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Lost and Found: Deus Ex: Human Revolutions

October 16, 2012

 

 

So as promised, here comes the next entry in a new series I’d like to call “Lost and Found”. In which I play some older type RPGs (with a few exceptions here and there), and discuss what I liked about them, what could have been done better, how it could have been done better and what I did not like at all. What makes this differ from your standard review? Well for one I do not want to do this about any new upcoming titles, the aim with this series is to shed some light on some innovative game mechanics that could be brought back to life and if they were “broken” how to easily fix them in newer titles. Thus the selection of games I so far will be covering are: Deus Ex: Human Revolutions, Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic I & II and Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 (possibly Witcher 2 if I feel like it). Why these games? Apart from all being RPGs they are all very distinct in their own way as far as game design, design philosophy and setting go, so I thought I would be able to give you a rather full spectrum of what old RPGs have to offer. Anyway Let’s talk about Deus Ex: Human Revolutions!

 

So what did I like about Deus Ex: Human Revolutions? One game feature above all continued to give me a lot of satisfaction, and that was the fact that the game could be played as a pacifist. That means that instead of using your fancy guns to mow down enemies you’d be trying to avoid enemies, snipe them with your tranquilizing rifle or stealth up to them and knock them unconscious. Mobs even reacted to you throwing things around corners or opening and would investigate these disturbances, making your job in stealth and subterfuge in order to take out as many mobs as possible a very enjoyable and sometimes challenging task. Another great thing about the game was that it rewarded exploration in various ways. These include experience points, shortcuts, and positional advantages towards enemies, items and lore. For someone, who loves exploring this made the game give me a lot more hours of play, than just playing the campaign on rails would have.

 

There are a couple of objections however that I have in how some of these very positive features were handled. Firstly it was very wrong in my opinion to award a pacifistic play style more experience points, than a violent one. Why is that? For one it offers a very strong incentive by giving you more options to design and progress your character, due to it giving you more experience points. This would lead many players to play as pacifists even though they would enjoy the gun-ho style a lot more, but trade it for the benefit of a wider option in their character progression. One could say that this is not necessarily bad since an option was provided and the player than made a choice between the both of them, certainly it is better than having no option. Yet that is not entirely true as the options were not delivered equally, one had an advantage the other did not have and thus we have no true choice only a sad essay of it. I think the game would have benefitted much more from having awarded both play styles with the same amount of experience and thus giving the choice of play style one-hundred per cent to the player.

 

My second problem if is with what I considered a slight over tuning of the “tactical cloak” augmentation that rendered you invisible to enemies. A remedying aspect of it is though that you could still be heard if you ran or bumped into something and felt by enemies, if you touched the NPC in question. The problem of it was though that it severely limited the creative application of the game elements, in order to reposition enemies. Many a times I simply activated my “tactical cloak” and ran out of a tricky situation, which made these encounters rather cheap to beat. Once again you can always say that the blame was on me or the player in question for not resisting the urge to use the augment. But is that not being a bit too harsh? After all it is not cheating the “tactical cloak” augment is a part of the game and can thus be seen as a fair ability to use. No, it is rather a form of laziness in the game design if one can bypass tricky situation so easily by having one augment selected over the range of several others. After all that’s why we call such augment/ abilities/ talents etc. “over powered” because they have so much more value over other in specific situations. So how should one fix the “tactical cloak” augment? The easiest way would be to remove it, but as an ardent fan of the shadowy and roguish characters in any games that would be a huge shame. I suggest thus that one should for instance make the surveillance system be able to see you in stealth and position these in key areas of (SPOILER ALERT) for instance the grand hall in Hengsha as you escape the Tai Yong Medical headquarter (SPOILER ENDED). That way the augment would still be in game, have its usage, but restricts the way it could be used as a solution for every tricky situation.

 

The exploring had some issues as well, as its promised contribution to the lore of “Deus Ex” (mentioned in the tips on the loading screens), was a bit meagre in my opinion. You find a lot of ebooks detailing the plot of a romantic novel or parts of research done into human-computer interfaces etc. All of this is highly interesting in its own way, but it really does not flesh up the backstory of the world. True there were some historical articles to be found in the game as well, but they were few and far between and never fully explained the backstory, merely sketched it, which made it sometimes hard to immerse yourself into the storyline and the crucial parts of the plot. So the solution to this would be to add more of these items instead of focusing on the details of novel plots and biological research. If we could have both it would be perfect, but in my opinion you need a good account of the backstory, before one adds these polishing details to the setting.

 

Before I start the next section will involve some spoilers so skip it if you are one of the few who have not yet played Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and would like to figure out the boss encounters on your own (there really is not too much to figure out).

 

What started out nicely and did not work so well then? Well it has been said before, but I’ll say it again: The boss encounters really had a lot more potential in them, than what was realised in practice. Most of them had really nice mechanics, which should have allowed for really nice tactics in order to defeat them. But apart from the first boss there was no need to follow any of these. For instance defeating the first boss required you to use the objects in your environment to beat him, yet a few quests further back one can with a little exploration find a rocket launcher which makes him a very easy encounter. I will say though that this was the best encounter in the game, as the only cheesy solution of beating him actually required exploring. The second boss’ abilities could be completely ignored though by using a stun gun on her. The fight than turned into on huge “stun-lock” of about 15 seconds before she was dead (without the Typhoon augment it might be considerably longer, nevertheless you could still ignore her abilities and mechanics due to the fact that you could stun her.) Other augments also made her invisibility useless as you could still track her (not that you needed it if you just followed the ripples her footsteps leave in the water, or just stayed put and let her come to you and stunned her). The third boss was the biggest joke of the all as he could be taken down with a single “Take down”, or, like I did it, made to run in a straight line in front of you, stop for a few seconds in a corner, as you were in cover, shooting at him and could not be hit by his shots (he would not throw any grenades while doing this). The last boss was also not very difficult but I will not bore you with the details of that fight. The other fix aside from making bosses immune to stuns and certain augments, is that there really is no need to have a huge stack of different heavy weaponry and its associated ammo BEFORE and INSIDE the room where the encounter takes place. These kind of things trivialized the encounters beyond anything that was really feasible, which was a shame as a lot of the bosses had interesting mechanics in the form of grenades, jumping over walls, invisibility, faster un speed and typhoon ammo etc. So please makes us discover these kind of weapons through exploring the world, don’t just hand them to us and make sure your bosses feel like, you know bosses, and not like the standard grunts!

 

All spoilers should now have been ended and you can safely continue reading.

 

Last but not least what I did kind of like but did not like at all was the fact that, you as a player could not interact with the storyline and change it, the only thing you could change was the ending, which involved a really nice set of choices, that once again were a bit under realized as the background of the setting was only explained in fragments. What my biggest problem with the story though is that it is very short and on top of that very much on rails and the only choice added to it is at the end and once again we have the famous epilogue as the only consequence of said choice. I am completely aware that this is an industry standard when making these kind of games that the choices are not really prevalent, but I will still say it again, a good RPG should have a better system of showing you your consequences INSIDE the game, than the epilogue, which to be honest is outside the game as it happens AFTER your play through. This in my opinion s extra important for games with such a short storyline as  Deus Ex: Human Revolutions.

 

So what can we take with us? Adding a pacifistic choice in play style is very good and I like it a lot, just make sure that if you do this, or any other kind of choice regarding play styles, that no single play style is given incentives over the other. Exploration should be incentivised as it prolongs the time of a play through; it can also serve in giving the game more depth by giving you multiple routes inside the story. If you however add a lore incentive to exploration make sure the incentive is there. Perfect examples of this were the highly detailed codex pages in Dragon Age: Origins or the witty commentary in the Diablo franchise on various things you discovered in the game world. Also make sure your bosses actually are bosses and don’t give the players tools to ignore their mechanics and don’t ever give the players armouries full of weapons before and during a boss fight, especially if those armouries contain weapons that trivialize the fight! And if you are going to make an RPG even if it is an action oriented one, give the player the opportunity to influence the story and don’t cut out on the story in favour for action and end up with a very rigid, on rails-like story, that on top of all is short.

 

I sincerely hope we can in the future have another RPG pick up some of these very interesting features and improve them, or at least improve the ones they have, that are similar to these. So what do you guys and girls think did I do Deus Ex: Human Revolutions justice? Is there a way we can see a game in the future apply some of this features in a more proper and do we even want it?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 26, 2016 7:17 pm

    Well I definitely enjoyed studying it. This article procured by you is very practical
    for accurate planning.

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