You Can Complete Deus Ex Mankind Divided Without Killing Anyone, Even The Bosses

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [official site] can be completed without killing anyone – even the bosses. This as confirmed by the game’s Executive Game Director, Jean-François Dugas, in a tweet responding to the question. If you’re a fan or familiar with Deus Ex, or particularly Human Revolution, then you’ll understand why this is significant news. If not I’ll explain below.

Deus Ex Human Revolution is one of my favourite games and it was universally praised upon release. It was also universally criticised for its boss fights, which abandoned the feeling of freedom that defined the rest of the game in favour of forcing you into a closed space with a single enemy you had to kill in order to progress. This meant they were a slog against bullet sponges, but worse, it meant that it undermined the character you were attempting to roleplay.

The boss fights seemed a baffling decision from a studio that otherwise knew what made Deus Ex special, and the reason why became clear shortly after release: the boss fights had been outsourced to a different company. The studio ran out of time to do them internally and so had to scrap their initial plans in favour of something simpler.

There’s reasons to be positive about the boss fights next time around. In our interview with Dugas at the time, he said that “I think the biggest weakness there wasn’t the concept of having boss fights, it’s just that our boss fights are not Deus Ex boss fights and that’s why people are complaining about them.” I’m inclined to agree and Human Revolution already has its example of a grand, Deus Ex boss fight in its DLC, The Missing Link. Set aboard a cargo ship, its centerpiece is a boss who you can approach half a dozen ways, including defeating non-lethally and whose special weapon you can steal before you fight them.

Better still, that Missing Link boss fight wasn’t designed as an afterthought in response to the criticism: it was the originally planned design for Human Revolution’s very first boss fight, against heavy soldier Barrett. This was mentioned in the excellent developer commentary on the game’s recent Director’s Cut release [Steam page], which makes the fights more interesting (although still unavoidably lethal). The impression is that Square Enix Montreal knew how to make a good boss fight all along, and Dugas’ tweet suggests that this time they’re committing the resources to doing so.



Top comments

  1. Gap Gen says:

    I think this is a bit extreme. Sure, you don't have to kill *everyone*, but it's not like you can get through real life without killing a few people here and there.
  1. eljueta says:

    Square Enix makes what are probably the only FPS games that i still enjoy playing.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I think this is a bit extreme. Sure, you don’t have to kill *everyone*, but it’s not like you can get through real life without killing a few people here and there.

    • dolgion1 says:

      Ugh, this is a GAME. Realism isn’t automatically the best way to go, I like to have some escapism once in a while from this life you knwo

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, but you know, it’s kinda ridiculous how you have to hide in the vents eating sweets every time you want to stab someone clean through the chest with a giant retractable cyberknife. In real life I can punch at least three people through a drywall with my electric fists before having to run away to scarf M&Ms under a desk.

        • gunny1993 says:

          Hey man, I often close my eyes and see the accusing blank faces of the people who have gotten in my way, sometimes I just wonder “What if I had simply walked around them” . This game lets me know …. although the voices don’t like it.

          • Zekiel says:

            Best Comment Thread Ever :-)

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yeah, sometimes best to ignore those little voices that suggest that plunging a foot-long retractable blade into people might not be cool.

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          Qazinsky says:

          Not all of us got electric fists though, some of us chose the palm suspension for just the smoothest highfives ever.

    • eljueta says:

      True for everyone who has had to deliver their tax forms.

    • Premium User Badge

      Earl-Grey says:

      Tell me about it!

      Yesterday as I was sneaking back into the office through an air duct (they lock out all employees at night you see) I accidentally killed a security guard as he walked past the exit vent exactly at the same time as I was “opening” it with a LAM. -they also lock the air vents, naturally.

      And then, as I was trying to hide an unconcious security guard in said air duct, I dropped him over a railing, down several floors, and the fall ended up killing him.

      Just one of those days.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, I work in a government-funded lab and it’s a huge pain when if you want to work past 5pm you have to sneak past like twenty assault rifle-toting guards just wandering around the offices. On the plus side I now have all my colleagues’ email passwords and found a secret stash of tear gas grenades the IT guy had under the floorboards.

        • Gus the Crocodile says:

          Don’t forget to grab the killphrase for the area manager. You’ll thank me next time a budget meeting rolls around.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Oh yeah, it’s pretty sweet when your boss is like “I asked for that report half an hour ago” and you’re like “Laputan Machine” and he’s like “explode”.

      • Ross Angus says:


    • tomimt says:

      I can go days without killing anyone. Well not days, but I swear I haven’t killed that much today.

  3. dolgion1 says:

    yeah I beat Human Revolution on the hardest difficulty “Give me Deus Ex”. Then, in the boss fight, I would lower it to the lowest and get the hell on with it. Haven’t given the game a replay but the Director’s Cut is sitting in my library gathering binary dust.

    • frymaster says:

      I’ve done the first boss mission, at least

      While I still had to kill him, there were hackable turrets and other useful things scattered around the place

      • Gap Gen says:

        One boss mission you can even carry a turret into a boss fight with you if you plan ahead.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          I carried my Companion Turret with me everywhere. Although the first two boss fights in the original game didn’t let me bring one, the third one (where you take the elevator) did.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Oh man I never thought about taking it *out* of the boss fight as well. That’s great.

  4. Laurentius says:

    I admit I mostly shoot my way through DX:HR probably because I’m bad a stealth but I found very little incentive to go non-lethal. Generally once discovered everyone is full hostile and want to shoot me dead, it was generally fight for my life. At least in Dishonored by mixing civilians and hostile enemies, there was an incentive not to go on killing spree.

    • Crafter says:

      The gameplay encourages you to play non lethal by giving you bonus xp points for doing so.
      I have got to say, I played non lethal in HR because the gameplay strongly encouraged me to go that way whereas I played non-lethal in Dishonored because I did not want to kill bystanders or guards that were just doing their jobs.

      I hope that the next Deus Ex will revamp the xp system. Rewarding shooting people (lethal/nonlethal does not matter) does not really work in a game where you are supposed to look for creative ways to handle obstacles.
      Giving xp points for important actions (accomplishing objectives, finding secrets, …) would make more sense and push people to exploit the freedom given to them.
      Or even going away with xp points and just use augmentation canisters and weapons mods as upgrades. Again, this would encourage exploration.

      • Asurmen says:

        So basically DX1 again? I’d buy that for a dollar!

      • Caelyn Ellis says:

        I think both Human Revolution and Dishonoured got it wrong by using systems to encourage certain styles of play. What’s the point in giving players a bunch of options and then explicitly labelling certain options as better? It’s especially annoying when a game is supposed to be an RPG as much as a FPS. HR sets up Jensen as a guy trained to kill, but has a strong moral compass and treats it as a last resort. At the same time, he’s up against some powerful scumbags and is personally invested in what’s going on. Personally, I find trying to ghost the whole thing or always going in guns blazing incredibly artificial. I prefer to go with what feels right at the time.

        Give players the toy box and let them play. Have the world react to their choices, but on a case-by-case basis. Choosing whether to kill Important Dude or not? Yeah, that’s a big deal. Turning the infiltration of a police building into a blood bath? That should definitely be noted. Whether you kill or knock out John P. Facelessgoon in a secret Illuminati base in the middle of nowhere? Not so much.

        • WarKiel says:

          I’ve been playing Jensen just like that, violence as a last resort. Which means I’ve never completed a no-kill run, I always end up killing everyone in the chopper scene, because there is no time for non-lethal and nobody gets left behind. That is a last resort situation.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            I did that scene non-lethal on my first playthrough, and nobody got left behind. It was not even remotely fun, and to this day I don’t know why I forced myself to do it, but it can be done, with enough patience and reloads. (I didn’t even get my non-lethal achievement on that run, because some unconscious belltower guard I stuffed in an air-vent mysteriously wuffed it. Grrr)

      • kament says:

        While I agree XP system in HR feels somewhat off (can’t put my finger on why, though, except that progression is way too fast), I can see the logic behind it, and it’s not that different from what you’re saying, actually.

        Got the job done? Here’s a sizeable reward, no matter how you did it. Got the job done and went that extra mile to stay unnoticed? Here’s a (smaller) bonus for that, etc. Makes sense? So why not give you a tiny little extra for shooting people? Why not let you decide if mere tenths of percent of what constitutes your level up is encouragement enough to play nonlethal instead of simply shooting them in the head?

      • Graerth says:

        It was very problematic that the xp was given for each specific small action.
        I wanted to play mostly non-lethal (except certain group which I felt I were justified in exterminating).
        Stunning gave more xp than killing, but after I had knocked everyone down I then hacked every alarm panel (gave me some hacking loot I didn’t need, and XP!), hacked every computer and console even if I had a password (again, more rewarded for this thing even if it was silly), and then game didn’t even flinch about me walking to the room and executing every single sleeping person if they were in the organization I mentioned I had a vendetta on.

        Oh and if I had sneaked through vents or other places and gained xp, I could backtrack and get more xp by walking in from main door??

        This did mean that for 2nd last boss fight I just suddenly dumped half a dozen praxis points I had laying around doing nothing to buy myself a round of combat upgrades such as typhoon.

        • amblingalong says:

          Yeah, I think the problem with the EXP system was very neatly summed up by the fact that you were incentivized to always hack a computer you had a password for (and the same general principle applied to all kinds of actions).

      • Leprikhan says:

        In fact, lethal takedowns were worse in every way. Punching someone out was basically silent, but arm blading somebody was so loud that someone half a block away listening to his ipod would wheel around and shout “HOLY SHIT SOMEONE JUST GOT STABBED BY SOMEONE WITH CYBERNETIC ARM-BLADES”.

        I found myself during my full-lethal playthrough knocking guards out, dragging them into an out of the way room, and shooting them in the head with a silenced pistol. Most incentivized way to do a lethal takedown!

  5. akstro says:

    Hopefully they won’t force a hacking mini game on us so much. It started out OK but there were still too many items you had to hack and worse was having to hack even if you have the password so you can get bonus xp.

    • Ross Angus says:

      That’s why I’ve been toying with a zero aug playthrough – it means you don’t need to scuttle around collecting XP for upgrades, as I’ve done in both previous playthroughs.

      • Skabooga says:

        I did a zero-aug playthrough before! It was pretty fun; I was roleplaying Jenson as someone who resented having augmentations foisted upon him, and so refused to engage with upgrading them or servicing them in any fashion.

        The only downside is that there are a number of side-missions that rely on hacking ability, so it was a pain to get halfway through them and then have to abandon them. Other than that, it was a pure sneaking and shooting sort of experience (Jenson had no qualms with upgrading guns).

        • Ross Angus says:

          Interesting. I suspected it wouldn’t be possible to complete every side quest.

          Hacking’s required to complete the game, right? I remember a door you need to hack to progress.

          • Eiv says:

            Surely this is why the rocket launcher was invented?

          • Skabooga says:

            I think you get the first level of hacking for free, so you’ll never encounter a main plot quest that requires you to upgrade your hacking. And even if you don’t, I’m pretty sure I never had to compromise my “self-hating cyborg” style and upgrade anything, so maybe I was just rocket launchering doors open.

    • Gus the Crocodile says:

      Yeah, don’t really like the XP rewards for “hey, you did a thing”; as you say, it just encourages you to go do all the things for no particular reason.

      And within that, I didn’t appreciate that the game awarded non-lethal knockouts more experience than kills. I’m a stealthy, non-lethal player in all these games naturally, but I want it to feel completely like my choice. I feel like it takes away from the “play however you want” aspect if the game is then mumbling under its breath “…but this way is the best way!”

      Minor problems overall of course, and even on the hardest difficulty it’s not like you actually needed that dripfeed of XP. But I’d nonetheless prefer the game to find a way to limit the incentive to “farm” the world. For instance, XP could mainly be given for completing major objectives, and things like rewards for exploration could be mainly new equipment, or new paths, or narrative snippets rather than “congrats, you crawled through a vent, here’s some skill points”.

      Though the more I think about it, the more I feel I’ll probably never really be completely comfortable with it unless they go all-out and use a TES-style “only improve in the skills you actually use” approach. “You just shot a guy in the head, so now you can breathe longer underwater” felt pretty unnatural even back in DX1.

    • kament says:

      Strictly speaking, they don’t force it in HR either. If anything, they discourage you from hacking. You get bonus points, yes – after you spend at the very least two or three levels worth of XP and up to five or six with your turret/robot domination and everything (14 Praxis points in total you can invest in hacking, wiki says). You have to really love this mini-game to invest that much, so fair is fair. And any money hacking can net you is irrelevant next to gunrunning.

    • Distec says:

      Hacking minigames quickly grow tiresome. I know a lot of people regarded it as an improvement over the original’s Press Button->Bacon, and it was at first. But after hacking for my hundredth time, I really just wanted the system to take care of it. The removal of lockpicks and multitools exacerbated the problem immensely.

      Really just needed to be less hacking overall.

  6. heretic says:

    I really enjoyed my first play through and tried to do all the side quests, when I got the director’s cut I found it a bit underwhelming though, I had explored mostly everything already that it was a bit of a chore. Apart from the developer commentary which was really awesome :D

  7. Wulfram says:

    I’ll beat all my enemies into unconsciousness, just like Gandhi

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      No nukes? Gandhi would be ashamed.

    • Gap Gen says:


    • cpt_freakout says:

      I’ll just kill everyone in every level because I want to be loved, like Henry VIII

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’ll avoid knocking anyone out or killing anyone, because I want to be alone, like Garbo.

    • Coming Second says:

      I killed some of the guys and didn’t kill some of the others, because I’m a complicated man but essentially a sociopath who gets impatient easily, like Tony Soprano.

  8. eggy toast says:

    Boss fights are stupid and bad. Why not just have a bunch of quick time ” press B” crap, too, while we are using horrible conventions out of shameful laziness.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Way to generalize, there. Done right, boss fights are a great idea in quite a few genres. See the various (2d) Castlevanias for some examples. A good boss fight makes you take everything the game’s taught you up to that point and apply it perfectly under pressure. Calling them a “lazy” design decision is one of the most baffling things I’ve heard all day. (I haven’t slept yet)

      Having said that, they rarely strike me as especially necessary in FPS types. But I do think there’s room for them in something like Deus Ex so long as there are various ways to deal with them.

      • Blackcompany says:

        A good boss fight does exactly what you claim.

        I think the problem is that so many games feature terrible boss fights as opposed to good ones. For more on that, see Darksiders II and Rage. Sure Rage only had a couple of “bosses” but both were terrible. Thinking of the Dead City missions here; the entirety of smash TV was awful, start to finish.

        As for Darksiders II…every boss was a gimmick. Hit the button to launch the thing to hit the boss and turn him over on his back so you can actually damage him. Then repeat 4-5 times. It was awful; JRPG bosses. Kind of like the terrible, awful, horrendous end-game bosses in both DXHR and Dungeon Seige 3. Both had Square written all over them, and both were absolutely dreadful, multi-stage affairs that JRPG devs love to use for some reason which defies human understanding.

        • kament says:

          What’s so awful about DEHR final boss fight? You punch in the code and wait in hiding (or shoot the boss to speed things up, if you have a gun and don’t mind to use it).

        • eggy toast says:

          Gating a big chunk of your game behind an arbitrary fight is dumb and lazy design. I know lots of people like Zelda (for some reason) but the idea that games ought to start you off with nothing and one by one pick up things that make the last one obsolete, and use the new item to fight some arbitrary giant thing in order to progress because……….

          It’s just dumb lazy convention-following. Boss fights exist because they’ve always existed, even though more often than not, they shouldn’t.

          • eggy toast says:

            I replied to the wrong person, tried to reply to the one one level higher in the tree.

  9. Monggerel says:

    That is not the important thing.
    The important thing is:

    Can you get through Mankind Blamkind even though you’ve killed every single non-pedestrian NPC in the game?

    • Monggerel says:

      like, I dunno, “whoops, I accidentally David Sarif”, and the game says “oh okay then just wonder around til you stumble on some different plot hook as if this were Morrowind” and then I’m like “MORROWIND!” and then like a tear rolls down one of my several faces

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think ISIS is trying that playthrough and then seeing how far they get when literally everyone else starts whaling on them.

  10. Ham Solo says:

    Square Enix listens to their customers, for example the director’s cut where they changed the boss fights of the DE3. So this doesn’t come as that much of a surprise. Still good, though.

  11. MattMk1 says:

    I wasn’t crazy about the boss fights in the original, but I didn’t have a huge problem with them, and I think the sheer amount of bad publicity generated as a result was nothing short of absurd.

    I actually ran into multiple people who were considering buying it but decided to hold off because they heard that “the boss fights ruined the game”.

    I also think it was lazy of them to decide that *all* the bosses had to die, but if we’re talking about immersion-breaking… eh, I found all the times where I couldn’t do a normal stealth takedown without being seen because one of my targets was sitting on a couch quite a bit worse.

  12. gbrading says:

    I agree with “Yay!” this is what I wanted to hear. The Director’s Cut of Human Revolution did improve several of the boss fights quite a bit, but they were still flow-breaking. Hyped for Mankind Divided.

  13. unacom says:

    Uhm. Why does Deus Ex have to HAVE boss-fights?
    I mean. Uhm. My whole work-day is a boss-fight. Sometimes I have to fight the miniboss too.
    I would really like to see a geme where you can twist the story to avoid a stand-off with some “boss”. Or even make his pals turn on him in a sinister twist of the plot…
    Really. Better even, scrap the bosses.
    By the way, by rights it´s the lethal way that should be more demanding.
    A long time ago in a world far away someone taught me: “Son. If you´re going in full auto, you gonna be out of ammo in 2.4 seconds and the twelve guys you didn´t get in the first salvo come up against you with a certain vengeful gleam in their eyes…”
    So I think it really might be oversimplified to cut it down to: kill vs. take down.
    I´d rather go with: kill vs. take down vs avoid completely vs. incapacitate otherwise (story-driven).

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      You can outright ignore most of the bosses in the first DX if you want to, and it’s probably a much better game for it, to be honest.
      If you’re interested in other games where the bosses are optional, I’d suggest trying Daniel Remar’s Iji, which is entirely free. I’d suggest trying it anyway, but the way it handles bosses is something I particularly like, and if you’re determined, there are ways to end the game with a kill count of zero.

  14. FyodorKoba says:

    Wasn’t the cheesy boss fights for me, that felt like someone had read about the original Deus Ex from a memo in an email (“Ok, John McWriter-Designer, we are been told that the original game had bosses, make them cool” “But we have no time!” “Then outsource it”), wasn’t neither its crappy character development (“I have to find answers” “Found answers” “Don’t really care about them”) or its zombie final act.

    It was the long lasting feeling that they where trying hard to make it “like the old one” without been able to make a true inspired game of their own.

    Dishonered had it much easier by staying away from any previous iteration.

    • quintesse says:

      Exactly, I’m really completely surprised when an editor that must be playing a zillion games for a living actually says “Deus Ex Human Revolution is one of my favourite games”… wow. Now if he would have said the original DE, okay, I can get that. But there are so many much more interesting games out there. I really wanted to like it (because of DE1) but I found it insipid and so fake (if you really need to have AC ducts everywhere, at least make them *somewhat* logical, not just a single duct that just so happens to go from place to some other random place you need to be going)
      Because of this Mankind will not be on my auto-buy list like Revolution was.

  15. bit.bat says:

    If I remember correctly in HR you could knock people out and as long as you made sure they where out of the way they never woke up which I felt made the decision of killing people or not more thematic rather than mechanical. I felt like I was choosing what animation to watch rather than something that significantly impacted gameplay.

    Having people get up after a moment makes things much harder but perhaps it makes sense gameplay wise that a no kill playthough is considerably more challenging.