Sending me four new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [official site] screenshots for Gamescom (I say 'screenshots' - one looks like an actual screenshot and even that might be staged), Square Enix are probably hoping I'll gush over the graphics tech or pore over them for plot hints. Nope.
I am, however, really into a sculpture which appears in one screenshot of the Prague city hub. That screenshot up top there. The sculpture on the right - the withered tree holding aloft a concrete cube. That's great that, isn't it? Let's have a closer look:
It's an interesting piece. Let's break it down into parts, from the bottom up: a base of many blocks of different sizes and shapes (buildings?); a dead tree; and a honking great concrete cube engulfing the upper branches. Pushed to play the misguided-but-kinda-fun-anyway game of "What does it mean?" I might say something about the growth of human civilization with the organic, and the relationship between the two. The tree meeting the cube might be the precise, technical growth of humanity abandoning the organic, or perhaps the organic is being destroyed by that same hard-edged technology - though branches continued to grow and curl around the cube. It's a matter of perspective, and very Deus Ex-y either way.
I dig it. I would say "Ooh!" if I saw it in the street or a gallery, and circle it beaming.
I'm reminded a bit of Today We Reboot the Planet, an installation at the Serpentine Sackler gallery in 2013 by Adrián Villar Rojas. Its centrepiece was a vault with shelves containing several thousand unfired clay objects, feeling like an alien intelligence had visited long-dead human civilisation and couldn't distinguish people from possessions or even live from dead. Giant cracking cubes sat next to casts of Frankensteined toys; smooth horns curled and rose around decaying oranges; a prone human figure, soil and growing potatoes wedged into cracks, gems pressed into its surface, and water bottles dripping into its chest held by rods. It was very good and I wish I'd visited it more.
Anyway, back to Deus Ex. I do think the sculpture is over-egged. The splintering of the roots and lower branch are tacky, too on the nose, though I suppose that could be damage rather than part of the original sculpture. The leaves growing round the base are scruffy and detract from the power of the image, though I suppose that might be telling that the sculpture is now neglected.
It's fun seeing the sculpture as both an art asset in a game and as a sculpture in a world.
Also, check out that graffiti: "A WRENCH IS A TOOL, NOT A HUMAN BEING!" I don't know what graffiti is like in Montreal, but most of the scrawl near my flat in Edinburgh says "CIGS" in curvy script, with "DEBT" around in a few places - there's a stark statement for you. People don't tend to write out, punctuation and all, bigoted quips they've heard Jeremy Vine say on the radio. Y'all get over-excited with your environmental storytelling.
Looks like the Prague hub might have some other cool sculptures too, though I'm not sold on its fashion. I like the asymmetry and layering, but the men's looks especially feel a bit... 2013.
Also sure I guess these are new screenshots too whatever: