Imagine, if you will, waiting five years for a sequel to a fantastic game. Then imagine that you only get half of that sequel. Then imagine never getting the second half because the team gets shuffled around to finish another team’s trilogy.
If you’re a Deus Ex fan, you don’t have to imagine any of this – that’s literally what happened.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was, to me, one of the greatest science fiction stories to come out of the triple-A space. It wasn’t without its flaws, but for the most part, the cyberpunk-infused immersive sim managed to deliver a morally complicated narrative that actually made interesting points about the human condition. Beyond that, it was also just a total blast – filled with compelling stealth sandboxes and dynamic shooting setpieces.
The sequel, 2016’s Mankind Divided, was even better upfront. Its narrative was murkier and more complex, and the gameplay was way more open than it had been in the previous entry. In the earliest hours, it seemed like another surefire win for Eidos-Montreal, and I was ready to declare it an all-time favorite – even if it did throw around “apartheid” way too loosely. But while I still love Mankind Divided to bits, there’s something that’s bothered me about it for years now.
It’s not finished.
Mankind Divided ends at around what seems like the midpoint. The first big bad is taken down, a grander Illuminati conspiracy is revealed, and it feels like the next major plot thread is about to unravel. Instead, however, players are forced to watch TV. And as the TV broadcast begins to recount details of Adam Jensen’s story up until that point, it begins to sink in that the game isn’t halfway over – it’s just over. After 10-ish hours, which is under half Human Revolution’s runtime, the story draws to an abrupt close and ends with a cliffhanger.
Now, this is already bad, but could’ve been better had there been any actual follow-through. But almost half a decade has passed since then, and we’re still no closer to driving Adam’s arm blades through the gullets of every last Illuminati creepazoid. Mankind Divided wasn’t an episodic game, after all, and instead just exists as a great game that cuts out at the best part.
Shortly after the game released in September of 2016, noted industry pundit Jim Sterling uploaded a video entitled, “How Square Enix Kept Meddling With Deus Ex.” In this video, they detailed Mankind Divided’s tumultuous development through verified sources, and laid bare exactly how awfully Square Enix treated Eidos Montréal. For example, microtransactions were planned without the developers’ knowledge, and they were forced to crunch at the last second in order to implement them.
“It was only after the bulk of it had been developed,” Sterling says in the video, “that they suddenly got word from Square Enix’s London office, telling them they had extra work to do.” Sterling points out that this happened two weeks before submitting the game for approval, and that reviewers (myself included) didn’t really know about them until launch day.
But it gets worse. In an earlier video, Sterling recounts a story about Mankind Divided being split in half during development, and members from the team being yanked off to go work on the sequel at a different studio.
“Mankind Divided was itself divided,” Sterling says. “It was going to be a bigger game than it will be, and has instead been altered to be a Mass Effect-style trilogy.” They point out that the story is a little older, and could have been outdated by the time of recording. However, considering the final state of Mankind Divided, it’s not that far-fetched of a report.
But if that is the case, where’s the rest of it? According to Sterling’s videos, the sequel to Mankind Divided began development in 2015, and was being made under the codename DXNG2 – “Deus Ex Next-Gen 2.” All this time later, though, and all that’s come out of Eidos Montréal was 2018’s solid Shadow of the Tomb Raider and additional work on this year’s most ambitious flop, Marvel’s Avengers. The planned Deus Ex Universe project also went nowhere, with the tie-in media releasing without a blip and no more games coming out of the franchise.
Despite Square Enix’s 2017 assurance that Deus Ex wasn’t dead… well, you know what they say. Promises, promises.
It doesn’t need to be this way, though. Yes, it was a mistake to release Mankind Divided in the state it was. Yes, there’s no undoing the damage done by its piddly little joke of a forced ending. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fanbase hungry for a proper conclusion, chomping at the bit for a new game after almost five years. With almost all of Square Enix’s announcements earlier in the decade (like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Kingdom Hearts 3, and a rebooted Tomb Raider franchise) accounted for, Deus Ex is one of the odd ones out – and that should change.
In years since Mankind Divided’s release, we’ve seen more and more Deus Ex influences creep into new games. Cyberpunk 2077 could, quite frankly, not exist without the framework provided by Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. That also applies to most marquee immersive sims released in the past decade, as you can see the mechanical and thematic similarities between them and Eidos Montréal’s pair of winners. Hell, even Shadow of the Tomb Raider played out a lot like Deus Ex, with a focus on silent takedowns and stealth platforming. Deus Ex’s influence is everywhere, and a new game could usher in a new era of innovative gameplay and ambitious storytelling.
Because Adam Jensen’s story isn’t over yet. The Illuminati is still out there, plotting their next move and keeping us all under their thumb. Until Square Enix lets him finish the fight, we’re never going to be free from their control.
We never asked for this.
We just want a new Deus Ex.
Next: Cyberpunk 2077: 5 Similarities It Has To Deus Ex (And 5 Differences)
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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.
She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.
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