djs224's Deus Ex (PC)
| [February 27, 2013 11:48:00 PM]
| Deus Ex is a first-person shooter/roleplaying game hybrid, released in 2000 by developer Ion Storm and publisher Eidos Interactive. Set in the year 2052 and featuring a plot involving cybernetic augmentations, the Illuminati and secret societies, and a dystopian world, the game has been critically acclaimed as one of the best PC games of all time.|
I have previously played through Deus Ex in its entirety; this gamelog is for a fresh start with the game, mixed with some insights based on my previous knowledge.
Deus Ex is primarily a single-player game (with a multiplayer mode consisting of deathmatch variants patched in later). The player takes on the role of JC Denton, an operative for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO). Character customization is limited to one of five skins for JC, as well as a "real name" which comes up in text a couple times during the game. At the start of the game, the player can choose one or more skills to allot their starting 5000 skill points to (typically, no more than three). These vary from computers and electronics to various weapon proficiencies to swimming and environmental training. Gaining additional ranks in a skill will allow the player to better perform tasks relating to it. For example, training in pistols will allow faster, more accurate aiming; training in electronics will allow the use of fewer multi-tools to hack security panels or doors.
Deus Ex takes place in the year 2052 in a variety of locations, starting in New York City before transitioning to such varied locales as Paris, Hong Kong, secret institutions, and even Area 51. As the nano-augmented JC Denton, the player is tasked with putting down a terrorist threat, as a group called the NSF is stealing Ambrosia, a vaccine for an unstoppable plague known as the Gray Death. The vaccine, very expensive, is reserved for the elites of society, with the masses never being able to afford the vaccine. The plot quickly escalates into a story of intrigue, double-crossing, and conspiracy, which I won't go into here.
Deus Ex is primarily played as a first-person shooter, though with mechanics most players of the genre are unfamiliar with. For starters, using a gun requires the player to steady themselves if they wish to aim accurately, holding still until their reticule pinpoints their target; the speed of this action is increased if the player trains that weapon's skill. Thus, those who attempt run-and-gun tactics early on will find themselves dying very frequently. There are also several melee weapons in the game, with a strike to the back being lethal in practically every case. A particularly game-breaking weapon, the Dragon Sword, is available fairly early on, and provides a fast way to kill most any humanoid enemy in the game.
Stealth also plays a heavy role. Crouching while walking silences footsteps, allowing the player to sneak past guards (or up to them, if they wish to take them out). Levels are usually designed with a "sneaking" path or two in mind, to allow a stealth-focused player to get into areas they might not otherwise be able to. A player will have to be stealthy if they wish to undergo a pacifist run, in which they refrain from killing any enemies during the course of the game; this is a player-designed challenge, and there are no rewards for doing this during the game itself, save for some different dialogue in places after not killing anyone.
Since the game is heavily cyberpunk-inspired, it is no wonder that hacking is an important game concept. While most (if not all, I'm not sure) passwords and codes can be found somewhere in the game for those diligent enough to look for them, a player can use multi-tools to hack electronics, lockpicks to open locked doors, or their computer skill to break through a computer's login. This allows for many secrets to be uncovered over the course of the game.
As the player completes missions, they gain more skill points, which can be put towards the same skills presented to them in the beginning of the game. It is impossible to earn enough points to fully max out all skills, so careful planning is key. Through the course of the game, the player can find augmentation canisters; these can be installed through a medical bot to gain access to nine additional augmentations. Each canister gives the player a choice of two augmentations (a permanent choice), and each augmentation can be upgraded three additional times through upgrade canisters to increase its effect.
Roleplaying is a fundamental part of the game. A player can choose to be a walking death machine, if they so wish, by selecting skills and augmentations to support this. Alternatively, a more stealth-inclined player can choose a different set of skills and augs to suit their playstyle. Some even play without any skills or augmentations, as the game is designed to allow this (even if it's rather challenging!). A player can choose to kill some or many enemies, or take them down through non-lethal means; NPCS will sometimes compliment JC if they refrain from killing, or admonish him if he doesn't. Dialogue with NPCs will sometimes offer a choice in what JC says; NPCs will react differently depending on what is said.
The game is heavily mission-oriented, with a primary task and sometimes an optional secondary or two. Completion of the primary task is required for plot progression. The player will usually have multiple ways to handle any given situation, whether through direct combat, stealth, hacking, or other means. Levels are designed to support a wide variety of options, allowing for a lot of replayability. Options are even included for boss battles; if a player wishes, they can avoid killing any of the bosses in the game, including the final one. They can also handle some bosses earlier than they are "intended" to.
For this section, I started a new game, opting to put my skill points in electronics, computers, and lockpicking. The first mission, Liberty Island, is frequently cited by players as a difficult area, mostly due to the lack of experience with the game's controls. It took me a few minutes to get reacquainted, then I began to play.
The mission required the infiltration of the damaged Statue of Liberty and the takedown of the NSF commander at the top; an optional objective involved freeing another UNATCO operative from a prison at the bottom. I opted for a stealthy approach, sticking to the shadows and avoiding guards entirely. A back entrance into the statue helped me scale the statue quickly, though I decided to try climbing back down to free the operative. The path was difficult to really pursue, and thanks to being bottlenecked in a stairwell, I died, highlighting a noteworthy flaw or feature (depending on your point of view): no auto-saving. If a player forgets to regularly manually save, they can lose hours of progress due to an ill-timed death.
Restarting the game, I decided to try a different approach through the front. I found out from an informant on one side of the island that the commander should be kept alive so he could continue to spy on the NSF. In a cargo bay, I found supplies and the password to the security system; using a panel near the entrance, I was able to turn off the cameras, force the turrets to attack enemies, and unlock the doors.
The prison had two ways to enter, by hacking an electronics panel near a laser grid or by crawling through some air ducts to bypass it entirely. I chose the former option and eventually managed to free the operative. I then proceeded up the statue and found the commander, refraining from killing him and learning that the Ambrosia the NSF had stolen was being shipped to the masses.
I was then ordered to proceed back to UNATCO headquarters on the island, where I got my first augmentation installed, opting for the strength augmentation rather than the hand-to-hand combat one. The next mission was to track down the stolen Ambrosia and get it back for UNATCO; it was here that I ended my session.
The gameplay was fairly easy to pick up on again after having not played it for a year and a half. I know a newcomer would have a bit of trouble getting used to it, but most people I know who play it say that the game picks up after Liberty Island, as a means of encouragement to players considering giving up so early. I think there are two reasons for that. One, Liberty Island is a bit of a slow mission with not a whole lot of options for how to complete it (yet still considerably more than most shooters). And two, by the time you finish the mission, you're fairly familiar with the controls and can better handle the game's challenges. In addition, later levels provide the player with more weapons, augmentations, and skill points; by the time you've got a large array of skills and items at your disposal, you're free to choose exactly how you want to pursue a mission.
For things that might be turnoffs to today's gamers, the graphics would definitely be one. Everything definitely screams "late 90s" graphically, both through textures and models. However, I would hope that someone who was interested in the game would look past that; it was released in 2000, after all, so the graphics aren't going to be stellar. The voice acting is also a bit laughable at times (from memory, most of the Chinese VAs are comically bad, and the children are ear-gratingly terrible), but to me, that adds to the charm. The story is one that can throw you for a loop at times if you're not entirely paying attention (it does NOT just spell out the plot for you), but for those who like to delve into cyberpunk stories full of intrigue, it's definitely worth it to keep up with it. And while the controls and gameplay are a bit confusing at first (especially to someone raised on the latest hand-holding games), the learning curve isn't terribly steep, and rewards a persistent player with a memorable experience.
Deus Ex is classic for a reason: it's a game that was deeper mechanically than a lot of games of its time, and certainly deeper than most recent games. Its blend of shooter, stealth, and roleplaying game hasn't been matched by any game I've ever played, and is one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who craves something different. I would also recommend its prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, as it is a fairly solid follow-up; the game incorporates many of the systems of Deus Ex, but with more modernized gameplay that would be more enjoyable to today's audiences. I would also recommend playing Deus Ex first, as it gives the player insight into many of the references to it given in Human Revolution, and because it's a bit hard to go back to the first game after playing something more modern that feels like it. Not impossible, just hard.
In short: a classic PC game that exemplifies great game design. A must-play title.
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djs224's Deus Ex (PC)
Current Status: Playing
GameLog started on: Wednesday 27 February, 2013