Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Desperate Measures and System Rift review

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a game I gave a pretty bad score to (5/10) due to the fact it, literally, felt like half of a 10/10 game. It was a score I struggled with because the parts of the game I played were fine, it's just it had an incredibly disjointed story and wasn't nearly enough of the game for what I was paying for it. Also, I felt microtransactions were shoe-horned in and were necessary to get through the game smoothly.

    So, I was intrigued by the concept of playing Jensen's Stories, which were the DLC sidequests for the game. They would be played independently from the main game with entirely new builds for each entry. This means you can't carry over your character from the main game but have to make do with the provided points to build a unique Jensen for each game. While some may appreciate the option to change your Jensen up, the simple fact is this is particularly irksome with the fact microtransactions were such a big part of the original game. But more on that later.

Tarvos Security is a fun punching bag. Much like Belltower Security. Which is completely unrelated. :sarcasm:
    Before I decided to play two of Jensen's Stories, I had heard rumors these were possibly missions which had originally been slated to appear in the main game. I don't necessarily listen to internet scuttlebutt but I decided to keep this fact in mind while playing to see if it was true. My opinion is that Desperate Measures almost certainly was part of the main game and still should be but System Rift feels like genuine DLC.

    The premise is that Adam gets contacted by a train station employee at Ruzicka Station. She claims a member of Tarvos Security paid her in order to allow him access to a computer terminal that contained the security tapes of the bombing. Believing Tarvos Security might be involved in a cover up, Adam goes to their region office to hunt for evidence.

I did Desperate Measures quietly first then hard.
    Desperate Measures is a short one-hour level which takes place during the first day of the game and deals with the bombing of the Prague train station. The train station plot was largely dropped from the game so getting it solved was something I was looking forward to. There's a nice little human story involved here and also a tie-in to the main story's plot. It's not a particularly deep level but it's well-designed and I think it should have been part of the main game.

    I think I would have been less harsh and moved my score for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided up to a 6/10 if Desperate Measures had been part of the main game. It really does feel like this was a part of the main narrative and patches one of the major holes in the game. Not all of them, mind you, but enough for me to believe this shouldn't be one of Jensen's Stories but a mission right before Adam goes to Golem City.

The "Boss Fight" of Desperate Measures is a conversation.
    System Rift, by contrast, feels like it's own thing and something I enjoyed entirely on its own merits. Its premise is Adam gets contacted by his friend from the first game, Francis Pritchard, who is "vetting" the Santeau Group for an employee (later revealed to be David Sarif in an off-hand conversation). To do this, he needs Adam's help to break into the Palisade Blades information bank.

    It's the most secure database in the world and helping them do it is the beautiful hacker ShadowChild, who has her own agenda (because it's Deus Ex--everyone has an agenda). Along the way, Adam decides to investigate a young woman's murder because he's Adam Jensen and can leave no stone unturned.

The return of Pritchard is welcome.
    This is about a 2-3 hour expansion and there's a lot to explore in this game. While I don't think it exactly fits the timeline for the main game, I think it's inclusion in the middle of the game or final third act would have resolved another set of issues I had with the main game's length. Hell, it could be set after the main campaign and be just as much a non-ending except longer.

    I really appreciated the spike in difficulty as well as the focus on stealth for System Rift. There's actual employees rather than just guards hanging around the Palisades Blades. At one point, I found a ball pit which they'd set up for a returning co-worker. It was such a ridiculous and silly bit of fun that I immediately started to regret punching all the employees I had.

I like the character of ShadowChild.
    I was also a big fan of ShadowChild and hope she shows up in future games. The thing is, she's confusing to me because Jensen really shouldn't need a new hacker friend to crack his software problems. Jensen is already part of the Juggernaut Collective, which was an Anonymous stand-in. It's as if they're so obsessed with the idea of the Juggernaut Collective as "the resistance" they keep forgetting its a bunch of hacktivists first.

    Neither of these DLC really breaks the mold but they provide a lot of much needed extra-content to the main game. I like how System Rift provides tweaked sensors and some unique stealth challenges plus many non-human enemies you can destroy with extreme prejudice. Even so, the fact you have to pay for these levels rankles. Unfortunately, at the end of the DLC, you have to play some Breach mode in order to resolve the story and I can't say I was very fond of that segment.

I love the design for the Palisade Blades.
    There's some decent storytelling in both DLC with Desperate Measures having a twist that reveals the "cover-up" has more to do with human decency (as well as misguided love) than conspiracy while System Rift shows a feuding pair of executives sitting at the top of the world. Neither is among my favorite of Deus Ex's stories and I think they're both inferior to The Missing Link's social satire but they weren't brainless rote works either.

    In conclusion, I liked both of these games but they really do feel like something which should have been in the original game even if they'd have to make adjustments for System Rift. Furthermore, they would have improved on a lot of the original game's flaws. Re-setting Jensen's stats every time I played them also really annoyed me. Still, these self-contained stories work better than the original game.


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