The original Deus Ex game broke the mold of the first-person shooter genre established by industry juggernauts like Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D in the early '90s by introducing RPG elements and focusing on character development as well as storytelling. This mix of ideas was really revolutionary at the time when the game was introduced back in the year 2000 but with so many ideas going around, a lot of heads had to bump first before a game could come into fruition. In the end, the game managed to succeed against all odds.
The Deus Ex was such a success that, in 2003, developer Ion Storm took its game to a different level with the follow up Deus Ex: Invisible War, which focused heavily on the player's choice.
The game was not a failure per se but it couldn't capture the impact that the first game had and unfortunately developer Ion Storm had to shut down operations leaving a great idea up in the air.
Lucky for us, in 2011 developer Eidos Montreal and publisher Square Enix gave the franchise a huge make-over to reinvigorate the core pillars that made this game great in the first place and, pardon the pun, augmented the franchise with the critically acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the original game, is an accomplishment in video game lore because it not only brought back the franchise into popularity, it gave us an iconic figure in the mechanically augmented bad-ass that is Adam Jensen.
It looked like Deus Ex: Human Revolution was what the original team envisioned back in the '90s and the franchise really found its identity.
Naturally, the next question was: where does the franchise go from here?
Well, I had the chance to ask this question and talk to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Eidos Montreal producers Oliver Proulx and Fleur Marty, as well as Etienne Giroux, Square Enix Montreal game designer of Deus Ex Go which joins the popular Go line up that includes Hitman Go and Lara Croft Go.
I also had the chance to get a first look at both games (Mankind Divided and Deus Ex Go) and play through them and I addressed them during the interviews.
Jonas Casillas: With such a positive response to Human Revolution, and the introduction of Adam Jensen as a character who manages to be a focal point keeping everything together like gameplay and storytelling, where do you go from there with Mankind Divided?
OLIVER PROULX: Obviously we wanted to build upon on everything that Human Revolution did right and make it better. The expectations are higher this time and we want to match those expectations and improve on the high bar that was set by Human Revolution.
FLEUR MARTY: J.F Dugas (Game Director) always said that to make Human Revolution the team had to be naïve and to make Mankind Divided the team had to be courageous this time.
Following up on what you just said, Fleur, regarding being naïve first with Human Revolution, would that be in terms of the game itself or the process with the development team?
PROULX: Well, when we first approached the Human Revolution project it was like: "who are these new guys?" "are you guys crazy?" and we had to be careful with how we made the game since we were very contested with the things we were building.
And how are you more courageous now?
PROULX: We flirted with the idea of killing Adam [laughs]
PROULX: But we abandoned that idea real quick in favor of what made Human Revolution so good that it was the development of Adam and how tough the events of Human Revolution were on him.
And that's why I think this franchise separates itself from story teller giants like Mass Effect, for example, in which you decided to keep building the world you created but focusing on the growth of your main character. As a gamer, what can I expect in terms of developing Adam's story?
PROULX: Although your actions and decisions will affect the world overall, they will weigh more on Adam as the game progresses and not only will reflect on his behavior the consequences of those actions but we want you to feel that you either help Adam or just made him more miserable.
Fleur, you mentioned a new addition to the game called Breach that could easily be mistaken for a mini game in the core game. I had the chance to play it and let me tell you, it was so addictive! Is this a complement to the core game or is this just something that introduces us to a new aspect of the franchise?
MARTY: Well, the core pillars are there: RPG elements with customization, Stealth since you are a Ripper (virtual hacker). Hacking which is your main tool through Breach and the only one that may be a little bit on the back seat is the Social element since the interactions with characters is a little bit limited.
Sometimes, core games with mini games can feel a little bit like a cop out and with such a narrative heavy game, this could have been a potential risk to include, no?
MARTY: That's why I was afraid when you said that you are someone that prefers narrative over gameplay [laughs] but I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I loved it. The effort put in the creation of a game can be seen and felt and let me tell you that the idea of Breach is truly appreciated since it's so challenging and creative.
MARTY: Thank you!
One last question, and you guys don't need to answer if you don't want to. Looking at the solid line up of such iconic characters currently in your hands: Hitman's Agent 47, Lara Croft and now Adam Jensen joining the ranks of your other properties like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts – would it be possible to see a future fighting game in the style of Super Smash Bros.?
PROULX: First time I heard about it [laughs] – I think all the franchises are focusing more on our own projects at the the moment but, hey, you never know, right?
MARTY: [Laughs] Oh wow, me too! I saw where you were going with this but I was like: "That would be cool!" [laughs] I like the idea!
Thank you so much for your time, guys.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to speak quickly with Etienne Giroux, Square Enix Montreal game designer of Deus Ex Go.
Etienne, Deus Ex joins the Go line up and let me ask you something: Hitman translates well on to the turn based mechanics since Hitman is a methodical character. Lara Croft and her platforming was another smooth transition to the Go series but how do you keep the identity of a Deus Ex game in a mobile / turn base environment?
ETIENNE GIROUX: Well, fortunately with the other two games, we have a solid foundation on which we could make a game that fit the GO style but at the same time we didn't waste much time on mechanics since we knew that was already covered and we just needed to come up with how to make it feel like a Deus Ex game.
Did you have to sacrifice a little bit of the identity of the game, for instance, the narrative or the freedom of choice that makes the core of a Deus Ex game?
GIROUX: Not at all. The only difference is that it will just feel a little bit more confined since it's a mobile game and obviously some of these elements you mentioned will feel a little bit limited but they won't be absent.
Speaking of limitations, mobile games tend to be small in scope and memory limitations are present. Sometimes you have to prioritize design over gameplay and vice versa, so which would you say took precedence?
GIROUX: I would say both. We already had a good design with the other two GO games and it was just a matter of coming up with something really unique for Deus EX. We want to keep it simple but add the complexity of the game is known for.
And obviously, you want some replayability...
GIROUX: [Laughs] Yes! and that was the most difficult part to figure out since, for example, I designed a level to complete in 30 moves and my coworker finished it in 25 moves and I was like: "how did you do it?"
And that's how the idea of the puzzle maker came to be?
GIROUX: Yes. We were inspired by the New York Times crossword puzzles.
Can you talk a little bit more about it?
GIROUX: It's still in the works since we want to give the fans a great, finished and polished product. But the fans will be happy to know that they will be able to create their own content.
And just like that, you get your replayability value...
GIROUX: [Laughs] Yeah.
One last question, if you don't mind Etienne: would it be possible to expand to multiplayer and, for instance, me being able to play a crated puzzle from someone in another country?
GIROUX: The possibility is there, yes. We'll see in the future depending on how our core game is received and how well it does.
Thank you very much for your time, Etienne.
So, there you have it. After the success of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the team at Eidos Montreal has enough confidence to try and include their own new ideas just like Fleur Marty mentioned, they are being courageous. Introducing new aspects to this franchise and addressing minor complaints from the previous game with a smooth and powerful game engine. Trust me, the game looks gorgeous.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is not aiming to reinvent the wheel it just wants to perfect it and find more uses for it. Eidos Montreal has found an identity and they just want to establish it.
As for Deus Ex Go, it joins a line up of mobile games that aim to be game changers in the mobile arena. Very excited to see which direction Square Enix Montreal decides to take in terms of creating a series that give a bite-sized version of the core games but still satisfy hardcore gamers.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be available August 2016 and Deus Ex GO available Summer 2016.