dkirschner's Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)
| [October 16, 2019 05:55:59 PM]
| Aw, I thought I was much closer to the end than I was! I did the "Are you sure you want to do this? You cannot go back!" thing, then when there was no grand confrontation with the big boss in the secret Swiss Alps facility, I looked at a walkthrough. I still had like 4 more chapters and another city! I had so much money, always had a full inventory, all the guns, ammo, and augmented abilities I could ever need. I could hack everything (and the hacking minigame is soooo boring). The story was just not gripping me either. For all these reasons, I am very unmotivated to continue. I did watch the final encounter and ending on YouTube and I didn't seem to miss much. The final boss is who you expect for half the game. And he's actually the ONLY boss fight in the whole game. How is there only one boss fight? I wondered this as I was playing, as there were not any very climactic moments. Maybe it's because the boss fights in Human Revolution were notoriously bad, they just shied away from them. Anyway, dang, I played this too long and what a disappointment! If there's ever a third one, I'll be really wary.
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| [October 15, 2019 08:08:18 AM]
| I just re-read my entries from Deus Ex and Deux Ex: Human Revolution, and wow! They had so much more impact on me than Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The original showed me how innovative the game was in 2000 and I understood why the series was revered. The second one mesmerized me with its story and exploration of medical ethics regarding technologically modified humans. Mankind Divided though? It's a flop.
It's worth noting that I didn't play (any games at all!) for two months from early August to early October, so when I picked Mankind Divided back up last week, I spent my first play session relearning the controls and remembering what was going on. That hiatus may have colored my view of the game because I don't remember my particular thoughts that I didn't write down in the ~30 hours I had already played. I've jumped back in for the remaining ~10 hours. I do know that 40 hours is way too long to invest in Mankind Divided. It doesn't earn that time, and I'm disappointed that the payoff isn't worth it.
Let me explain. This game's pacing is bananas. It took me about 25 hours to play Chapters 1-3. In these chapters, I explored every nook and cranny of Prague, which is beautifully detailed and appropriately dystopian. I put my Praxis points into stealth and hacking. I illegally entered every building, read everyone's emails, and liberated the city's people from their material possessions. I broke into the Palisade bank and spent hours hacking CEOs' vaults and getting past impossible situations with guards, auto-turrets, mechs, laser grids, and more. I fondly remember those times.
The next 12 hours (I'm at 37) have seen me from Chapter 3 to the final Chapter 13. The story moves at quite the clip when you actually follow it. There are some cool moments, but the general thread is not half as exciting as the previous game. The game opens with some mysterious masked men destroying an operation Jensen is on and then there is a train station bombing. The rest of the game involves tracking down clues to figure out who the men are and who was behind the bombing. It appears that the Augmented Rights Coalition (ARC) is behind it all, but as Deus Ex goes, there's a larger conspiracy afoot, which means there are a lot of threads worth pulling that Jensen can't pull. This means that you're occasionally given a small piece of revelation that other characters respond to with great emotional investment, but that you and Jensen don't share. It's hard to understand why you are doing what you are doing, and the contrast of these uninspiring story threads and most of their accompanying missions pales in comparison to the excitement of the stealth exploration.
SO, it turns out that if you spend most of the game exploring Prague, you're setting yourself up for backtracking hell. The game doesn't value exploration by having the world or story respond to it in a meaningful way. You get your XP or whatever, but the instrumentality of exploration isn't only in leveling up Jensen. In my two-hour play session last night alone, I was asked to go back into at least four places that I had already been (and robbed blind). What contributed most to this last night was an awful side mission where Jensen can help solve the murder of an Aug woman. At the scene of the crime, you can talk to a witness and a detective. The witness won't talk to the detective, so you can glean clues from her. You can also use your x-ray vision to look for clues at the scene. The woman's ex-husband, another Aug, is a suspect, and the police detective is going to arrest him if you don't either prove that he didn't do it or prove that someone else did because institutional racism.
Off to find the guy, who is sitting on the couch in his apartment with the door open. Why is the door open? Because I broke in earlier and scoured his apartment. He doesn't seem to care. When asked, he says he's been in his apartment for a long time, never leaves, and when I search now, I find a clue. Well, first, he hasn't been in his apartment for long because I was just in there stealing everything. Second, the quest item magically appeared. His ACTUAL whereabouts, of course, are irrelevant. I KNOW he wasn't in his apartment, but the story says he was, which overrides my evidence-based interpretation of events (he's lying!). This is what I mean when I say that the story/world doesn't value your exploration. I discovered a lot of cool things on my own, but it's like my subjective reality becomes invalidated later on.
Later, the detective suggests you search for some files in a bombed out police station. Ah yes, the one that I already searched through. Now, there are some special files to find and new emails on the computer sent from the dead woman at the same time as the old emails on the computer that were there when I broke in last time. Mankind Divided does this constantly. "Go search this apartment! Extract the contents of the safe!" Oh, the safe I already opened up and cleaned out and now there's another item sitting in there? So someone came in, saw the opened safe, put this new item in it, and left the safe wide open again? At least reset the safes or close the doors again!
In a game celebrating player choice, these moments make the experience feel hollow. Another example may be found in a moment of narrative decision-making. At one point, you can decide to save a man's daughter to secure evidence about the train station bombing OR you can break into Palisade Bank and find corporate secrets, loot all the corporate vaults, and expose how these military-news-medical mega-corps are influencing the ongoing story. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Which one of these seems more important? Save one person (who killed a lot of people, btw) or expose the conspiracy and save who-knows-how-many people? And boy, if you choose to expose the corporations, that woman's father sure tries to make you feel bad. You already have the evidence against the woman, and the only point is to save her. This choice just didn't feel meaningful to me, and aside from the ongoing dichotomy of deciding to be honest with your boss or your hacker colleague (hacker colleague all the way!), this has been the only "this or that" decision to make in the whole game. If you're going to have only one of these, make it more difficult to choose. I would love to know statistics of what players did here.
ANYWAY. TL;DR, the game now feels tedious to play, I don't care about the conspiracy-laden story, I already stole everything in Prague, it doesn't tackle social issues in an interesting or thoughtful way like the previous game, instead making a really thin analogy to racism (Aug Lives Matter? Really?), and I can't wait for it to be overrr so I can play something else. I know that it ends on a cliffhanger and I am so cloooose!
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| [August 11, 2019 05:10:55 PM]
| I'm 22 hours into Mankind Divided and I've done four story missions. Yesterday I got to the gun mod tutorial. Am I playing incredibly slow?
What I HAVE done: explore nearly every nook and cranny of Prague. At least the first two parts of it (are there more??). I've got a ton of money and more praxis points than I know what to do with. I can break in anywhere and steal anything.
The pacing and open world are throwing me off. Am I far? Am I not far? 22 hours is a long time and I have no sense for my progression through the story. It feels like I'm doing things out of order. Example: I spent two entire play sessions just sneaking around and stealing everything I could from the Palisade Bank, a gargantuan building with guards and security systems densely populating it. No quest or anything. I just found myself inside and started doing my stealth thief thing.
The exploration, stealth, and thievery are clearly mesmerizing to me. Combat? I'm not quite sure. I've mostly knocked people out, and shot a few with tranquilizer darts. Story? Not enough data yet. The world-building though is excellent. I've read a hundred emails in hacked computers, e-books, personal data files, and more. There are a lot of little stories that weave together to give a sense of a world on edge after the Aug incident at the end of Human Revolution. I'm looking forward to doing more story missions soon.
I have noticed some odd gripes. The TVs and radios in the game. I hate them. These people in future Prague have so many TVs, and they are all tuned to the same news station that loops the same broadcast. Similarly, the radios are all tuned to an Alex Jones type angry man. I turn them all off whenever I can, but I've really come to loathe them because their noise pierces through all other sounds in the game. There are some bugs. After the gun tutorial, the game crashes. I re-did it three times. So I technically never completed the gun tutorial. Sometimes guards will become hostile to me because I am in a friendly space that used to be forbidden. The guards still think such spaces are forbidden sometimes. I don't know if this is a bug, but often vendors (like NPCs marked as such! In stores!) will not show me anything for sale and make comments suggesting that I have no money (and that that is why they aren't showing me their inventories).
It seems weird to write about Mankind Divided having played so long yet so little. How many more areas are there? How many places will I have to revisit? How many story missions are there? I know it ends on an awful cliffhanger, and I think I know that it only takes place in Prague. Its scope is illusory.
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dkirschner's Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)
Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored
GameLog started on: Monday 22 July, 2019
GameLog closed on: Wednesday 16 October, 2019