anyone mechanically augmentedand unfortunately the girl has two augmented arms. Checking the home computer in the apartment, I scold myself for not realizing that I could’ve shut off the security system from there, but it’s worth noting how if I did, I would never have known that it was something to take seriously. After browsing the personal e-mails on the computer, I learn that this neon drug is actually supplied by a mysterious “cleaning service.” I’m given a clue on where to investigate next, but that’s going to have to wait.
I notice a vent across from the stairs that looks like it can fit me, and naturally I’m compulsed to find out more. I use the stairs as a boost and after many failed attempts I crawl inside to find out what lies on the other side. The answer shocks me even more than my previous discovery, but I think it’s something that future players should find on their own.
All in all, this is a game that is consistently good, more so than I was expecting. The attention to detail in a world somewhat smaller than many other big budget open world games is proof that a world can be as big as it wants to be, but as we learned from No Man’s Sky, if there’s nothing worth exploring, the size of a world doesn’t matter. It’s not a game without its flaws but if more games can learn from this one, the future of the gaming industry is looking that much brighter.