The original Deus Ex, released in 2000, was in many ways a ground-breaking game. For all intents and purposes, the game didn’t care a lot about how you went about completing your missions, leaving you to your own devices. The “devices” in question were a mix of upgradeable weapons, interactive environment, and cybernetic augmentations giving you superhuman abilities.
These traits held true over several installments of the series, up to and including DE: Mankind Divided and whatever new Deus Ex games might come in the future. However, perhaps you appreciate the gameplay of DE without appreciating the setting, or the other way around. Perhaps you wish to find an immersive sandbox that’s more action-packed than Deus Ex. Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve prepared a list of several games similar to DE in some ways but offering some tweaks on the experience.
|Dishonored Definitive Edition||2012-10-11||Action||Arkane Studios||75%|
|Dishonored 2||2016-11-11||Action||Arkane Studios||87%|
|Dishonored Complete Collection||2017-09-15||Action||Arkane Studios||74%|
|System Shock 2||1999-08-11||RPG||Irrational Games||92%|
|Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines||2004-11-16||Adventure||Troika Games|
|Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2||2021||Action||Hardsuit Labs|
|Arx Fatalis||2002-11-12||RPG||Arkane Studios||36%|
|Prey 2006||2017-05-04||Action & Shooter||Arkane Studios|
|Prey 2017||2017-05-04||Adventure||Arkane Studios||77%|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow Of Chernobyl||2007-03-20||RPG||GSC Game World||82%|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Bundle||2007-03-20||Adventure||GSC Game World||57%|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call Of Pripyat||2010-02-11||Horror||GSC Game World||83%|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart Of Chernobyl Ultimate Edition||2023-12||Horror||GSC Game World|
The Dishonored series changes a lot, relative to Deus Ex, but what remains is the immersion and the freedom to pursue objectives in your own way. Instead of a futuristic cybernetic setting, Dishonored we get a whale-punk setting inspired by industrial-era England (esp. in the first game), and instead of powerful cyberprosthetics we get magical abilities granted by the mysterious Outsider.
Each Dishonored is a series of discrete missions taking place on large, open maps which are not only fun to explore, but also support creative playstyles. The short-range teleport itself tremendously changes how you view the map, and abilities such as slowing down time or possession turn the series into phenomenal, superpowered assassination/vengeance sandboxes.
System Shock 2
System Shock 2 was Deus Ex before Deus Ex existed, and even today it is a fascinating, dark cyber-futuristic story worth replaying. You’re playing as a soldier, freshly defrosted aboard an eerily quiet spaceship Von Braun. The place suffers from a bad case of violent mutations, and the AI, SHODAN does nothing to make things better. In fact, she’s behind most of the bad things that happened.
The corridors of the ship hide the horrifically mutated crew, but you’re not defenseless. In addition to having weapons, you can develop a variety of skills. That includes awakening psionic abilities if you chose the appropriate class at character creation. There’s also hacking, managing your inventory, and even autopsying your enemies to get more efficient at fighting them. No wonder SS2 is a legend.
Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines
Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines replaces cybernetic superpeople with vampires, and cyber-future with modern Los Angeles. While VtMB doesn’t have exactly the same level of interactivity as Deus Ex, both titles seem to dislike daytime, both enjoy first-person perspective, and offer a profound sense of immersion in a layered setting with many stories both hidden and shoved in your face.
There are several different vampire Clans, each of which is going to have a different experience. Especially the stealth-oriented monstrous Nosferatu, and the prophetic Malkavian offer a unique perspective. There are many endings, and most of them you work towards throughout the entire game, and there are many fascinating NPCs you could ally yourself with or reject altogether.
Arx Fatalis has plenty of impressive immersion waiting for you behind every corner of a complex network of tunnels and caverns sheltering the remains of surface civilizations. You arrive in this world as a blank slate, and after a quick jailbreak you’re mostly left to your own devices as you and your character try to figure out what you’re supposed to do. The answers might be quite surprising.
Arx Fatalis doesn’t feature classes, leaving you free to distribute skillpoints however you see fit, and there aren’t many wrong answers. It also features a fantastic magic system based on you tracing appropriate runes, and a great crafting system which takes place in the world and your inventory, not an abstract menu. It was an amazing appetizer for the games Arkane are well-known for nowadays.
Another, and not the last Arkane game on the list. There’s a reason half of this list are Arkane games, and the reason is that few studios make such competent immersive plot-driven sandboxes, and Arkane is by far the best at this. In Prey, we’re travelling to a space station, which, by the time the story gets going, is overrun by amorphous aliens called Typhon and you, Morgan Yu, are in a position to help.
The station isn’t too densely populated, the few humans you’ll encounter reside in protected areas, while the corridors are either empty of controlled by the aliens. The good part is that if you dare, you can inject yourself with alien powers, which include shapeshifting, which is just too entertaining to ignore. Which other game lets you become a potted plant or a banana…and move around?
|Developer:||GSC Game World|
STALKER was a magnificent game in many ways. It presented the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone as a place ridden with bizarre anomalies and populated by people brave or crazy enough to make money off looting the place. And then there’s you, the player character, who has to figure out how to survive, make valuable connections, and complete your mission. Good luck, Stalker.
While not nearly as urban-oriented as the Deus Ex series, the STALKER series (including a sequel scheduled for 2022) is deeply immersive, with a fascinating setting, and a complex web or factional and personal interests. The game also happens to be more into shooting than the rather stealth-oriented Deus Ex, which might well appeal to fans of more dynamic and hostile playthroughs.
The latest Arkane game at the time of writing, Deathloop does away with the encouraged non-violence of Dishonored and goes the whole hog on killing. It’s not much of an RPG, admittedly, and you have a pretty murderous goal ahead of you, but the mix of gadgets, powers, and weaponry make Deathloop fit in this list fairly well. Especially if your idea of stealth in DE is leaving nobody alive.
You’re playing as a man named Colt, caught in a time loop he can only hope to escape by killing eight people known as Visionaries. The thing is, if you die more than two times during an attempt, you’re tossed back to the beginning of a loop and have to start over. Things are additionally complicated by a women called Julianna, who hunts you during every loop.
Find your own way
We’re at the end our list of games like Deus Ex, or close enough to rub elbows and exchange setting or gameplay ideas, anyway. Hopefully you’ve found something that ticks the boxes you find appealing.