Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided delivers on gameplay but we didn’t ask for this trite of a story.
About a decade ago, my brothers got together and bought me a huge Xmas gift. The box was super heavy, wrapped in duct tape and filled with newspaper. I excitedly plunged my hand into the mounds of paper to find the gift inside, only to smash my fingers into a cinder block that was just under the surface, splitting a fingernail almost to the cuticle.
The gift ended up being a few Xbox 360 games that were pretty good, but I find the whole experience also sums up a majority of my experience with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game seems like it’s incredibly in-depth but plays it safe and many missions end abruptly with you wanting more.
Mankind Divided takes place two years after Human Revolution and deals with the aftermath of “the Illuminati” and their conspiracy that resulted in most of the world’s augmented humans being turned into mindless killing machines. Even though Adam Jensen was able to stop the program that drove “augs” over the edge, it was the single most loss of life over the world in history and left many “natural” human beings distrustful of augmented ones. This divide is essentially good ol’ fashioned racism, which is a popular topic if you’ve turned the news on in the last few years.
The game seems like it’s incredibly in-depth but plays it safe and many missions end abruptly with you wanting more.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does a good job of displaying these tensions between the two sides, while members of both do their best to fan or douse the flames of violence. A good job, but not a great job. Early info on the game focused around these tensions and threw out buzzwords and phrases like “mechanical apartheid”. This is prevalent in the characters you interact with but feels simply like a backdrop to the base of operations in Prague in general.
Just about everything in Deus Ex comes out feeling like a really good DLC episode, rather than a full game. Sure, I got a solid 15 hours of play out of it from beginning to end, but the story felt so linear throughout. Being that the game is a sequel, I did really find enjoyment in the way that your start the prologue with all those nifty toys you get in Human Revolution. Of course, you lose almost all of them immediately but the decision for this to happen feels far less forced and more natural than it has been in other games (screw you, Other M).
Just about everything in Deus Ex comes out feeling like a really good DLC episode, rather than a full game.
After losing your abilities and gadgets, you gain access to experimental tech that goes long with your skill trees. The concept for their use is neat, for example, you can dash mid-air but also come at a price. Using the tech requires you to completely negate skills you would normally have access to. I guess it’s supposed to set up a risk vs reward system, but since I tried to play as nonviolent and stealthy as possible, I didn’t rely on them much at all.
I think an odd workaround to this whole thing is that you can spend real money on Praxis points, which let you put more points into your build. I don’t know why there’s essentially a pay-to-win option within the game, but Square Enix sure as hell included one.
Combat is still good but there wasn’t much for bosses, which I really hope wasn’t because we all said the boss encounters in Human Revolution were a bit contrived. My overall stealthy gameplay had me leaning heavily on sniping and takedowns. I tried to avoid takedowns as much as I could though, because there’s this weird cutaway that happens when you execute them. It felt jarring. However, as I continued to upgrade Jensen, I did find easier and more creative ways to make it through levels.
There were times where a mission required a certain amount of preparation if I wanted to be a shadow. Square did a decent job of keeping me on my toes.
Square Enix did a decent job of keeping me on my toes.
Deus Ex has a great world to explore with a lot of cool things to do in it. Levels are designed wonderfully and feel organic. While playing, I didn’t find many places where I felt like the game was forcing me in a particular direction. Sneaking into vents, hacking computers and knocking out guards scratched an itch that I didn’t know I had.
Overall, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a well executed game that feels far to restricted in comparison to the last game. The ending of the game basically tells you that this was just an interim chapter, but I don’t want to spoil much.
The ending itself is so jarringly abrupt that I thought I had screwed up. There are some pretty neat references to the original Deus Ex, which makes it seem like the story will tie itself together. I’ll probably try playing through the game at least one more time with a bit more aggression, but I don’t really think I’ll be rewarded for doing so as I killed a few people on accident in my playthrough and no one cared.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a fun game, but at its core also a flawed game. Great on action but intentionally light in the story department.