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While We Wait: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here

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When is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [official site] coming out? Not that soon. Not soon enough. But while we can’t magically give it to you to play now, now, now, we can give you a fun selection of things that will help keep the cravings at bay. From games to books and beyond, here are some recommendations for both getting into the cyberpunk, mechanical and freedom loving mood. Got any others to suggest? Let us know in the comments. For now though, grab your wallet and prepare to enter the future… even if you can probably do without something kinda like Adam Jensen’s coat. (Nobody asked for that*.)

Games

Part of the reason that Deus Ex remains so beloved is that there really haven’t been that many games to point to and say: There! That! That’s the new Deus Ex! But there’ve been a few, and a few more that at least offer a little of the same spark. Have you played them all?

EyE: Divine Cybermancy

I’d like to describe EyE, but I’m not sure I have the words. If I do, they’re definitely not in English. Still, here’s a good starting point. It’s very much like Deus Ex in trying to offer you ranges of abilities that let you approach missions as you want. That said, you know how in Deus Ex, you can hack doors? In EyE, doors can hack you. That’s just the start of the pain. The translation isn’t simply dodgy, but openly hostile to understanding, throwing you into a world full of warring organisations with names like “Secreta Secretorum” where characters have a maybe 1/5 chance of being who they claim, or even existing at all. Occasionally you kill someone and are told “You just killed a soccer player”, to add a little pathos. It contains the line “You jus wake up after your death, but careful, you went mad.” And later on, things get weird. Still, if you’re in the mood for a challenge… and have aspirin…

Dishonored

C’mon, you’ve played it by now, right? You must have. But if you haven’t, it’s Deus Ex’s love of tools taken to one of the best realised fantasy worlds around, and made all that much more exciting with the help of magic. The two basic paths of stealth and murder soon open up a ton of possibilities, with every major encounter its own little microcosm of possibilities instead of simply a puzzle to solve. The DLC is pretty good too, if you never got around to it.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall

While it’s nothing like Deus Ex in terms of mechanics – turn based combat/RPG versus FPS with RPG elements – Dragonfall is a must-play for cyberpunk fans. I never liked the original campaign, Dead Man’s Switch, making this expansion a wonderful surprise. It’s essentially the second chapter of Baldur’s Gate 2 extended into a whole game. You have a big mission to prepare for, and for that, you need cash. How you raise it is up to you, and your gang of mercenary specialists looking for work in future Berlin. The Director’s Cut freed it of the need to buy the original, as well as adding some extra fun stuff around the side.

Alpha Protocol

If anything is Deus Ex 2, ignoring Invisible War, obviously, it’s got to be Alpha Protocol. No game has ever, ever devoted itself so intently to your choices, which range from how many people you kill, to which characters you visit first when visiting a new city. It’s a fractal web of consequences and responsiveness that truly puts every other game out there to shame… making it all the more unfortunate that its own crap gunplay and mini-games routinely spoil the party. Still! If you can endure those, and a few truly terrible opening hours, what awaits is simply unforgettable. I just wish I could remember the main character’s name. What was it again?

Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines

Again, if you’re reading RPS, you’re required by law to have played this at least once. If not, it’s okay. Here’s one last chance to sink your fangs into its deeply shaky yet wonderfully charismatic FPS/RPG hybrid. Installing a fan patch is pretty much essential, but there are several to choose from and a couple of big ones on the way – see Alice’s piece on two of the most exciting here. Sadly, CCP shut down a remake, and with the cancellation of the World of Darkness MMO, there’s no sign of anything else like it on the horizon. Boo. Boo. Boo…

Books

Altered Carbon

I remember being really excited when I read Richard Morgan’s original cyberpunk novel and realised there were more. Going out and reading a couple of the others… not so much. Luckily, going back and re-reading this first tale of evil corporations, conspiracies and body-swapping, it more than held up. It’s a great mix of hard-boiled mystery and future dystopia that really finds some fun ways to play with ideas of self and survival in a world where death is largely a choice.

Snow Crash

Of course. It’s not simply one of the defining cyberpunk novels, it’s the one that more than anything else struck a chord with gamers – its Metaverse concept being brought up time and time again with virtual worlds like Second Life and Playstation Home and There, until most of the world realised that such things were better imagined than experienced. (But hey, maybe with virtual reality? Ahem.) It helps that it’s got its tongue firmly in its cheek, often as much parodying cyberpunk as defining it. Like most of the classics, a bit dated now. Still, very readable.

Icarus Effect / Fallen Angel

The original Deus Ex and its sequel, Deus Ex: Sorry About This, never really saw any interesting spin-offs. Human Revolution was better timed to cash in, but again, we didn’t see much. There was a very short comic book run, but otherwise only a single novel. Unlike many franchises though, it was at least a side-story rather than just a retelling of the plot, largely focused on the Tyrants – the bosses. Author James Swallow also wrote a shorter story though, originally for the Director’s Cut but now free to all, which focuses on Jensen’s pilot, Faridah. Read that one here.

Neuromancer

The other must-read cyberpunk primer, and pretty much the Bible for the genre, only better because it’s not full of boring bits like Proverbs. Its first line alone is one of the greatest openers ever, albeit a little dated now – “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Not a whole lot more needs to be said, though there was a very obscure and very weird adventure game version of it back in the dark ages featuring such memorable weirdness as a church devoted to Pong, selling organs for a little cash, and the least fair justice system this side of Phoenix Wright.

Mods, fanworks, TV shows and movies on page two.

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Richard Cobbett

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