We went hands-on with the sequel to Human Revolution ahead of its release next month.
The first Deus Ex (2000) was a landmark title, a game that let us make our own choices. How did we want to tackle various situations, knowing the gameplay would change dramatically depending on those choices? Did we want to play a straightforward FPS, or take a stealthy approach, sneaking around conflicts, or avoiding them altogether - possible, if we were skilled enough in speech. It was revolutionary.
With that in mind we were excited to play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the direct sequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which in itself was a prequel to the two first games in the series. This time around we once again don the fancy black trench coat of Adam Jensen, faced now with a much more hostile world, with rising fear of augmented people among the populace, stemming from the "Aug Incident"; between the two games, all of the augmented people momentarily lost their minds, and went on a killing spree. Nobody seems to know why this incident took place. It's a very different world than we are used to, and as players we must learn to navigate Adam through this new and dangerous world, where a "mechanical apartheid" is taking place; and mechanical arms aren't exactly easy to hide.
To get back into the rhythm of things, we started with the (very nicely designed) tutorial mission; well put-together, it allows both new players to get acquainted with the mechanics, whilst still having enough story elements for seasoned players to enjoy. The way the mission had to be completed however, was slightly linear, causing an initial concern that the series might have changed direction from its previous openness; but Eidos Montreal have proven themselves before to know how to handle the series in a way that has satisfied their fans in the past, so we stayed optimistic. The entire mission culminates in a spectacular action sequence, and player choices this time around aren't restricted to gameplay related decisions; like in the last game, inaction can also have severe consequences, without resulting in a Game Over screen.
In the main game, we took control of Adam in Prague, where we were happy to discover that the game has retained the series' signature openness; the amount of things to do in the city is almost overwhelming, and aside from the main missions, there are also plenty of side missions to take on, all of which were well put-together and some of which were surprisingly long, with direct results in XP and skills; all of this sits nicely in both the story and the overall universe.
As a hub area, Prague was a lot of fun to explore; the general atmosphere was dark and oppressive, and it was very apparent that you were in a world where trust amongst people was a thing of the past. There were police barricades and checkpoints everywhere which had to be passed, and there was no doubt that people like Adam were the reason for this dire situation; this could be felt through people's shouts and general attitude towards our hero. At one point, we were annoyed at how we were being treated in the game, until we realised how realistic a reaction this actually was; how this kind of intolerance takes place all of the time in the real world. It has always been one of the series' great strengths, that it makes the player think about the world they live in, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is no exception. Without giving anything away, the story is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing in the series yet.
Another area where the game shines are its mechanics. The wealth of player options that Deus Ex has become known for are back in full force in Mankind Divided, and it is completely up to the player how they achieve their goals. One of the tools the player has to shape their play-style is through the skill tree, which can be expanded thanks to Praxis kits like in the last game. Praxis kits can be earned by levelling up, or by finding or purchasing them in the game world. All of the skills from the previous game are back, along with quite a few new tricks, provided by the story, for Adam to contend with.
A new feature of the skill system is power consumption, and how you as a player decide to handle it. Every activated skill requires a certain amount of power to run in the background, so it's important to keep an eye on the power gauge when investing in new skills. Luckily it is now possible to deactivate and reactivate skills on the fly, so a perfect balance of one's resources can be found, and the new system also allows for much more flexibility, as the player can now swap out their skills prior to tackling the different situations they are faced with. This means that the player is no longer locked into a certain way of playing through. Eidos Montreal have assured us that any boss fights found in the game can now be handled in a way that is up to the player, and not just by going in guns blazing, which had been an issue in previous incarnations of this series.
There are so many things that we want to tell you about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; the fantastic story, the new tricks up Adam's mechanical sleeves. For now, safe to say: if you are a fan of the series, you have a lot to look forward to, and if you are a newcomer, I would recommend playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution while you wait for its release on August 23, since a lot of the events in the new game will have much more impact than if you had simply read the synopsis. Speaking as a critic; this is an excellent game with much to build on the previous series. Speaking as fans: we can't wait.