Gamereactor recently interviewed three of the key figures behind the development of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, including Executive Game Director Jean-François Dugas, Executive Narrative Director Mary DeMarle, and Executive Art Director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête. During the interviews the wider franchise was discussed, in particular how the new instalment in the series fits into the universe as a whole and how it functions in itself.
In regards to the efforts that have been made to expand and enrich the universe of Deus Ex as a whole, Dugas said that "for us it always starts with the triple A games" so they can "take this world and bring it to other mediums" such as novels and graphic novels in an effort to make "Deus Ex feel real". He sees the franchise as a "window to the future" and that's why there has been so much material to bridge the gap between the two games set two years apart. DeMarle made clear that all of this "blends together into one big universe" as everyone works together to make sure the world of Deus Ex fits nicely together.
When asked about how this new game fits into the universe, the developers were keen to emphasise that there is a very different feel to the new game despite being based in the same setting. Jacques-Belletête made clear that there is a "new state of the world that we live in" in this game, and "suddenly augmented people are not seen necessarily as the bright future for mankind now, they're seen as a threat to a lot of people," a sentiment that Dugas agreed with. DeMarle also pointed out that there is a change in Jensen too, and that he has now "reached a point where he's embraced his augmentations", becoming "colder, a little more cynical" in the process as he looks to bring justice to those who have done wrong.
The Deus Ex series has always dealt with what it is to be human, but there are other themes in this game as well, a key one being "reason versus emotion". As DeMarle said, these are actualised in the game by giving the player some tough decisions such as choosing what information to trust from different people. Other choices have to be made as well, such as whether to pursue lethal action against hostility, or whether to be more passive and opt for legal methods instead. These all revolve around how you approach and deal with the horrific event at the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and how the player believes Jensen would react.
When questioned about level design Dugas emphasised that it has "expanded quite a lot" and that the developers as a whole "wanted to explore more verticality". This builds into the game by introducing new enemies who can also utilise verticality using their augmentations, the efforts as a whole introducing "more variables to take into account" and thus adding another layer to level design as a whole in what Dugas referred to as a "natural progression" for the series. Jacques-Belletête stressed that "level design is what makes that heart, that soul of a Deus Ex game" and so this has moved forward, although they've been careful to make sure it doesn't lose what makes the series so special.
Jacques-Belletête also said that there are four crucial pillars to Deus Ex, and they are "combat, stealth, hacking and social", and that all four were considered carefully when developing the game. Dugas stressed that "what was really important is to make sure that each [pillar] is satisfying on their own". Combat itself, for instance, is a "much more satisfying, much more visceral" experience and "more flexibility" has been added to stealth as well. Social remains important, too, and "a lot of the people that you meet have a story to tell you".
Adam Jensen's character is also important to consider in this game and Dugas described it as "similar to Human Revolution, but we're going deeper in terms of possibilities and how now suddenly even augmentations are part of the choice and consequence kind of philosophy". This builds into the character development of Jensen as the player has to make choices which shape the later events of the game, including experience points and character upgrades. DeMarle says that they "recognise that the way this story will be experienced is different for every player based on their style of gameplay and the choices they make" and so the game is built with the philosophy that each approach to every situation is plausible and believable to allow for different ways of playing as Jensen.
Lastly, there is a new mode in Mankind Divided called Breach Mode and Dugas describes it as "something totally new, totally fresh" in which the player is a Ripper tasked with extracting data. It is an "arcade twist on the Deus Ex gameplay" and combines narrative with this in order to produce something connected to the universe of Deus Ex while simultaneously being a separate challenge mode.