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Deus Ex is currently biding its time as Eidos Montreal work on other projects—likely the Avengers project with Crystal Dynamics. It's reassuring to know that it the series could come back in some form, but will it be a continuation of Jensen's story, or a look at the post-humanist future from a different perspective? Either way, based on past form, there will it will have amazing ceilings, and people talking about the Illuminati in gravelly voices. If we're especially unlucky, it might even have a Greasel in it.
Here are some things we do want to see from the next Deus Ex game.
Travel is an underrated aspect of the Deus Ex fantasy. The conspiracies you expose are so vast you have to fly all over the world to unpick them. In the original Deus Ex you go from Liberty Island to Hong Kong, to Paris. In Human Revolution, in spite of the hubs cut from the game, you still end up visiting Detroit, Shanghai and Singapore. Even though Prague is the most detailed hub Eidos Montreal has produced, Mankind Divided still felt limited for being confined there for most of the game.
It’s a tough ask given the amount of work it takes to produce open areas with the density of interaction that we expect from Deus Ex. Hubs are central to the Deus Ex experience because they blend social and stealth spaces, and they give you the chance to absorb the world at your own pace. I want to really wallow in the dystopia. I don’t even need a mission prompt to infiltrate an apartment block, read emails and nick gang stashes. Like many, I robbed Prague’s amazing bank before the plot went there. Multiple hubs that feel different and exciting should be an essential part of a new Deus Ex.
This might make me a bad Deus Ex fan, but I am sick of vents. When I think about being a cool augmented future spy the idea of crawling around on my hands and knees in a boring grey tube doesn’t feature. There are always going to be some vents, I accept that. They are an essential path for stealthy players looking to slip behind guards. It’s a problem when ‘find a vent’ is a viable solution to every problem. I like vents that give me the chance to get an advantageous position on guards, but often they let you skip entire chunks of a level.
The vent problem is part of a wider issue with Deus Ex sandboxes. The approaches you can take are tightly defined for you. You’re the hacker specialist, or you’re the vent player, or your’re the one who shoots/arm-chisels your way through problems. These approaches are baked into each environment. If you come across a checkpoint, there will be a vent off to the right, a computer console to be hacked somewhere to the left behind a couple of guards. It’s hard to break out of these prescribed routes and be creative. Compare Deus Ex to Dishonored 2, for example, where interactions between guard AI and your special powers can be more inventive and there is skill in finding new ways to exploit the sandbox.
What were the stakes in Mankind Divided? I still have no idea, really. The game went hard on the ‘mechanical apartheid’ angle but the plot obsessed over a virus called Orchid and power struggles between various groups trying to get an act passed, or not passed, or something. This is hardly a new problem for Deus Ex, and game plots can take a real hit when content is cut and rearranged during the development process. Nonetheless I’d like more clarity from a new Deus Ex, and more personality. Mankind Divided sorely missed big characters like Sarif and even Pritchard in central roles.
I'm torn on this one. I like Jensen, I really do, and normally I don’t care about gruff beardy dudes and their various dead/captured loved ones. Jensen has a good beard, though. And good jackets. And he uses his retractable carbon fibre radiuses to brutalise his enemies, which is novel. And yes, his “I didn’t ask for this” dilemma became a meme, but it was an interesting hook for the first game.
Mankind Divided did Jensen no favours. He was buffeted along by the plot with little personal involvement and after both this game and The Missing Link, it’s increasingly hard to rejustify rebooting his powers yet again. Plus, while I’m still not tired of his armblades, it feels like we’ve seen every possible permutation of that idea in Mankind Divided. You can heat them up, shoot them, and blow them up with the right upgrades. It's time for some new augmentations.
A new character would probably have to be a another commando/spy sort so you have an excuse to go on sneaking missions, and must have a cool coat—that part is mandatory.
Deus Ex and genre stablemate Dishonored both have reputations for delivering good, chunky, post-launch singleplayer stories in the form of DLC packs. The Missing Link was an excellent addition to Human Revolution, and Andy enjoyed breaking out of prison in A Criminal Past.
When the marketing first started talking about the "Deus Ex Universe", this is the sort of thing I was hoping for: self-contained stories that slot in around the main plot. In fact I would play the heck out of a Hitman style episodic Deus Ex that moved between hubs and facilities, developing a story bit by bit.
The new Deus Ex games imagine a world built on the humble triangle. Buildings, clothing, weapons, even lamps are made up of polygonal arrangements of tiny triangles everywhere, and this should continue. If we end up struggling to design a new protagonist for the Deus Ex series a mobile, heavily augmented triangle will suffice.
The CEO of Square Enix, Yosuke Matsuda, has spoken out about the future of Deus Ex. At the start of this year, Eurogamer reported that we shouldn’t expect a new Deus Ex game anytime soon – and they’re right, though we should get one eventually. It simply isn’t Deus Ex’s turn yet, with the studio first focusing on other projects such as the next Tomb Raider and an Avengers game.
Matsuda explained all this in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, where he also talked about Final Fantasy’s anime spin off, the studio’s approach to the Eastern and Western markets, as well as augmented and virtual reality.
Earlier this year, Jody considered the uncertain future of games like Deus Ex and Dishonored in the wake of poor sales. Within, Eidos Montreal said it was "not quite ready" to answer questions on why the former had underperformed, nor would it commit to the possibility of new Deus Ex games down the line.
In conversation with gamesindustry.biz, Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda has all but confirmed Deus Ex will live on—despite other projects taking priority at present. Square Enix has published the series since 2011's Human Revolution.
"We have never said anything about discontinuing that title but for some reason that's the rumour out on the market," Matsuda tells GI.biz. "What I can say is Eidos Montreal has always developed Deus Ex, and the issue is we do not have limitless resources. We have several big titles that we work with and that's partly a factor in what our line-up looks like."
Matsuda adds: "Of course, it would be ideal if we could work on all of them all of the time, but the fact of the matter is some titles have to wait their turn. The reason there isn't a Deus Ex right now is just a product of our development line-up because there are other titles we are working on."
Matsuda recently spoke in praise of Hitman developer IO Interactive, saying that while Square Enix could no longer invest in the series, he was sure "it wouldn't be Hitman unless made by IO". Somewhat similarly, Matsuda describes Deus Ex as a "very important franchise" before stating he and his colleagues are "already internally discussing and exploring what we want do with the next instalment of it."
Gamesindustry.biz's interview with Matsuda is worth reading in full—find it in this direction.
There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. (more…)
Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: which classic PC game is on your pile of shame? Oh, boy. We also welcome your answers in the comments.
I know this is an important game. I know it inspired some of my favourite developers. I know some consider it superior to BioShock. But still it remains unplayed in my Steam library. It doesn't help that the twist is so frequently, wildly spoiled, like the videogame equivalent of The Sixth Sense. I'd love to have experienced it without knowing a thing about it, and I think that's the main reason I haven't given it a go yet: knowing I'll be getting an inferior experience. Ultimately I think I'd rather just read about this in 'best of' lists than actually dive into it myself.
I'm not sure why or how, but I never got into KOTOR. It's weird, because I liked many of BioWare's other games, and PC Gamer gave it a 91 back in the day. Whatever the cause (episodes 1-3 of the movies?), I skipped it at launch and didn't do the sequel either. Looking to rectify things, I acquired the Steam version of the game in 2009, probably as part of some game bundle. Eight years later, Steam tells me I still haven't even played the game. The graphics now look a bit dated, but that's not necessarily a stumbling block. But as proof of how old KOTOR is, you can even play the entire game on an Android device. Fun fact: I also 'own' KOTOR via Amazon Underground, which I installed on an Nvidia Shield Tablet at one point...and still never played. What is wrong with me!? Maybe one of these days I'll get around to visiting the original, but SteamLeft tells me it would take a mere 150 days of constant gaming to tackle all of my game library. Yeah, I'll get right on that...
I adore Bioshock, Deus Ex and the idea of the immersive sim, but for some reason I've never committed myself to truly playing through System Shock 2, possibly the best there ever was. I've only dabbled, getting a taste for the game and fiddling with it to run well on a modern PC. I don't even know why. Perhaps simply because it's intimidating. There are so many games I can play half-heartedly, devoting only some of my full attention. Those are often the games I turn to when I come home tired after a long day.But that wouldn't fly with System Shock 2. It demands and deserves commitment. I need to fully explore its systems and space station hallways, commit to mastering some RPG mechanics that are likely a bit clunky 18 years later, and read every scrap of worldbuilding I come across. I know I'll love it... someday. When the mood strikes, and I have the time to give SHODAN the attention she needs.
I'm not an MMO guy, and I don't think I ever will be. My many hours of GTA Online are probably as close as I'll ever get, and there's only so much time to spare. Warcraft fell between the gaps of my parents owning a PC that could run it, and that meant that by the time I could afford my own PC in 2009, I was already years behind. Since then, I've resigned myself to the fact that singleplayer games are mostly my passion, despite owning WoW and even having bought game time to try it out.
I'm sure it's very good, but that type of fantasy setting doesn't particularly appeal to me. I'm more likely to try Guild Wars 2 instead. Sorry.
Wow, I hate even admitting that especially since it's such an influential game and definitely the kind of game I would love. I just completely missed it when it came out and I never got around to it. When I finally did try it a few years ago, I was just like, ew. Ugly. I guess I'm a bit of a graphics snob, and have a really hard time playing older games unless I've got some nostalgia for them (the original Half-Life, for example, I can jump right in and feel fine).
Same thing happened with Morrowind. I tried it for the first time a couple years ago and, nope. I just couldn't bear the looks. I am a shallow, shallow person.
I tried, I really did. Whenever I try to get back into this classic cRPG I find myself getting bored halfway through the gloomy opening dungeon. I like the humour and the mysterious premise, but something about those stone grey environments made the idea of sinking another 50 hours into the game seem arduous. From everything I've read about it I know that I'll probably love it if I give it more of a chance. Maybe I will migrate to a desert island with a laptop and maroon myself for a month so I can finally wade into next year's Top 100 discussions having played it.
Warren Spector is stuck in Prey. The director of Deus Ex, who has worked on many games since labeled "immersive sims"—in fact, he coined the term in —has been playing the modern games inspired by classics like Thief and System Shock. But he hasn't finished Prey yet. Or, as he puts it: "The crew quarters are kicking my butt."
He's enjoying it though, just as he enjoyed the other recent immersive sim from Arkane Studios, Dishonored 2. "I thought they were both excellent examples of what I think of when I say 'immersive sim,'" Spector says. "They removed barriers to belief that I was in another world and they let me approach problems as problems, rather than as puzzles. I'm really glad Arkane exists and that they're so committed to the genre. Without them I'd have fewer games to play!"
Spector's not the only one who'd mourn their loss. Arkane is still around, but there's this uneasy feeling in the air that there's now some reason to worry. Not about Arkane, necessarily, but the immersive sim in general, this genre held up as the shining example of PC gaming at its most smartest and most complex. None of the last three big-budget immersive sims—Prey, Dishonored 2, and Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided—have broken a million sales on Steam.
It's always been a niche genre, defined by player freedom, environmental storytelling, and a lot of reading diary entries. How long can they be propped up by the fact that some designers really like making them?
In the 1990s and early 2000s immersive sims seemed like the future, an obvious extension of what 3D spaces and believable physics and improving AI could do when working together. But they rarely sold well. When Ion Storm’s third Thief and second Deus Ex game flopped, the studio closed. Looking Glass Studios, responsible for System Shock, Ultima Underworld, and the first two Thief games, was already gone. The immersive sim went into hibernation for years.
Despite the love and praise for games like Deus Ex, they're not easy to sell to players. Jean-François Dugas, executive director of the Deus Ex franchise at its current owners Eidos Montreal, says it can be tough even convincing people to make games that let players deviate from the critical path.
"You need to realize and accept that you will build a ton of material that a good part of your audience will miss," he says. "Since you are building possibilities through game mechanics and narrative scenarios, you know that you might not be able to bring all the pieces to the quality level you would like. You have to rely on the effect of the sum of the parts to transcend it all. The GTA series is a great example of that. When you look at all the pieces individually, they’re not the best in class but what they offer their audience when combined is unparalleled. After that, there is a big effort required to convince your team and upper management that spending money on things that many players will not see is a good idea," he says with a laugh.
Spector disagrees with the notion that immersive sims are harder to convince publishers on. "Honestly, I haven't really noticed any particular challenge. It's not like you go into a pitch throwing around geeky genre identifiers. The reality is that immersive sims are action games, first and foremost and most people get that. It's just that the player gets to decide what sort of action he or she engages in and when to do so. Selling action games isn't that tough. Well, at least it's no tougher than selling any other game idea—they're all tough to sell!"
After Looking Glass and Ion Storm's closure the influence of immersive sims was still felt, as people who'd worked on those games brought similar ideas to Oblivion, Fallout 3, and BioShock. The immersive sim philosophy survived in STALKER, Pathologic, and the early projects of Arkane Studios, Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might & Magic.
And then in 2011 Eidos Montreal's prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution came along, a true immersive sim and one with the Deus Ex name stamped across it. It sold . The year after that Arkane teamed with Bethesda to bring out Dishonored, a game in the lineage of Thief which enjoyed "" of the year. Sequels to both followed, as well as Prey, Arkane's spiritual successor to System Shock. The immersive sim was back.
And yet in 2016, Mankind Divided's launch sales were significantly lower than Human Revolution's. In response the series has seemingly been put on hold, though a publicist told me Eidos Montreal are "not quite ready" to answer questions on why it appears to have failed, or whether there will ever be another full-size Deus Ex.
There are plenty of potential reasons why Deus Ex: Mankind Divided sold disappointingly. It launched a long five years after its predecessor. Its microtransactions and pre-order model were unpopular, and though reviews were positive, most noted that it felt shorter and had an even less satisfying ending than Human Revolution. And yet, though they lacked those specific problems, neither of Arkane's immersive sims was a smash hit either. Perhaps Dishonored 2's launch issues on PC hurt sales, though the history of video games is full of rocky launches that sold like gangbusters. As I write this, Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 is still in Steam's top 25 in spite of its bugginess.
Even in their heyday all it took was two commercial failures, Deus Ex: Invisible War and Thief: Deadly Shadows, for immersive sims to go out of fashion for years. Are we about to see that happen again?
Human Revolution and Dishonored both seemed to find an audience beyond traditional immersive sim fans, beyond the people who know to try 0451 in every combination lock . Their success encouraged Eidos Montreal and Arkane to go ahead with big-budget follow-ups, but of course games cost a lot to make, both in terms of time and money, need to justify that with strong sales.
Spector says, "it's clear that there hasn't been a huge immersive sim hit on par with some of the other video games out there. I mean, we're still waiting for the game that sells a gazillion copies! I think part of the reason for that is that immersive sims require—or at least encourage—people to think before they act. They tend not to be games where you just move forward like a shark and inevitably succeed. In the best immersive sims, you have to assess the situation you're in, make a plan and then execute that plan, dealing with any consequences that follow. That's asking a lot of players who basically have to do that every moment of their waking lives—in the real world, I mean."
Dishonored 2 applies the immersive sim's freeform gameplay to combat like nothing before it.
It wasn't just immersive sims that didn't sell as well as expected in 2016, however. Titanfall 2, Street Fighter V, and Watch Dogs 2 also struggled for their own reasons—while big, acclaimed games like Overwatch and Battlefield 1 dominated. Dugas says that "your product needs to be more than 'GOOD' today to be successful—whether you are making a movie or a game. People have options and last time I checked there are only 24 hours in a day. If you are not good enough, your audience has gone somewhere else. Bottom line: I believe that if we make outstanding games, no matter what type of genre it is in, people will be there, whether it’s an immersive sim or not."
Jordan Thomas, who worked on Thief: Deadly Shadows and all three BioShocks before going indie with The Magic Circle, puts it this way. "Are immersive sims suffering specifically in the market or is everybody? I lean more towards the latter. I think the games space is experiencing a new boom and the simpler your concept is to communicate the more likely you are to find your demographic quickly because they're seeing hundreds and hundreds of concepts at a time. I think that immersive sims traditionally have struggled a little bit with helping people to understand what they're about because they're about many things. They're about a feeling, a cross-section of ideas, whereas a game that is like, 'No—this is just to quote Garth Marenghi—Balls-to-the-wall horror,' it's easier for people to wrap their heads around from a marketing perspective."
Making games like these is expensive, too. "Looking at something like Prey," Thomas continues, "everything is just sparkling. The sheer amount of salesmanship that can go into all of the different reactions that the player can concoct with their chemistry set—literally, in that game, but you know what I mean. The idea of objects being combined to some clever result, every single inch of it shines."
As an indie developer, that level of detail and scope is simply out of reach. "I do think that most indie games that would self-accept the label immersive sim have to compromise because the games that typically are associated with this subgenre were kitchen-sink games."
Perhaps immersive sims are just a particularly tough sell in a crowded market. The next ones on the horizon—a Dishonored 2 expandalone, a spiritual sequel to Ultima Underworld, and both a new System Shock and a remake of the original—might face the same problem. They all have something else in common, though. They're all tied directly to existing immersive sims, whether directly or spiritually. None of them are brand new ideas.
It's said that though few people saw the Velvet Underground live, everyone who did seems to have formed a band of their own. The original Deus Ex sold 500,000 copies, a decent amount at the time, and it can seem like practically everyone who bought a copy became a game designer (or at least a games journalist) after studying from its design bible. Its influence is unavoidable, as is System Shock's. That's not to say their influence makes for bad games. Prey is the best thing I've played this year, even though it's essentially System Shock 2 with zero-gravity bits. But there's perhaps a limit to the number of spiritual sequels to the same games we really need. If poor sales motivate future immersive sims to move further from their roots, to try out new settings and inspirations, that might be a silver lining to their current troubles.
Hope comes in the shapes of games that incorporate some of the core elements of immersive sims without being kitchen sinks. Thomas gives the example of Near Death, a survival game set on an Antarctic research base.
"Near Death is made by folks who worked on assorted BioShocks and Deus Exes," he says, "but it is not oriented towards combat whatsoever. It is set in a world with no magic, just you versus an environment which, arguably, is one of the callsigns you might associate with immersive sims." It's another game that presents problems rather than puzzles, in "a fully realized environment that has rules that you must learn in order to eke out an existence. It is that concept writ large. You are trying not to freeze to death and you are using your wits to combine systemic objects in the environment based on some amount of real-world common sense."
It may not seem like it when you're punching a tree to collect wood for the hundredth time, but according to Thomas there's a direct connection.
"I honestly feel like a lot of the people who are building these ultra-successful early access survival games are influenced by immersive sim design. That notion of systems alchemy is at the core of that. When the trend caught on it felt fresh, right? It felt liberated from some of the rhetoric associated with immersive sims and very seldom about story at all. It's if you took the parts of the genre that we used to say we loved, which were that all of the rules of the game could be atomized and combined into new molecules—that's what we told ourselves as developers of these things. 'This is a real place, man! With a sort of mathematics that you can learn to speak and you're gonna express your mastery through doing that!' But survival games are that crystallized and they let go of a lot of the high-minded philosophy and let atavism rule."
Survival games aren't the only place the influence of immersive sims is felt. New open-world RPGs and sandbox games are all obliged to emphasize player choice. Horror games like Alien: Isolation and Resident Evil 7 borrow directly from the immersive sim playbook right down to the environmental storytelling through graffiti, and stealth games like Hitman with creative paths to murder can evoke the same feeling. Indie games like Consortium, The Magic Circle, and even Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon each take aspects of the immersive sim each and expand on them, and so do walking simulators. Both Gone Home and Tacoma take the bit of Thief where you rummage through someone's belongings and read their diary, building up an idea of who they are, and make that the entire game. Tacoma is even set on an abandoned space station, possibly the most immersive sim location imaginable.
If immersive sims become too commercially risky for the current climate, and if they go into hibernation for another decade, they won't really be gone. Thanks to the spread of their concepts throughout games they can't really go anywhere—because they're already everywhere.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>
There are lots of things I love about NEO Scavenger [official site]. I love how, despite its lo-fi visuals, it conveys the fickle fortunes and indifferent cruelty of a wilderness better than many technologically superior survival games. I love its ridiculously detailed combat system that lets you rugby-tackle feral dogs. I love the ambient sound effects that convey the misleading serenity of its natural environments; the chirping of birds, the wind in the trees, the soft crunch of grass underfoot. Delightful. (more…)
The original Deus Ex is arguably the best the series has to offer from a narrative perspective, however it's not aged well since its mid-2000 release. Adam Jensen now flies the flag for the action role-playing stealth 'em up, however modder Totalitarian has spent the last five years reimagining JC Denton's turn of the millennium debut via his or her GMDX overhaul mod. That's now launched its latest and final version 9.0.
Billed as a "large-scale" modification that offers the "definitive Deus Ex experience", GMDX (otherwise know as 'Give Me Deus Ex') targets the original game's flaws, applies a layer of polish, and adds "new layers of depth that one would have hoped to see in a sequel."
In doing so, new effects, animations and graphics have been introduced; a new user interface has been installed; the game's physics have been tweaked; and weapon aesthetics and functionality have been refined, among a host of other adjustments—the sum of which can be found here.
If magic isn’t real, you explain why me chanting has just caused sent several dozen people to, without even realising, reinstall the vintage FPS-RPG. But hold up, bewitched nostalgics! After years of development, the overhaul mod Give Me Deus Ex [official site] has launched its final version. GMDX shakes things up with more-advanced AI for a tougher challenge, improved mantling for agile Dentons, expanded physics for fancier mayhem, and new textures and bits for people who say “Ew, is that a pixel>?” If the magic words compel you to return to Deus Ex, you might fancy a few surprises. Observe, a trailer showcasing newnesss: … [visit site to read more]
For 17 years, Deus Ex fans have speculated that the 'JC' in JC Denton, Deus Ex's cyborg protagonist, stood for Jesus Christ. Others suggested it might mean Just Another Codename. The ambiguous nickname made enough of an impression that the question still lingers. At Warren Spector's post-mortem at GDC today, a fan asked flat-out what the 'JC' stood for. And the answer? It really was Jesus Christ.
"But there's more to the story than that," Spector said, as the crowd started clapping at the revelation. "One of my best friends is a wonderful writer named Bradley Denton, who you should all go read" he continued. "And if you want to know about me and my friends, he wrote a book called Lunatics that you should go read, and you can try to guess who I am. Anyway, he is one of the nicest humans on the planet. If you ever need help with anything, he's always there for you. He's so helpful it gets annoying sometimes, so back then I would often find myself saying 'Jesus Christ, Denton. Jesus Christ, Denton, don't be so helpful. So when it came time to name the charcater it was JC Denton.
That line is actually hinted at in the game on a couple ocassions, when characters react to your actions with "Jesus Christ, Denton!" and "Jesus Christ, JC!"
There's always been plenty of ammunition to support the theory that JC stood for Jesus Christ. Religious symbolism. JC's brother Paul. The name 'Deus Ex.' But nobody knew 'Jesus Christ, Denton' was a regular Warren Spector quote.
Years later, prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution's hero being named Adam kept the theme alive.