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Review RPG Codex Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Ion Storm's Deus Ex belongs to the Codex's all-time beloved classics, and even the 2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution earned a place in our Top 75 RPG list. This year, Eidos Montreal released a sequel to Human Revolution, called Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, set two years after that game's events. Does it improve on or at least match the level of quality of its predecessor, or is it more of a mixed bag?

According to esteemed community member TNO, it is unfortunately the latter. Here are a few excerpts from his review:

One of the dividends of increasing technology is the mission environments in Mankind Divided have generally gotten bigger, and so they more closely approach the near-perfection of the original Deus Ex. Pallisade Bank is perhaps the best example: huge, multi-level with executive offices, lobby, vaults, connected with a labyrinth of hidden and not-so-hidden passages with lots of points of entry and egress, and similarly lots of things to uncover and find (it also benefits synergistically from being an interesting concept: a data-bank and vault for information that generally lies beyond national jurisdiction). Generally the median level of Mankind Divided approaches the most 'open' levels of Human Revolution (e.g. Hengsha Docks, Court gardens), and this move in mission design is to be warmly welcomed, although the continued reliance on air-ducts and ventilation systems for many of these alternative routes does give a blemish.

Mankind Divided has moved steadily more towards 'open world' principles too. Probably 70% or so of the game content is off the critical path, and a Codex Let's Player managed to finish the game in around 4 hours by ignoring it. They probably missed out: the 'side-quest' content is very good, covering a good mix of police procedural and espionage: a murder mystery plot is one highlight, the player's tracking down of a 'black market media' organization that threatens to blow cover of another group another, and piecing together the backstory behind a new, highly (but selectively) lethal recreational drug the same. [...]

Perhaps the most noteworthy innovation in Mankind Divided is in the field of avarice. Much of the utterly rubbish microtransaction and monetization typically in the ambit of low-rent mobile games come out in force. There's the wholly indefensible shop where you can pay real money to buy Praxis kits for your character, the entirely unnecessary and tacked on breach mode with semi-randomized rewards and microtransactions galore, the stupid mobile app integration, and the pre-order and extra item DLCs. These are all mercifully unnecessary and can be ignored during the course of the game, but they represent the early signs of metastasis of pay-to-win and monetization to single player games where they were heretofore mercifully absent. Would that the radioactive criticism the developers have received from all quarters put this cancerous development firmly in remission. [...]

The player generally expects plot arcs to have a resolution, and for characters to develop during the course of the story: subverting these expectations in the narrative can work well, and can be a fop to verisimilitude: in real life, people's characters do not always develop in step with some grander narrative, and you don't always get all the answers. Do it too much, though, and the player suspects you are not even trying (or, worse, hope to spin things out for sequels and DLC). Mankind Divided falls into the latter category. It is actually slightly worse than a hypothetical Deus Ex that stopped after UNATCO: at least in that you have learned something. In Mankind Divided, although you solve the initial case, the bulk of the narrative interest is in the underlying actions of the players 'behind the scenes', and this plot merely treads water: Adam Jensen (and you) haven't really learned anything about the world that you didn't already know at the start.

Conclusion: Not enough steps forward, a few steps back

Mankind Divided is so near and yet so far. Its elements mostly build upon the strong foundations of Human Revolution, but occasionally they retreat back from earlier triumphs, and leave some major flaws uncorrected. It is cleverly written but with a few too many mis-steps, and a central lacuna around the player character himself. At its best, the strengths of the game combine harmoniously to produce one of the best opening thirds in computer gaming; the fatal weakness is that it is no more than an opening third, and the game ends on a deeply imperfect cadence with too many themes undeveloped, leave alone resolved.

The game indicates considerable talent, and the writing team know their craft well. My hope is that the impressive story Mankind Divided intimates has been mostly written, and that subsequent additions to the franchise will adroitly fulfill the undoubted promise manifest here. Yet these games do not yet exist, and thus Mankind Divided remains a promissory note for a series of games which in combination may form a masterpiece. Unless and until that happens, this opening act, despite its qualities, cannot justify its own purchase.​

These excerpts do not, however, do justice to everything that the review talks about, so be sure to read it in full: RPG Codex Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

(Warning: the review contains some mild spoilers.)
 

Zed

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I don't really agree with the first third of the game being the strongest. Slicing it up into thirds, I'd argue that the middle is the strongest in terms of characters and writing (meeting potato mobsters and Talos Rucker, and picking up more tidbits about Merchenko and political puppeteers). It's also not really until a bit later into the game when you can really start to explore alternate routes and solutions, and reap the rewards of having developed your character and unlocked all the Cool Moves.

I liked the game though, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the previous one. It's true it's not as closing as I suppose many people would like it to be. But, even more important to me, it also doesn't drag on for too long. It's not that the game doesn't have a resolution, it's just that it leaves some questions open. DLC? I hope not. Sequel? Looking forward to it.
 

Aeschylus

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Frankly I think you give the game too much credit. To me it just feels like an unfinished expansion pack -- everything that was annoying about HR is more annoying (hacking, controls, tedious stealth) while at the same time it fails to wrap up many of its own plot threads as it rushes you towards the endgame. The new augs mostly suffer from Assassin's Creed gameplay syndrome -- while the core gameplay has become more tedious, the new features just give you ways to essentially circumvent that gameplay (the Tesla is ridiculous and completely broken). I found it pretty frustrating mainly because I could actually see some potential there for being superior to HR -- the writing occasionally shined, some aspects of the setting were quite interesting, and Golem City reminded me - in a good way - of Metro 2033.

It's not a *terrible* game, it just feels like a few steps back and no steps forward.
 

Iri

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"It is cleverly written but with a few too many mis-steps, and a central lacuna around the player character himself."

Totally. I was checking out the lacuna and was all like "Wha-?"
 

Darth Roxor

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Bubbles

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The Watch weighs in:

Conclusion: Not enough steps forward, a few steps back

While superb review, I just cannot agree on this.

DX: MD pushes the PC technology by being the most power demanding game out there that includes options ment for hardware that doesn't exist yet. Instead of leaving a possibility of some silly future "remaster", it added options that could make the game look even better in the future!
Sure, it doesn't work properly on SLI/crossfire currently, but beside a minority who were conned into buying noonecaresfor stuff except mainstream media journalists, this is not a minus as multiGPU support will be included in soon dx12 patch. This means a possibility to pair two different manufacturer cards, a possibility no other game (except Ashes of Singularity rubbish) has.

Some might argue with lack of lensflare and forced film grain (which unlike Rise of Tomb Raider can not be turned on or off in DX: MD) but Nixxes promised to address these issues.

https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34338
 

Aenra

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I want to comment on this, but libruls will always choose to remain libruls and everybody else has already grasped it. Kudos to the Watch though, takes something to dive into shit head-on, can't argue with that..
 

Forest Dweller

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The Watch weighs in:

Conclusion: Not enough steps forward, a few steps back

While superb review, I just cannot agree on this.

DX: MD pushes the PC technology by being the most power demanding game out there that includes options ment for hardware that doesn't exist yet. Instead of leaving a possibility of some silly future "remaster", it added options that could make the game look even better in the future!
Sure, it doesn't work properly on SLI/crossfire currently, but beside a minority who were conned into buying noonecaresfor stuff except mainstream media journalists, this is not a minus as multiGPU support will be included in soon dx12 patch. This means a possibility to pair two different manufacturer cards, a possibility no other game (except Ashes of Singularity rubbish) has.

Some might argue with lack of lensflare and forced film grain (which unlike Rise of Tomb Raider can not be turned on or off in DX: MD) but Nixxes promised to address these issues.

https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34338
At least they have their priorities straight over there.
 

Prime Junta

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How are the politics of the game?

That's what killed DX:HR for me. The original DX was about all the conspiracy theories being true, and it gave you a real choice about which allegiance to pick without spoon-feeding it to you, while still being clearly sympathetic to the revolutionary mindset. In DX:HR OTOH you were playing a good corporate toady for 99% of the game, the only sympathetic faction leader was Sarif, and when you had to make your big ending choice it was either pick the sympathetic corporate overlord, a raging psycho, or commit mass murder on an industrial scale.

I.e., where DX's politics were revolutionary, DX:HR's politics are conservative. That IMO is a bigger departure than any of the gameplay or other features. How is it for this one?
 

Roguey

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How are the politics of the game?

That's what killed DX:HR for me. The original DX was about all the conspiracy theories being true, and it gave you a real choice about which allegiance to pick without spoon-feeding it to you, while still being clearly sympathetic to the revolutionary mindset. In DX:HR OTOH you were playing a good corporate toady for 99% of the game, the only sympathetic faction leader was Sarif, and when you had to make your big ending choice it was either pick the sympathetic corporate overlord, a raging psycho, or commit mass murder on an industrial scale.

I.e., where DX's politics were revolutionary, DX:HR's politics are conservative. That IMO is a bigger departure than any of the gameplay or other features. How is it for this one?

They are constrained by the fact that the world has to be what it is by the time JC is activated.

 

DragoFireheart

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There's the wholly indefensible shop where you can pay real money to buy Praxis kits for your character,

Game is shit. 0/10
 

Baron Dupek

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There's the wholly indefensible shop where you can pay real money to buy Praxis kits for your character,

Game is shit. 0/10
You forgot to mention that's only for current playthrough.
Wanna start a new game? You need ot buy stuff AGAIN.
 

DragoFireheart

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Excidium II

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Who give a fuck lmao. The game is already easy and inundated with upgrades from what I've seen. If it was a multiplayer game I could understand.
 

DragoFireheart

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???

Who give a fuck lmao. The game is already easy and inundated with upgrades from what I've seen. If it was a multiplayer game I could understand.

Time spent on shitty pay-to-win is time not spent on making the game a fucking game worth playing.
 
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Excidium II

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Who give a fuck lmao. The game is already easy and inundated with upgrades from what I've seen. If it was a multiplayer game I could understand.

Time spent on shitty pay-to-win is time not spent on making the game a fucking game worth playing.
Implying it would be spent making the game a fucking game worth playing.
 

Spectacle

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There's the wholly indefensible shop where you can pay real money to buy Praxis kits for your character,

Game is shit. 0/10
You forgot to mention that's only for current playthrough.
Wanna start a new game? You need ot buy stuff AGAIN.
Why do you care? Were you planning on buying some powerups but now think it's too expensive to have buy again for your second playthrough?
 

Zanzoken

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Informative review. I bought Human Revolution for $5 and thought it was somewhat interesting, but never finished it. Maybe in a few years when they wrap things up with Jensen I'll buy the rest of the bundle at 80% off and give it another whirl.

It seems like all Deus Ex except for the first one are essentially storyfag games.
 

Doctor Sbaitso

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Thanks for the review. I have one bit of feedback...

My hope is that the impressive story Mankind Divided intimates has been mostly written, and that subsequent additions to the franchise will adroitly fulfill the undoubted promise manifest here.


Succinct is always best.
 

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