Have You Played… Deus Ex: Mankind Divided?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

It feels as if game developers have spent the past ten years learning how to efficiently build the design ideas conceived in the ten years before that. As a result, where the original Deus Ex’s commitment to systemic design offered player’s options which surprised, Deus Ex Mankind Divided has boiled those systems down to a tight, repeatable loop.

Mankind Divided brings back Adam Jensen, though this time he’s in Prague and a double agent. Still, the procedure is the same as in the previous game, Deus Ex Human Revolution. You have gruff conversations, you crouch through vents, you sneak up on men and press either the lethal or nonlethal-flavoured go-away button. I find this enormously satisfying, because it supports a slow, methodical mastery of space. Prague initially seems a vast warren of side streets filled with deadly guards, but by the game’s end you’ve discovered so many holes and shortcuts through it that it’s like swiss cheese.

It’s beautiful, too. Mankind Divided rewards your exploration with stunning architecture at every turn, whether you’re outside a club, in a ramshackle stairwell or staring at the grandiose ceilings of a ritzy apartment.

From the development team’s perspective, I suspect those repeatable loops are desirable because they make the always-difficult creation process more predictable for a producer’s budget spreadsheet. For player’s, the response seemed to be more mixed. A lot of other people on this site found Mankind Divided a slog. For me, who only ever wanted more Human Revolution, it was exactly what I wanted.

59 Comments

  1. Halk says:

    >For me, who only ever wanted more Human Revolution,
    >it was exactly what I wanted.

    For me, who only ever wanted no more Human Revolution, it was exactly what I didn’t want.

  2. Kefren says:

    It’s the only Deus Ex game with Denuvo, so the only one where I’ll wait until they patch it out. (Denuvo is removed from roughly a game a month). link to en.wikipedia.org

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    Risingson says:

    For me the design was not the problem, but the storytelling. It suggested a lot of themes that were discarded in a rush or conflicts that were suddenly forgotten. It was ambitious and I felt the cap of its ambition, like some power that be saying “no. Remove this part. People do not want to feel guilty while playing”. And also what was so discussed: for being a cyberpunk game, you represent a company that has no problem with the high power.

    It felt weird. Even, slight spoilers, you go through your office thinking that there will be an assault mission later and that never happens.

    Oh, and the dumb microtransactions.

    Apart from that, it is beautiful, very beautiful, and it felt short. It provided my fix of sci fi games that are not about being rich and powerful, but saving the world and being the good guy.

  4. Dreggsao says:

    I did play it, but I didn’t get far enough to make up my mind if this or Invisible War is the worst Deus Ex.

    • itchyeyes says:

      IMO, Invisible War is unequivocally the worst. But I was still very disappointed by this one. I really wanted to like it, but it’s just so boring. The plot itself is about as bland as they come. But it’s made worse by completely shoehorning Jenson into it where they should have just introduced a new character.

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        Risingson says:

        Actually that is not really the problem (it is but). The problem is something I read NK Jemisin talking about: sometimes you don’t have the proper character to tell the story, as the story is not theirs. And the story of Mankind Divided is not Adam Jensen’s, at all. He is the one unaffected by it actually.

  5. coldvvvave says:

    It was not weird enough.

  6. Halk says:

    Full price game with microtransactions. Of course I didn’t play it. The game is garbage for that reason alone.

  7. geldonyetich says:

    Having enjoyed the first game of the reboot, this was one of the few I could pre-order in good faith. That faith was repaid with an engine that actually required I upgraded my computer to become playable, and during the intervening time to wait to afford that, I lost touch with it.

    From time to time, I think of going back to giving it a proper play. But then I think to myself, “Oh, right, those invasive micro-transactions….” Nothing sours the immersion potential of the game quite as much as knowing I can manifest advantages with real money.

    It seems Square Enix is capable of pulling an EA.

    • Werthead says:

      There are no “invasive” microtransactions. I’d finished the game (after 30 hours of gameplay) before I was even aware they existed. To access the microtransactions you have to quit out of the game and open a separate menu. It’s quite clear that the devs were told to add microtransactions against their will and they did so in the most unobtrusive way possible, to the point where you can miss the fact they’re in the game at all.

      • geldonyetich says:

        I had a massive cache of DLC bonus micro-transaction swag waiting for me when I first started the game, and accessing them pulled up a micro-transaction store in-game, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea I had to find them by circuitous manner.

        • Werthead says:

          That was a pre-order bonus thing? Okay, that’s annoying. Maybe a case where not pre-ordering is preferable so you don’t get lumbered with that stuff.

          But you don’t need to access the microtransaction store to complete the game or even achieve any kind of progress. It’s something Square demanded be put into the game about 4 weeks before it went gold and the developers stuck it on there and didn’t draw any attention to it.

        • welverin says:

          That doesn’t make your invasive micro transaction comment any more wrong headed.

          I too played through the game without ever being harassed by them.

  8. Bostec says:

    It was just so boring and janky compared to Human Revolution(which I have completed twice) I was 16 hours in with a non lethal Play-through. There was this side mission to knock someone out and then to drag their sorry arse to a crate or something. I couldn’t find it and I was dragging him all over the place, up and down the stairs, across the courtyard and the bastard was clipping on everything, from boxes to rubbish on the floor.

    I finally lost my patience when he got stuck on a box, his limbs flaying like he was having a fit. I put a bullet in his bald dome and never played it again. The story is boring, the location dull and the worst part; it has characters I don’t even remember or care about.

    • coldvvvave says:

      I completely erased this from my memory. But now I remember like it was yesterday. Never asked for this.

    • Disgruntled Goat says:

      I also got stuck on that godawful “drag the guy to the place” quest. I ended up searching for an answer online and there were hundreds of threads of people asking that exact question: nobody could figure out how the devs wanted you to finish that quest.

  9. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Ach, I did, and it still sits there unfinished. It’s clearly a good game, it has all the stuff I love from the previous games. And Prague is a superb, detailed, urban sprawl which I’m more than happy to have sacrificed some more varied locations to focus in on.

    But…but… it just didn’t click the same. Maybe you’re right, it zeroes in on a stealthy gameplay loop rather than being a crazy meeting of realistic locations and various mechanics to approach them in. Dishonored 2 did what Mankind Divided didn’t, in that respect, what a wonderful but tiny bit disappointing world to have more Deus Ex and find myself not wanting it.

  10. Turkey says:

    I never finished HR, so I wasn’t too keen on continuing Jensen’s story. If they’d started a new story with a new protagonist in the same universe, I’d probably have given it a shot.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    It had good level design for sneaking/killing. They removed ridiculous boss fights like the previous one. That’s about it, for the positives. Sneaking through vents and finding paths to the mission goal was enough for me to finish the game, because I’m a sucker for those mechanics.

    The negatives for me were many, starting with a recycled Jensen who had no real reason to be the continuing lead character. He had no personal ties to any of the NPC’s, he was just a walking bag of tricks for getting through the levels. NPC’s who might have been interesting were never developed. There wasn’t much of a main plot, and then it was truncated at the end to suggest a sequel.

    It did have one interesting side mission about a serial killer, turning Jensen into more of a cyber-noir detective than an anonymous killing machine. I wish more of the game had been like that.

  12. Jalan says:

    Nope.

    What I have done (and am in the process of doing so again, in fact) is play Invisible War with a more restrained viewpoint toward it. While some things are always going to be aggravating about it, I’ve found myself more welcoming to it generally than I was when it initially released.

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      Risingson says:

      Last time I tried the loading times killed me. They were everywhere. Thief 3 is a bit like that, isn’t it?

      • Jalan says:

        Indeed, the loading is prominent enough that it could be considered an in-game character. As to how it compares to Thief 3 – I couldn’t say. Unfortunately I bypassed Thief 3 entirely (honestly only really having given the entire Thief series a look long after the fact, and even then I weirdly got hooked on The Dark Mod which isn’t even part of it) so if it suffers from load-itis like Invisible War, I’d have to take the word of others on it.

        • Megatron says:

          Loading points are nowhere near as bad in Thief 3 as they are in IW. There are less of them in general, larger levels (thanks to people bitching about IW), plus Garret takes a lot more time crossing a level than Deus McExface does in IW.

          I revisted IW not that long ago and jesus H, they’re a real immersion killer.

    • Petethegoat says:

      Nice to hear that it’s still alright. I really enjoyed it as a kid, and I always wondered if it was just because I didn’t know better, but I have fond memories of reasonably dense, interesting hub areas.

      • Jalan says:

        That is something I do enjoy about it. While the levels overall aren’t the massive sprawls most now come to expect from games, they do pack in quite a bit for what constraints the game was developed around.

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    Grizzly says:

    I find my opinions mirroring those of the other commenters. I did enjoy Mankind Divided for what it was, but it felt lacklustre compared to Human Revolution or indeed Dishonored 2 (which to this day I frequently find myself spelling as “Dishonoured”, because all the british english has started rubbing off on me and now I can’t go back plshelp). There were a lot of interesting and cool things in there, including the story being far more reactive to what you actually do in it’s many missions then any of the games in the franchise so far, but for each good idea there’s a half baked idea in there too.

    In a lot of ways, it’s not more Human Revolution. The story often feels as tone deaf as a pepsi commercial, and the most interesting sidequest in the game (the one where Jensen got his experimental augs from) cuts out without really resolving anything. Human Revolution was a self contained story, Mankind Divided is in a lot of ways the first part of two for a sequel in which saves are intended to be carried over.

    Tom Francis has written a great piece about the intro of Prey and the intro of Mankind Divided and you can extrapolate those intros to the storytelling of both games. That alongside a rather clunky engine which felt less smooth to play then any of Arkane’s lineup or Human Revolution. It copies some ideas from Dishonored: Blink is there! It’s implementation is far less smooth then Dishonored’s blink. You get a mission to knock somebody out and carry his body around! You have to drag him by the hand because Dishonored’s “Carry body” mechanic has not been implemented in the engine. Or the Breach mode! An excuse to give people challenge maps without having to bother about those super-expensive art assets! In reality it was tied after a massive progression tree (another one on top of the one you got in the story, uggh) and there was a lot of uproar for the microtransactions that were apperently in there. I lost interest in it very quickly as it seemed easier to just restart the game itself again (before I noticed that hey this game does have a lot of stupid intros that don’t say anything and I don’t remember this much tacticool babble in Human Revolution either…).

    Of all the 0451 games I have played recently, Mankind Divided comes away as being the weakest of the lot.

    I’d love to see a post mortem for this game, as it strikes me that they needed another year. And I haven’t even played the DLC yet, whilst I have since played both Dishonored 2 and Death of the Outsider to all-achievement completion.

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      Grizzly says:

      Oh and the lovely prague was arbitrarily and clunkily divided into two maps connected via a metro system which honestly feels as if it was designed in the “between two console generations” era.

    • JustOneWay says:

      I came to say almost exactly what you have. I played this straight after Dishonoured 2 and the movement mechanics where inferior in most every respect. It took me quite a while to get used to it. Particularly the body dragging nonsense. It just felt so clunky after the fluidity of D2.
      Also the excess of superfluous collectibles, challenge maps, microtransactions etc. It could all be ignored easily, but it could still be distracting from what in many ways is a fascinating and detailed world that is often reveled through environmental details and background in the game itself.
      It is not bad at all. But it felt overcooked and under cooked at the same time. Like attention had gone to places it added nothing, while leaving potential unrealised elsewhere.

  14. foszae says:

    The city design was top tier and i never even noticed the microtransaction fuss. But i am so of tough guy (who’s actually a corporate stooge anyhow) Adam Jensen. His fake-ass Clint Eastwood voice. His pretend moral quandaries while he props up the Establishment. They want to portray him as some rugged antihero, but he’s such a trite, safe action-hero type he may as well make jokes after he kills people.

    I’ll come back to the Deus Ex universe, but please give me some sort of genuinely outsider protagonist: give me the punk girl surviving as a cat-burglar and working for the underground resistance. Give me the nebbish Indian programmer who is just starting to get black market augments but is still trying to pass as a natural. Give me any of the poor people who’ve been imprisoned in the ghetto, fighting to find the next dose of anti-rejection neuropozyne, struggling with half-broken augments, scrabbling to find some way back into a furtive, fugitive life in the normal world. Just let me play as anyone other than safe generic white boy Jensen…

    • Poison_Berrie says:

      You do realize that his fake-ass voice is basically his voice actors actual voice, right?

    • kyynis says:

      Yes. Augmented cat-burglar immersive sim was exactly what I wanted while playing the game. Anti-terrorist storyline felt so contrived when you spend most of the game time exploring the second best city hub in PC gaming (call it nostalgia, but Santa Monica takes the cake) and doing some breaking and entering on the side.

    • melancholicthug says:

      Haha wtf. The voice actor for Jensen was person acting (?) in The Expanse, and he talks just like that. I remember giggling every time he spoke.

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      iris79 says:

      Agree so much! Deus ex needs a better protagonist who actually is an outsider

  15. E_FD says:

    It was never less than competent, but I don’t think it every really shed this feeling of having been thought up at a shareholders’ meeting with no premise beyond “Deus Ex: HR sold alright, put out some more”, and working backwards from there.

  16. BooleanBob says:

    My god am I tired of tight loops.

  17. particlese says:

    I played the tutorial up until some dudes showed up who needed shooting. I do want to play the rest of the game some day, but that pre-intro – complete with pre-rendered backstory dump lead-in, if I recall correctly – did not do much to inspire me to play, and I was already playing other games at the time.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Yeah, it was quite good.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      To elaborate, Prague is stunning and one of the best immersive sim city hubs in recent years. While many complain about a lack of globetrotting, the game visits Dubai, Switzerland and London in missions, so really the only difference is the lack of multiple major hubs… The ending was fine. They wrapped up all the major plot threads of this game and left some mystery and questions open for the next, while also increasingly building towards the events of the original series. Given the build up in and around the London mission I don’t see how anyone can seriously claim the ending comes out of nowhere. The only thing you could say is maybe there could’ve been more of wrap-up cutscene with the villain after you defeat him, before you go to the epilogue.

      The game is not short unless you speedrun it. I spent 100+ hours on a single playthrough plus DLC. If you take the time to explore and do side missions there’s plenty there. (the Harvester detective quest and the drug underground are highlights)

      Cool dialogue puzzles, great art-direction, solid stealth and combat… and remote hacking is a neat addition (very handy).

      Oh and the thematic elements work much better than anyone gives them credit for. Perfect? No, but they do interesting things with it and thoughtfully so.

      The DLC is pretty good, especially Criminal Past, though my one complaint is that (paid or not) System Rift and Desperate Measures should be integrated into the main game similar to Witcher 3 or Mass Effect DLC (ie get mission from NPC, take subway to mission area) instead of being separated into standalone things, because both take place during the main story and would’ve fit more elegantly that way.

  19. malkav11 says:

    I did. I enjoyed it more or less, and even managed to complete it despite a major early game section looking like this: link to steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net

    most of the time and rendering it extremely difficult to progress. (I’ve not seen any other reports of this bug nor ever found a solution to it, it just didn’t manifest to speak of once I finished that section). But I was quite done with the game by the end and have never gone back to play the DLC I got with the season pass.

  20. Hyena Grin says:

    I enjoyed it, and finished it (which is more than I can say about a lot of games), but there were definitely periods where I got a little annoyed by the repetition of Prague itself. (Spoiler ahead)

    I’d gotten so sick of running back and forth and walking subways that when the martial law part kicked in which just made it ten times more tedious to get around Prague, I very nearly stopped playing then and there.

    I don’t think I’ve ever grown to dislike such a beautiful environment as much as I did Prague.

    I felt like if they were going to introduce a ‘hostile hub’ they should’ve done so by moving you to a new area, where the stealth is at least fresh. There’s nothing satisfying about saying ‘Oh it used to annoy me that I had to run all the way through these streets but now I have to crawl the entire way there instead.’ A new area, even a new part of Prague if they wanted to reuse assets, would have made it much less tedious.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Really disagree with that. The inversion of a familiar space is what makes it interesting (I really liked the curfew, stealthing around the rain-soaked streets illuminated by the flashing light of police cars)… but obviously if you’re already not enjoying the setting that’s not going to change.

      • Hyena Grin says:

        Yeah, I know that’s what they were trying to do. Space inversion has worked really well in a bunch of games and situations. The transformation that forces you to look at a space in a new way and appreciate it from a different perspective, can be really awesome.

        I did not feel that in Prague. Part of it I think is that I enjoyed the aesthetics of the space but didn’t enjoy it as a game space in which action takes place. Especially after spending so much time there, I felt like its positives had worn out their welcome. Unlike a lot of games with persistent spaces, where familiarity leads to greater appreciation, I liked Prague less the more time I spent in it. It felt more and more claustrophobic and rigid, rather than feeling bigger and more free-form than it appeared at first. Which is a weird reaction to have because there’s definitely a lot of paths and secrets to uncover.

        Ultimately I didn’t think Prague had enough going for it to justify the amount of time you spent there, and so when the game tips Prague on its side and says ‘okay, more of this but slower’ I just didn’t react well.

        I can totally understand why someone might enjoy the inversion, it just didn’t work for me in this case. I should also stress that although I’m using some strong language to describe how I felt, I still overall really liked the game. I’m just trying to articulate that moment of frustration that I felt with the game for forcing me to sneak around an environment I just wanted to get away from.

    • Megatron says:

      I found getting around Detroit in HR quite tedious at times. Every goal seemed to be designed to be on the opposite side of the city from the one preceding it, requiring a lot of back-tracking and running past/through that damned garage/alleyway.

  21. Frosty Grin says:

    Yes, and it was great. It even was the only game in the series that I played but still felt relatable and easy to follow.

  22. Coming Second says:

    Really enjoyed Human Resources, and have long been an apologist for its story beats. I remember playing the DLC for it and thinking “Yep, if they simply produce more of this in the sequel, sign me up.” And yet I never finished Mankind Dividend.

    It’s tough to nail what exactly about it failed to grip me. I loved the stealth mechanics, the absolutely beautiful level design and slowly opening up more and more of Prague as I upgraded Jensen. I think it’s mainly that the story and premise are so gosh darn clunky. The dialogue is laughably bad (I quickly began seeing Jensen’s Interpol boss as Thornton Reed from Garth Marenghi), and the less said about augmentation = racism the better. I found it difficult to engage with any of it, and once I discovered the ending was a ‘wait until the sequel~’ cop-out I lost the will to keep going (Ironically it seems its poor showing sales-wise is going to curtail the appearance of a third game). A damn shame, because there’s lots of little bits of brilliance in there that could have added up to a brilliant game, but it lacks all cohesion.

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