We never asked for this, but we have received a game almost perfect gameplay-wise, which ends abruptly. Conspiracy theorists should expect a DLC / expansion / another title.
When Deus Ex: Human Revolution was announced everyone stopped breathing with trepidation. Many things could have gone wrong, but as it happened, it was wondrous game. I’ve finished it three times with just one playthrough done simultaneously on the highest difficulty without killing anyone and without setting on the alarm. After hundreds of hours of gameplay now we received a direct sequel – a great one, but with its own troubles.
Let’s try that…
For me Deus Ex is about choice and experimentation. There are no set classes and no “superior” solutions to finish a mission. I rarely talk about tutorials in games, but the one in Mankind Divided is an especially good example of the gameplay itself. You can skip it as you can skip various locations. If you start, it nicely introduces you to all mechanics – from stealth and shooting to using the main hero’s unique powerset. You wanted to finish the game without killing anyone? Fine, tutorial is just a tutorial – no regrets!
The main story starts with a bombing in Prague, where Adam Jensen is (un)fortunately present. It’s been a bit since the events of the Human Revolution and due to its events people are now more aggressive towards augmented men. If you haven’t played the previous game (you should) there’s a lengthy recap video. The prologue helps to set the tone and once again choose Jensen’s skills from the beginning.
Of Czech design
The plot seems much smaller in scope with majority of the game taking place in Prague. And it’s where my first objection appears – both the marketing campaign and the story itself try to convince us that there’s an omnipresent mechanical apartheid. But with Jensen as a main hero, his work as a double agent and a lot of privileges, it’s almost non-perceptible. You often see scripted events and you read about it, but it’s not a direct problem our hero faces. And no, jerky soldiers at metro stations aren’t the solution.
Prague itself is beautifully detailed place. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided uses Dawn Engine, a new engine created by Eidos Montréal with PC and current generation of consoles in mind. And there are some miracles visible especially if you own a powerful PC. A cyberpunk vision for Prague is eye-pleasing with great architecture and aesthetics on the verge of both possible and fully sci-fi.
When we are walking around the city for the first time it’s easy to feel the same way as we have felt while playing early minutes of Half-Life 2. There’s an all-present military forces, a lot of oppressed civilians and a feel of uncertainty of what is happening just around the corner. The design of NPCs is glorious with nice details in their armors and clothes. The only problem I had with all characters in the game was their facial animation – there are some problems with lip synchronization and sometimes their mocap is far from the standards of 2016 games.
I love the gameplay feel of Mankind Divided as it is really close to the one from Human Revolution. Only small tweaks were done. Frequently you are allowed to start exploring the city and each trip may result in interesting findings. One time I’ve started loitering around the pub – as it appeared, I’ve found an additional way to a bank, where a quite long side quest takes place.
Your freedom of choice is further motivated by the skills Adam has at his disposal. Almost all of his previous abilities are back with further adjustments like non-lethal ammo in Typhoon. Besides them there are also experimental augmentations like remote hacking (easily one of the most important additions) or a powerful dash. You are free to choose – my strategy was to keep a few Praxis Kits and use them when a specific skill was needed.
I’ve finished Mankind Divided in a mixed playthrough – with a bit of shooting and much more stealthy, but deadly actions. For the second one I plan to focus fully on non-lethal play, but it’s worth noting that the cover system got improved – though it’s clunky sometimes. Hacking got expanded this time with much more interesting puzzles (I love this part of Mankind Divided), but people preferring a quick run can now choose a multitool. For the lovers of RPG elements there’s also a lot of crafting if you wish to invest some time. You’ll modify weapons, change ammo and build mines and other elements.
One of the main accusations against Human Revolution was the fact that boss fights were developed poorly. Well, I have to say, the developers found a rather interesting solution to that problem – there are no bosses in Mankind Divided except the final one.
Here lies the biggest problem of the game – it feels like we are presented with around 60% of the content. It’s not a very short game, as it took me more than 25 hours to run around, explore and do side quests (you’ll love The Harvester one!) and you can definitely squeeze around 40h with a completionist non-lethal playthrough. But when you deal with the only/final boss, that’s all. The ending, fortunately, isn’t button-based and your earlier actions are accounted, but there are many strings left hanging. Even the topic of Jensen’s experimental augs is left unresolved.
There’s also a Breach mode, but let me be sincere here – it’s against everything I like in Deus Ex. I want to take my time, plan, be silent. And it’s okay for people that like leaderboards and challenges. I do not in this case…
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a great sequel to one of the grandest games of the earlier generation. Gameplay-wise it’s a game of your dreams. Story-wise it feels like a middle chapter and hopefully we won’t receive the true ending in a form of a DLC. I hope for another game coming earlier than in five years – which was the case between HR and MD. Well, this time Jensen asks for more.