Is it just me or has 2016 lacked the intensity of 2015 in terms of game releases?
I feel like this time last year had me gasping for breath as I attempted to complete all of the indie adventures and AAA giants I had on my list, and almost all of them were adored or labelled masterpieces! But to be honest all I can recall playing for the last few months is Overwatch. Don't get me wrong, I love that game! But seriously, guys, where are all the RPGs?!
I'm the kind of gamer who loves getting lost in expansive worlds; I love having mindless conversations with NPCs, forgetting the main quest, delving into an abundance of side-missions and playing in the style that I deem fit. I haven't enjoyed these freedoms since Dark Souls 3, and even that couldn't satisfy my love for exploration and conversation holes.
But Gamescom 2016 changed that, thanks to a few short minutes with Adam Jensen.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
To be honest, I'd almost forgotten about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Its massive release date delay pushed the game far out of sight and out of mind, despite my admiration for Human Revolution. So when I was confronted with an interview and gameplay session with the title at Gamescom, I wasn't really sure what I'd make of it, or whether I was excited.
I had the opportunity to play half an hour of Mankind Divided's opening mission on the floor. I skipped all of its cinematics in order to delve into its gameplay as fast as possible to see whether it was the stealth RPG I wanted it to be — there would be time for story later. There's a bit of a learning curve with Mankind Divided — Square Enix have opted for a rather unusual control scheme — but once I came to grips with everything and could relax within this scifi universe, I realized it was the game I'd been missing for months.
Just to preface, I was surprised by how much I liked Human Revolution, and speaking with one of the developers it seems Square were just as surprised by its reception. The bleak narrative, discussions on corruption and mankind's racist tendencies were unique and helped craft a scifi universe that felt almost familiar. Not only in how it relates to our own world, but how it borrows from films like Blade Runner and other scifi masterpieces.
So I guess I didn't have much hope that the company could replicate that success, considering they now had to build upon such a critically successful title.
But I was delighted to see that Mankind Divided was expanding upon that world and quick to immerse players in its depressingly bleak image of mankind's future. But while many reviewers have called out MD's lacking narrative, it almost doesn't matter to me. I wanted an RPG, I wanted to be a master of stealth and I wanted an interesting world to explore with tons of people to talk to, and Deus Ex was determined to grant me all that I desired.
Augmenting My Play Style
Seriously people, I can't even describe how much I missed conversation wheels. Being able to pick how Jensen responds to any given situation is a delight, and I'm determined to prolong every conversation for as long as possible, especially considering how well written the game's dialogue is. But the minute-to-minute gameplay in Mankind Divided is what compelled me to write about it.
For starters, the game's hub world in Prague is a superb achievement. The level of depth and surprising amount of side missions had me ignoring the main quest for so long that my commander became increasingly fed up with my meandering. He screamed at me from within my DualShock controller, but I didn't care. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and no disgruntled army lad was going to come between me and my good times.
But once you leave this space and set off on one of Mankind's various missions, you come in contact with Jensen's new combat mechanics and the kind of gameplay freedom so many of us crave. Though I was determined to keep my first playthrough of Mankind Divided combat-free, those augmentations are too good, man. They're just far too good.
With so many great abilities at your fingertips and so many varying combinations to unleash them in, I'm already gearing myself up for my second playthrough. Mankind Divided scatters alternative routes everywhere, offers an unprecedented degree of verticality for a Deus Ex game and encourages players to experiment. And while all of this tremendous action is exhilarating to engage with, I'm still longing to return to the game's hubworld, to chat with its NPCs and become more invested in its universe.
Mankind Divided, just like Human Revolution before it, has surprised me. And I've more than happy to welcome that surprise into my living room. Now, is this article done? Can I go home and play Deus Ex yet? AWESOME!