Fail Forward: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Fail Forward is a series of videos all about the bits of games which don’t quite work and why. In this episode, Marsh Davies discusses Deus Ex: Human Revolution [official site], its beards, its many lovely desks and what it says about power.

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63 Comments

  1. heretic says:

    Agree with point 2, although I really wonder what else they could have done!

    Perhaps the only apartheid that could have happened is if there was a revolutionary augmentation which was only available to select few (which gave things like perpetual life maybe), and the poorer masses with only mechanical augmentations were fighting for equality in all people having access to this technology?

    Or a disease of which the cure for the poor is mechanical limbs, whereas the rich have access to normal treatment, but being mechanically enhanced makes them dangerous around other normal humans so they are persecuted? Is that the actual plot? :P Unlikely indeed…

    • DrollRemark says:

      Well that would put it more on course for how the storyline gets in the original Deus Ex, where the mechanically augmented end becoming a second class to the newly souped-up nano-augmented agents.

    • LTK says:

      I’m actually surprised that point 2 was actually made for DX:HR, because as far as I can tell, the persecution of augmented humans is only introduced as a thing in the preview information about the sequel. I don’t see it as a failure of this game. As Marsh rightly points out, in Human Revolution being augmented puts you head and shoulders above any boring, regular human.

      The game makes a strong case that augmented people, as a whole, are head and shoulders above normal people. The anti-aug movement mainly worries that without augmentations, they will be left behind, become second-class citizens, which is becoming more and more evident as augmentations proliferate. However, Adam’s torment doesn’t come from being augmented per se, but that his augmentations make him a living weapon, a man-made instrument of death with the mind of a human.

      It’s often said that you learn a person’s true nature not by how they cope with adversity, but with power. Adam has power literally grafted onto his body, and while his new capabilities are enormous, he might not like the things this power reveals about his own self. This ties in to the notion of power within the game’s systems. It’s evident that you can play the game as a traditional shooter, and it might be more engaging this way. But this is not a path taken lightly, and the game makes the moral implications pretty clear. Or at least it does, until you’re given leeway to murder scores of faceless mercenaries. Regardless, I think it’s actually good how the game ties together power and responsibility with decisions made by the player that directly interface with the game mechanics. It’s a success, not a failure.

    • Farsi Murdle says:

      One of HR’s many mistakes is to make augmentations ‘cool’. In DX1 the mech-augs were looked down on, and they were defensive about their augs, because they looked monstrous. Red eyes and unsightly wiring running the length of their arms, etc. Remember Gunther complaining about oiling his knees or whatever; very unsexy. Many mechs were in the military, where presumably sexiness took a backseat to utility.

      HR by contrast makes augmentations the coolest thing in the world, and Marsh makes a really good point about why the narrative the game tries to establish is undermined as a result.

      They seemed to have tried to address that issue at the end of the game (leading into DX:MD), but they did it in the most forceful, over the top way: by having augmented people turn into zombies who perpetrate the most disastrous act of mass murder in the history of humanity. I think this complete lack of subtlety is what turns me off Eidos’s games, in comparison to the more thoughtful original.

      • Frank says:

        I never thought about it that way. It would’ve been cool if they tried to make a mechanical-aug era consistent with the original Deus Ex universe’s story, yeah.

      • KenTWOu says:

        One of HR’s many mistakes is to make augmentations ‘cool’…
        They seemed to have tried to address that issue at the end of the game…

        It’s like you missed the whole Neuropozyne theme when you played the game. Or didn’t notice those missing womans. Or forgot about harvesters. I mean, DXHR aigmentations look really cool, because it’s a commercial product. But there are consequences and some of them make you uncomfortable enough.

  2. king0zymandias says:

    You know what I hate? That I can “lose” or “win” a conversation. It’s such a reductive idea that it comes across as a huge step back from what RPGs have achieved when it comes to player agency within social interaction. I no longer react to a situation by saying the things my character would to say, I’m no longer role-playing. What I am asked to do instead is to figure out the correct thing to say to someone based on some very broad and simplistic approximation of his/her personality. How absurd and gamey is that? There shouldn’t be a right or wrong conversation choice, only differing perspectives that result in different consequences. But here everything is binary, you say the right thing, you win, good thing happens. Say the wrong thing, you lose, bad thing happens. And unfortunately they seem very intent on doubling down on this awful design decision. “Social boss fight”, yeah, great.

    • Tacroy says:

      I liked it – after all, some conversations really are essentially social combat. Your character doesn’t care what they have to say to get it, their goal is to convince that guard to open the door. Sure, you can roleplay, but sometimes the role you’re playing is of someone who’s willing to say what it takes to convince the other person.

      • king0zymandias says:

        But this way it becomes a simplistic puzzle to solve instead of being a real interaction with a human being. Perhaps it works when you are trying to get someone to open a door. But does it work when you are having a philosophical discussion regarding moral relativity? Which by the way, the game is very intent to thrust upon you quite regularly.

        I should have the agency to react the way I think the character would react, I should not be forced to choose a specific response because that would “win” me the conversation. That’s not how conversations work, my words must have consequences, but they shouldn’t result in a binary win/lose situation. It seems really lazy to me.

        • jezcentral says:

          In the new game, you can only “win” the conversation if you fulfil certain initial conditions. Killed everyone on your way to the boss? He’s not coming peacefully, no matter how charming you are. If he sees that you took people out non-lethally, you have a chance.

          I have no problem with that. It seems quite plausible.

    • ChairmanYang says:

      Actually, DXHR lets you roleplay conversations all you want, and has different consequences beyond simply winning or losing. You can get access to the police station but alienate someone in the process (making them attack you later), reconcile with them, or have them stonewall you. You can debate with a hijacker and kill him, release him, or get him to help you (or maybe leave alive someone dangerous). Even the social augmentation “win button” can have unforeseen consequences.

      Yes, sometimes certain approaches can fail, and others succeed, but that’s absolutely logical and interesting. Making all conversation options lead to achieving your goals with mild cosmetic differences would be boring.

      Along with Alpha Protocol and Age of Decadence, DXHR is the gold standard for conversational gameplay as far as I’m concerned. I’m insanely excited for potential advancements in the sequel.

      • king0zymandias says:

        What if none of your choices lead to “failure” and none of your choices lead to “success”? Maybe each choice leads to a different outcome, and none of the outcomes are either inherently good or inherently bad, just differing perspectives leading to differing consequences. Each choice you make represents how you are willing to rationalize your behavior in the contexts of the game, no right or wrong, just different paths. Wouldn’t that be better suited for a game that’s apparently so much in love with the concept of moral relativity?

        • ChairmanYang says:

          That’s exactly what DXHR does. Convincing someone to give you access to a police station isn’t necessarily “right” or “wrong”, it’s simply one approach among many, including sneaking in, shooting your way in, or hacking your way in. AFAIK, none of the conversational boss battles in the game have a mandatory outcome; they offer a few different results, all of which can be ignored in favour of other gameplay approaches.

          • Distec says:

            I have mixed feelings on how it was handled. I appreciated that it seemed more involved than the original game. And yet I felt like DX’s method of just picking a dialogue option and going with it made those outcomes feel more organic. HR with the social aug puts a graph in the corner of your screen – basically measuring your effectiveness at persuasion – and gamifies the conversation. Even if the none of the results from it are technically fail states, it nonetheless feels like a failure when you don’t “win” the convo.

            Your dialogue options when rescuing Sandra Renton in the first game from an alleyway thug seemed more natural and maybe preferable.

          • jezcentral says:

            @distec Well, to be fair, the conversation is SUPPOSED to be gamified. You are trying to talk your way into the Police Station (or whatever), not expressing a world-view, Bioware-style.

            You’re not role-playing, you’re sweet-talking, to gain access, bring someone in peacefully, etc.

          • Kitsunin says:

            The fact that you can add pheremones adds further to this — you can use the most reasonable, ethical argument in the world, but if you’re using pheremones you’re still doing little more than forcing the person into agreement.

            You can roleplay, but you’ll probably lose the conversation because hey, you’re being a pacifist while talking to a douchebag who only caves in to threats, of course he isn’t going to care.

  3. Boothie says:

    Dont really think Human Revolutions Narrative runs in conflict with the gameplay, the power that the Enhanced gain is part of the problem and reason for the protests moreso than the supposed sanctity of the human body.

    Being ambivalent about something isnt really that odd either, Being hated and despised for being an enhanced cyborg is going to make u feel like shit however many spines you can snap like twigs due to said enhancements.

    Interesting point on stealth games though, or rather i suppose the Choose your own approach games that get made these days, in an attempt to please a greater audience.

    • phailhaus says:

      I think the point he was making was that in such a world, those with cybernetic enhancements are those in power. The narrative spins a tale of “poor old Jensen, persecuted for being a cyborg”, when in such a world the enhancements would “trickle down”. The rich would be the first to get them, and make damn well sure that the others were jealous of it. Jensen has so much power, why shouldn’t any other cyborg? If Jensen were to feel bad, it would only be because his fellow cyborgs were oppressing the unaugmented people with their power, not the other way around.

      • carewolf says:

        I think you missed the Gillette trick with augmentations in the game. They not that expensive up front, but you (unless you are mr Jensen) need very expensive drugs for the rest of your live otherwise you are in argonizing pain as your body fight the augmentation. This over time turns many augmented people into a criminal subclass, especially those not augmented by choice (job, disability, etc.). They end up having to deal with a ridiculous expensive health plan they can not afford for the rest of their lives.

        • aoanla says:

          Except, as noted in the post you’re replying to, needing expensive antirejection drugs isn’t a problem if you’re stupendously wealthy and in power. Neuropozyne only makes it more likely that the rich would be the only class to make widespread use of augmentation, and the poor would be priced out of the market.

  4. Romeric says:

    These videos are excellent. Please make more so I can watch more!

    • merbert says:

      Completely agree Romeric, these are excellent videos.

      They’re thought provoking, articulate and intelligent.

      Danny O’Dwyer on Gamespot runs a series of similar type videos called The Point and they’re equally as compelling if you haven’t seen them.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Came down here to say the same. +1

    • caff says:

      This series is great, and if you like this you really should be listening to the Crate and the Crowbar podcast which I also found through RPS.

      (go listen to these on a lazy Sunday morning, if you aren’t already!)

      link to crateandcrowbar.com

      • merbert says:

        Thanks for the heads up Caff, I’ll make a point of doing exactly that, this coming Sunday!

        Great podcast and bacon and maple syrup pancakes a go-go.

    • Mat Burt says:

      Completely agree. Just logged in to say thanks – a very thoughtful video.

  5. Spakkenkhrist says:

    For a moment I thought you were playing Tribes with bots, but it was actually HiRezBart; shame :(

  6. DrollRemark says:

    It’s interesting that you feel the combat is more interesting because it offers you more possibilities, when I much prefered the restrictions that stealthy play placed upon you. Each new area was a challenge to be figured out and overcome. Which guards can see where? Where are the cameras? Where is the control room for those cameras? Where do the patrols go? Figuring out the required sequence of attack to take down every guard (or sneak by them without being seen) and get out, is immensely satisfying.

  7. Lone Gunman says:

    I never really felt conflicted with my Dues Ex play through. I was in a position of power, but I resented that power structure. That’s how I role played it anyway. Sure I could easily arm chisel someone to death but I had made the moral decisions to play as non lethally as possible. I think the first Dues Ex did a better job of this however, especially when the first lot of ‘badies’ you get put up against get humanized a lot and actually turn out be ‘goodies’ in some way.

  8. Jason Moyer says:

    “Can games do disempowerment” he asks, nearly 20 years after Thief came out.

    • HuvaaKoodia says:

      That was my first reaction as well, but then he goes on to say that even mastering the systems of a game is a form of power. In Thief you very much master the toolset you have in order to ghost though the levels. You can steal from the rich no matter how many guards or traps they’ve set up. That is power.

      It is an interesting question, though, and I think the answer, for games, is you cannot do it. Even games which remove skills or resources from you as the game progresses require a form of mastery: resource management. How do I make do with less? How do I win even though now it’s more difficult? How do I overcome the challenges laid before me with as little resources as I can?

      Every game has a victory condition and to reach that the player will have to acquire power and mastery of the mechanics.

      So the answer then, for other forms of interactive digital media, is to not have specific victory conditions. Imagine a simulation of a war-torn city where battles and bombings break out every once in a while, but at the same time the civilian population has to keep on going the best they can.

      As a civilian the only thing you can do is to help people that you care about to survive. There is no victory condition based on your own actions. The war will end at some point, but you don’t know when. How desperate will you become? After the war your action will be judged not by an abstract set of victory conditions, but by the very people you lived and interacted with before and throughout the war.

      I haven’t played This War of Mine so maybe someone can elaborate on any similarities. I do envision a 3D world though.

  9. Sevores says:

    Interesting, but I disagree on both points.
    You first point seems to be that the violent solution is somehow always more fun than stealth. In Deus Ex, more than most games, I found that the exact opposite is true. The most fun I had with it was trying to ghost everything and that is precisely why the boss battles didn’t work.

    On the second point: I don’t think the game tries to deny that Adam is a badass and has superhuman powers. One of the main themes of the game was that people are afraid of superhuman people, which slowly turns into resentment and hate.
    You are right that it’s not like racism (even though I don’t think the HR was trying to draw a parallel) but that’s because anti-aug people aren’t necessarily wrong. The disconnect between the awesomeness of being an aug and feeling bad because people fear you was exactly the point.
    Adam was sort of an interesting character to witness this through _because_ “he didn’t ask for this”. Just because he has superpowers doesn’t mean that he’s happy in his new role as superman especially if he can’t fit in because of them. Adam feels bad because he has empathy with non-augs and augs alike, realising that the issue is very complex and not really solvable by taking sides. At least that’s how I played him.

    I also don’t think that Batman’s grief is lessened by having billions of dollars. He’d probably trade it all for his parents in a heartbeat.

    • gwathdring says:

      Batman’s grief isn’t lessened, exactly. It’s the full package though. He’s portrayed as traumatized, but he isn’t really impeded. I’ve seen grief and trauma restrict people first hand, turning successful people into struggling wrecks.

      Bruce Wayne took trauma, turned it into a life of morally grey hatred, and then spent his mega-bucks becoming a powerful force that shapes the very functioning of his world and in some stories his universe. And despite all that we’re supposed to see him as troubled figure not because of the bleak things he has done to people or the poor people whose skulls he has bashed in … but far too often because a long time ago when he wasn’t even remotely the same person, someone shot his parents in a tragic incident that reflects–among other things–some of the troubling problems with the way he decides to deal with both crime and supercrime by highlighting that murder and criminal activity is a result of opportunity and confusion as often (if not more so) than structured intent.

      It’s not that we can’t feel sad for a billionaire losing his parents. It’s that … well … I can’t feel sorry for someone who is doing so damn WELL as Batman. He has a robust extended family of close friends and colleagues, he has immense physical power, immense wealth, immense knowledge, immense skill. He isn’t always portrayed as having mental illness, exactly, either. Rather he is haunted by the narrative occurrence of his parents dying and the vague specter of Crime. While the whole bat-shtick has been re-imagined as an empowering strike against his own fears, far too few writers point to his parents being shot as the source of his no-guns policy, instead acting as though his problem is with killing people when he’s plenty happy to let people bleed to death internally and live out fractured lives full of trauma, fear, and brain damage simply because they worked for the wrong people.

      It is his moral absolutism–bad enough on it’s own–but combined with a complete absence of coherent ethical framework that makes it rather hard for me to see him as something deserving of human sympathy for his emotional pain. He is a force of nature, as dark and terrible as any of his villains. And he’s pretty cool, sometimes, too. So why am I feeling bad for him? What is his injury? That he misses his parents? That’s fine … I get that. But what does that have to do with the batmobiles and the knees-to-face and the pointy-eared costume and the terrorizing of the underprivileged and the violation of rule-of-law? If his emotional troubles were more interconnected, if I was given some kind of insight into who he is and what he thinks, I’d care more. Very, very rarely? I am, and do.

      But usually it goes: LOOK ISN’T BATMAN AWESOME + No parents = Grim Dark Sad Bat Man Smash Things. This isn’t to say that were he real, as a person, he would deserve zero empathy. But as a fictional character, the focus of his stories is never on the things that help improve my desire to empathize with the asshole. And, yeah, his extreme wealth does make it harder for me to empathize with him not because money eliminates the feels, but because it represents power and privilege that sure as hell HELP with the feels.

  10. Crafter says:

    So much validation !
    These issues have been bugging me for quite some time.
    Arkane admitted that the non lethal approach was an afterthought in Dishonored. I really hope that they will give it a lot of thought in the sequel (and in DXHR’s one as well).
    The game gives you a lot emergent gameplay tools …. and 99% of them rely on your violent powers in order to be used.

    Disempowerment is weirdly absent from action games, especially in games such as DXHR where they would at least allow to fit with the ‘I never ask for this’ silly catchphrase.
    I remember the first level of the 2009 Bionic Commando. It was a meh game that could have been awesome with open environments, but the very strict movement limitations killed it. It did one thing right though : in this first level, your character is sent to combat without his bionic arm. You can’t help but feel sorry for him and connected to him when you see him struggle with only one arm. And obviously at the end of this level, there is a big payback when you finally get the arm back and are able to access your whole movement set.

    • Dicehuge says:

      I almost found the relatively un-fleshed out nature of Dishonored’s non lethal approach was what made it a more rewarding way of playing the game. Playing it that way, the game became ABOUT the tension between having awesome powers constantly thrown at you and the reluctance to use them. I guess where it falls down is that the game and DX:HR doesn’t really give the player much reason to play that way, other than personal challenge, and I guess that’s where Marsh’s first point comes in, stealth gameplay is inherently dis-empowering.

  11. Carcer says:

    I’m sure the next DX game is going to have a narrative about the mechanically augmented being an oppressed underclass, because that’s also the background for the original DX game and I’m going to assume a lot of that footage was from trailers from the new DX game which does indeed heavily suggest that’s the way it’s going. That is not the story of Human Revolution, so I don’t think it’s fair to criticise HR for that.

    As you point out, DX is a world where global conspiracies struggle against each other to achieve their own vision for humanity. HR does not contain a story about poor oppressed cyborgs being downtrodden by the common man; HR is a story about a population divided into two camps clashing against each other, where some super-wealthy augment themselves with their latest technologies, some companies essentially offer the poor a choice between augmentation and indentured servitude and joblessness, and some individuals are turned into augmented killing machines to be used as tools by their employers/creators. Jensen never feels oppressed or downtrodden because of societal response to his state; Jensen has emotional turmoil because he has, against his will, been radically altered to something which might be more or might be less than human. He is never shown as giving a shit what anyone else thinks about his condition; the story is about what HE thinks about himself. Jensen’s disempowerment comes from being altered without his consent and then used as a pawn in a game he is kept in the dark about, and how even in the end his only choices are the endgames that have been set before him by others or to trash the board entirely, refusing to play.

  12. Halk says:

    No interesting thoughts in that video.

  13. GWOP says:

    The only downside to Marsh Davies videos is the lack of alt texts carrying out an entirely different conversation in parallel with the subject at hand.

  14. TheMajor says:

    I’m not sure if I 100% agree with this. There are four major arguments here:

    1. Violence is presented as an option in a “stealth” game – Jensen is meant to be relatively superhuman; the power imbalance created by augmentation is a central theme of the game. In addition to that, he’s an “Ex-SWAT” (fuck you, Pritchard) head of security at a massive corporation – you expect him to be good at combat.

    2. People shoot things because things are fun to shoot – I’d disagree here: people who enjoy shooting things are going to shoot things. People who enjoy ghosting maps are going to ghost maps. I’d argue that the tension created by stealth is as fun to stealthy players as thingshooting is to shooty players. I really enjoy pure-shooters, but when presented with a stealth (or even non-necessarily-rewarded nonlethal or conversational) option I’ll do everything in my power to not use a weapon. Even if the game doesn’t punish me for failing the stealth, I’ll still start over if I’m caught. I like stealth, is what I’m trying to say, and I’d say (hope) I’m not the only one.

    3. Stealth doesn’t allow you to manipulate a system/the system doesn’t change state – is this not the ideal for a stealth player? The ultimate aim of pure stealth is to move through a system without it ever knowing you were there – necessarily leaving the system in an unaltered state. On top of that, good stealth games do allow you to interact with a system. Take Alien: Isolation – you can use noisemakers, flashbangs, your wrench, and all manner of other distractionary/diversionary tools to interact with a system while still stealthing through it.

    4. You don’t really like morality/narrative as disincentive to kill – does a game really have to systematically punish/disempower a player for killing/not stealthing a level? This *could* be a place where you use systems to punish immorality, but then you’d have a game very different in tone to Human Revolution. No one really gets this right, or at least none really come to mind – I’m not thinking XP/quest differences, but gameplay changing/becoming more difficult mechanically. Otherwise, videogaming is a medium for narrative – if a player is sufficiently empathetic and is told what a bad person they are for killing, that might make the player play differently. In fact, the reward for being nonlethal/stealthy in this case is that of not killing people when it’s so easy to do.

    I kinda wrote this in a flurry and only caught the length of it now, sorry if it reads a little weirdly!

    • urbino23 says:

      I think your points are well taken but I wonder if your response to 2 and 3 don’t go towards Marsh’s argument. I take his point about shooting to be that designers like centering games around guns, more than that gamers always want to blow peoples’ heads off. It’s easier to design a game around such a simple input -> result system, as opposed to designing really compelling tactical- or decision-oriented levels around things like stealth or conversation. So it’s not that people don’t have fun with stealth (we do!) it’s that the designers wind up spending more effort making the shooting part fun because that effort more easily pays off. When designers do put in the effort (e.g. Alien: Isolation), it can make a stealthy approach that much more satisfying.

    • Carcer says:

      Re: 4.
      Dishonoured has this, in that if you play “high chaos” – killing people etc. – the levels contain increasing numbers of the infected hostiles and rat swarms that must be avoided. In a low-chaos playthrough the effects of the plague are less apparent and there are less weepers to deal with. And, in opposition to DX where a nonlethal stealth approach is strictly easier – nonlethal takedowns do not alert other enemies and though they can be woken up after the fact it’s not hard to stash the unconscious in places they won’t be found/compromising positions with their superior officer – Dishonoured makes the nonlethal approach harder because knocking out enemies takes significantly longer than just killing them when you frequently have only a short window of opportunity to take out a guard before his chum will turn around and spot you. So there’s a tradeoff of sorts – nonlethal stealth is harder than lethal stealth but the environment will contain less hostiles if you continually play that way, whereas lethal stealth is easier to pull off in the moment but will result in more and more enemies later on, complicating matters. It’s actually quite interesting and a rather subtle approach, I think.

  15. Synesthesia says:

    What a fantastic video. This has become my favorite rps feature. Thanks again for it

  16. Bing_oh says:

    Would you prefer to play a game where you were always an oppressed, underpowered pleb, with no chance to ever become more powerful or overcome the adversaries in front of you? Or where you reveled in your psychotic wholesale slaughter of various people who are less powerful than you are? Let’s be honest…the first kind of game would probably be a total flop (nobody would want to play a game where you did nothing but get beaten down without any hope of overcoming the obstacles you face) and the second would probably garner widespread outrage by the general public (see Postal and Postal 2).

    Games in their narratives are inherently wish-fulfillment fantasies. People don’t generally want to be disempowered…most of us are already disempowered to some degree or another, whether it be at work, at home, by the government, by society, etc, etc. And most of us generally don’t want to be psychotic killers who randomly slaughter innocent humans. To criticize a game for trying to veer away from these concepts while trying to build a narrative and interesting gameplay is rather short-sighted.

  17. Premium User Badge

    AtlasIsKing says:

    Marsh Davies may be the best games writer out there these days. His work is remarkably and consistently thoughtful and entertaining, no matter what the subject. Well Done Sir.

  18. jgf1123 says:

    Great video. Point 2 particularly raises interesting points.

  19. MattMk1 says:

    I guess I didn’t play DXHR the same as the author of this, because I used stealth all the bloody time, and still beat the crap out of nearly every enemy I came across. There were vents stuffed full of enemies that never saw me coming.

    As for the part about a narrative of disempowerment vs. the game granting unbridled power, and being willing to give up limbs to be like Adam Jensen… it honestly makes me wonder if the author ever went through a serious health crisis or a major surgery, if any of the stuff that Jensen went through – on mature reflection, not while you’re in the middle of an awesome double takedown – seems genuinely appealing.

    The closest I’ve ever come to being a cyborg (so far) is having a couple of metal screws permanently installed in one of my legs in what was a very successful reconstruction surgery that returned me to nearly 100% functionality. I’m glad I had it, I’m happy I did, but the amount of pain I’ve had as a result as my body found ways in which it didn’t quite agree with it I could have never imagined before it happened… So the idea of doing that with entire limbs to turn myself into a cut-rate superhero? Laughable.

    Hell, can we even be sure the horrible damage Jensen suffered at the start of the game didn’t leave him gelded, considering everything else that got shredded? (am I weird for thinking about that when considering his cybernetic replacements?)

  20. Premium User Badge

    garfieldsam says:

    Damn. This was the most provocative and compelling in the series so far. Keep it up!

  21. Chiron says:

    If your going to do videos can you at least transcribe them? I’d much prefer to read articles and I cannot watch videos at work where I spend the vast majority of my time.

  22. Nestorius says:

    I have to say am a little surprised that the argument was made that Deus Ex didnt punish violence while Dishonored did?

    If you use violence in Deus Ex you lose a significant amount of xp that you then cannot use to upgrade yourself. The tools you have are generally a bit more stealth based anyway so it is generally easier to use stealth then combat which has a high chance of you dying.

    Dishonored the levels change but xp is not decreased and really just becomes a different style of playing the game here I really see that dishonored has two ways to play the game while Deus Ex really just has one.

    I liked both and have to say I prefer the setting of Deus Ex to dishonored but Deus Ex shouldnt have setup its experience system the same way. and should have done something more similar to either the original Deus Ex or to Dishonored.

    • Carcer says:

      Strictly HR punishes you for using lethal violence in the sense that you will get less XP, but it rewards you for being violent in that you get more XP for incapacitating an enemy than for avoiding them (i.e. some vs none). The optimal stealthy playthrough still involves you sneaking up and punching out every single enemy you can find, which is a quite violent approach in the grand scheme of things. Although I guess the inferral that is meant to be made is that violence means OPEN violence, and stealthy violence doesn’t count.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Completely agree on that. Over the top gun-battle and power fantasy is disencouraged and that’s a design choice.

  23. Lord Byte says:

    Doing the “Charlie Brooker” style of reporting eh :) Not that I mind (big fan, from his PCZ days on), but it was quite obvious…

  24. Vigil says:

    These videos are really great. Keep ’em coming!

  25. magogjack says:

    I think that we won’t ever see games that answer the questions that Marsh posits, and that is because only the powerful can make games like Deus Ex.

    Look at all the police acting like they are victims for members of society holding them to task for not policing themselves.

    The homeless don’t often make games.

  26. Premium User Badge

    clem2k3 says:

    Want a game that disempowers the player and forces a non-shooty course of action? What about Mirrors Edge. It gets derided for its terrible shooting and the difficulty of the situations where you meet lots of guys with guns, but the message is clear – Faith is a runner, not a fighter … so just RUN

  27. Premium User Badge

    Overload-J says:

    I think point 2 misses the point DXHR is trying to make – and one of the themes across all of the DX series. It isn’t disempowerment vs empowerment. It’s *what you do with power*. The choice between slaughtering and sneaking works perfectly there: you can follow the easy & fun path of slaughter, or you can use your superhuman capabilities to show restraint, even towards your enemies.

  28. Chaoslord AJ says:

    regarding 1.
    Deus Ex actually punishes you for non-stealth violent gameplay. Clumsy takedown with gun nets you 10 xp while stealth takedown usually gives 50 xp so it sets you back in terms of raw power.
    Dishonored was an equal offender where I constantly wondered where to drop the unconsious bodies so the rats would not get them (and they might still die by chance). Playing good and ghost felt less like a challenge and more like a nuisance sometimes.

    regarding 2.
    I also sometimes feel like a freak wondering what it is to be normal so I can somewhat relate to Jensen. Even if his augments give him power to kill and solve his missions, most guys in reality want a simple life without getting shot at and everything. They don’t want to stand out. And he never asked for this which makes a world of difference if a so-called blessing is just dropped on you without your agreement.
    He looks like a robot to his neighbors or in the swimming pool, he might have phantom pains from his removed limbs, He possibly might not feel the wind on the hairs on his forearm or a gentle caress. He might be sterile from the procedure.
    But yeah in the end Mankind Divided will be about “Normal humans” being the opressed by a rich elite cyberfied class. Story wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

  29. kyrieee says:

    Good video, but cut the first three minutes. That’s too much time to be talking about what the video isn’t about.

  30. TechnicalBen says:

    The reason for the conflict is usually to produce a reason for conflict, to drive the story or drive the combat in the story/game.

    Not often, or less often, is it to actually show the reasons for conflict. Such as racism and intolerance. :/

    Everything else though, has validity in the arguments and video. :) Thanks.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    I wonder if the whole “I’m privileged but also oppressed” thing is meant to appeal to geek/nerd culture, either consciously or unconsciously. After all, we’ve got an audience composed primarily of privileged people — (stereo)typically white, male, and either intelligent or educated or just tech-savvy enough to do pretty well for themselves, certainly well enough to play games / read comics regularly (and afford them) — yet who are also “different” and often may have gone through their share of bullying / ostracisation / hazing and feel like they’ve had a rough time of it.

    I also wonder if this particular genre convention is at least partly responsible for a certain (fairly well-known & fairly privileged) gaming movement insisting that they’re being “oppressed” by those darned leftie social justice conspiracies and whatnot.

  32. cosmitz says:

    I may be late to the party but one moment in HR was amazing just because the story did affect my decisions.

    The charming helicopter pilot went down, Hailey? i think was her name. By that point i had played very religiously a non lethal game. But the level in which you can save her implies speed and efficiency. I’m sure some speedrunner managed it, but i didn’t. Tried and tried again, but in the end i laid aside my approach, picked up a gun and killed my way to her.

    I did save her, but at the risk of my principles. And indeed, from that moment forward, i began taking the ‘stealth until i can’t’ approach which implied a lot of gunplay. I like to think Adam went through the same rollercoaster that i did.

    • franchtoast says:

      Yeah, I definitely felt the same about the bit with the helicopter. I like the way you described your gameplay as “stealth until I can’t.” I played similarly.