Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a perfect way to reboot the franchise.
The game itself wasn't perfect, but the mechanics and story were a fantastic way to bring Deus Ex back into the mainstream. Square Enix presented gamers with a story about the dangers of technology and public manipulation at a time where the subjects were more at the forefront of culture than ever before.
Three years later, it's clear that Square Enix is ready to expand on the Deus Ex universe. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of the most anticipated games of the year, and that's not simply because of its pedigree: from the moment that Square Enix first revealed what the game would play like, fans and non-fans alike have been hoping to see more of Adam Jensen's continued adventures.
It's not just about the game, however: Square Enix is clearly hoping to turn Deus Ex into a multimedia franchise, with a number of different projects located well outside of the gaming space. Strangely enough, the publisher has kept most of its Deus Ex projects away from the limelight — until earlier today, that is.
Ahead of its showing at E3 2016, Square Enix finally gave fans an idea of what to expect from the Deus Ex franchise as a whole:
Deus Ex: Universe
Fans have known about Deus Ex: Universe for some time now — Square Enix announced the initiative before Mankind Divided was announced. However, the live stream finally revealed the first tangible information regarding Universe, and while the name may suggest otherwise, it's largely a standard multimedia campaign ... for the most part, at least.
Universe will be composed of everything you'd expect from a campaign like this. A graphic novel, a mobile app, a traditional novel, even a clothing line — they're all a part of Deus Ex: Universe, and they're all things that gamers have seen before. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information about these different facets of the project — save that the novel will see protagonist Adam Jensen in between games, fans still don't know much about any of the products.
Easily the most interesting part of Universe is Square Enix's partnership with Open Bionics. In what may be the strangest (and greatest) crossover promotion ever, Open Bionics is working on a real, working replica of Adam Jensen's augmented arm ... sans weapons, of course. The 3D-printed arm is currently a work-in-progress, but Square Enix promised that the designs would be open-source — basically, anyone with the knowledge and hardware will be able to create their own bionic arm.
Deus Ex: Go
As part of Square Enix's long line of mobile games, Deus Ex: Go will be hitting app stores sometime later this summer. It continues the traditional gameplay mechanics of Square Enix's other Go titles, with a larger focus on different augmentations and stealthy infiltration. Better yet, a puzzle creator will launch sometime after Deus Ex Go's release, giving players the chance to build their own levels from scratch. There's no specific release date or price point yet, but it wouldn't be all that surprising to see something at E3 next week.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Breach
Considering that traditional Deus Ex games are heavy on story, they're typically slower, more methodical experiences. There are few fans who would ever want to change that, but there are also those who wish they could simply jump into the action without the need for a few dozen different save files.
Enter Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Breach. The mode is a brand new, completely separate story from the main game — the gameplay mechanics may carry over from Mankind Divided, but Breach focuses almost exclusively on combat, stealth and environmental puzzle-solving. There's also a big focus on community, with optional challenges and leaderboards constantly pushing players to do better.
Finally, there's the new graphical style. Abandoning any real sense of realism, Breach takes place entirely within a virtual world — and the visuals certainly match that aesthetic.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Then, there's Mankind Divided.
The demo begins with a brief look at Adam Jensen's new apartment. Anyone who played Human Revolution will instantly recognize a few references to that game, and the relaxed pace is a great way to explore the environment and learn a bit about the world. As far as story goes, after a terrorist attack in Prague, Interpol agent Adam Jensen is sent in to try and figure out what happened. This section appears to be near the beginning of the game — mostly due to Jensen's augmentations needing a reset, just like in Human Revolution — but there's no real way to know for sure.
Jensen's first objective is to find a doctor, but it's not long before a wrench is thrown into his plans. A local gang has taken over the doctor's bookshop-turned-augmentation facility, and it's up to Jensen to rectify the situation. From there, the demo focuses on two of Deus Ex's core mechanics: exploration and combat.
For the most part, combat seems to have made the jump from Human Revolution intact. Augmentations can seemingly be switched on the fly, with a new quick-select weapon wheel joining the inventory menu. Otherwise, it's the same player-chosen blend of stealth, gunplay and augmentations — and Jensen's new abilities look like they'll be a blast to use.
Even more impressive is the level design. In Human Revolution, players had some semblance of freedom, but it didn't always feel natural. The same couldn't be said of the demo, where alternate paths and shortcuts felt like legitimate parts of the world: there were no blinking lights leading players to the path, only a few hints that objects could be manipulated to create a new path. Hopefully, the full game features this same level of polish throughout — at the very least, the areas shown throughout the demo looked fantastic.
World-building is another strong point in the demo. There are a few clues to the larger story (such as Sarif Industries CEO David Sarif surviving the events of the first game), but it's the attention to detail that really steals the show. Not only is the environment littered with little touches, but the way that people react to Jensen himself helps sell the idea of a world that's truly afraid of augmented citizens. Square Enix also promised that the world will change based on your actions — for instance, if players choose to enter the subway in the "Naturals Only" line, they can expect some resistance from civilians and police alike.
It may not necessarily represent what the full game will be like, but the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided demo looked great. There's a polish to the game that Human Revolution lacked: everything feels smoother, more realistic. Jensen isn't transported into some bizarre combat-only arena, quests don't have to start with a strange, awkward conversation and the area shown looks to be completely seamless. Again, there's no telling if the final product will look as good as the demo, but fans definitely have a lot about which to be excited.
Square Enix has already revealed quite a bit about Deus Ex, including the main game and the studio's side projects. The game is looking great so far, but one has to wonder — what else does Square Enix have to show at this year's E3?
Thankfully, it won't be long before fans find out: E3 2016 is set to kick off on June 14.