I picked up the original Deus Ex, Invisible War, Human Revolution, and The Fall in a recent sale and figured that I would have a go at playing them. The original game was a bit before my time, but I previously played Invisible War and Human Revolution. The Fall was made for mobile platforms and has mixed enough reviews that I may never get around to playing it.
I loved Human Revolution when I played it a few years ago, so I was more than happy to jump right back into it and have another go. Plus, this was the Director's Cut and it was supposed to fix the outsourced boss fights that rained on everyone's parade in the original release. I'll talk about my experience in a moment. Let's start with Deus Ex, if only because I have the least to say about it.
You know those games that throw 'impossible' challenges at you and leave you cursing in frustration because no matter what you do, you just can't progress? Deus Ex is not one of those games. It gives you a reasonable challenge, offers up a few ways of completing that challenge, and then sends you on your way with a pat on the back and a few words of encouragement. And then, if you are like me, you fail over and over and over again.
The moment I realized that I was bad at this game was when I failed the stealth portion of the tutorial for about twenty minutes. That's almost fine, actually, since I suck at stealth. Always have. Always will. I'm too impatient and I don't pay attention to detail. No, I'm forced to take the morally ambiguous path of the hardened killer in these games. The moment I realized that I was completely screwed and unble to play the game was when it was revealed that combat requires skill and you are a lowly nobody who does not yet have any.
I died more times on the first mission than I can count. In fact, I had to stop counting once my deaths went far beyond a number I'm comfortable admitting. I tried stealth, I tried non-lethal, and I waited forever for my targeting reticule to shrink so I could shoot people in my usual manner. No matter what, each of my attempts to play ended in me loading the game again. After a while, you just have to throw in the towel and give up. Kudos to the people who made it through the game; you are better gamers than I.
Back to Human Revolution. No problem with this game. I was running it on normal difficulty, but I probably should have bumped it up because dominating your enemies with just a modified 10mm feels unbalanced. My inability to play stealth was very much supported and that makes me a happy mass murderer, but it is obvious that you aren't really supposed to play the game that way. This is no more clear than in the new boss fights.
The old boss fights were an outright fight. It didn't matter how your character was built, you were going toe to toe against the big bad. For me, that meant I quickly sunk a couple points into the Typhoon augmentation and breezed through. The new boss fights are pretty much the same, but have opened things up to allow for different approaches, increasing the viability of hacking and stealth builds. For me, this meant that I was free to sink a couple of points into the Typhoon augmentation and breeze through them because, as we've covered, I suck at this stuff. It is hard not to feel disappointed when you finish a boss fight and realize how cool it could have been had you a different mindset.
The game goes a step further with the 'not for me' messaging with The Missing Link DLC. This late game character reset was originally a standalone mission that filled a hole in the story and let players who'd already played through the game experience building their characters again. In the Director's Cut, it was made mandatory and jammed in before the penultimate chapter. In terms of narrative, it plugs a hole and therefore works fine. In terms of gameplay, it is a pile of horseshit. It breaks the pacing, takes your character back to zero, and subjects you to five hours of trekking back and forth through a base and its several stop-and-wait checkpoints. If you suck at the game and resort to my play style, you also get to listen to other characters guilt-tripping you for your murderous ways. Shame on you for killing your way through a base of people who have been kidnapping innocent people for human experimentation that leads to horrible deaths.
I'm bad at this game, even if I get through it fine. It is obvious from the above. It is obvious from all the alternate paths that I stumble across after wading through the sea of corpses that once was security staff, paths that would have allowed me to avoid combat in the first place. It is obvious because despite my claims of killing everything that moves, I did do some things differently the second time around and life is so much easier when you can just walk through a building, do your business, and walk out instead of instigating a massacre. Granted, that did not happen much.
Human Revolution isn't meant for me, but it lets me onto the playground and doesn't prevent me from playing how I want to play... though if it does chastise me on occasion. The boss fights are still kind of crap (there is no true non-lethal playthrough because the player cannot bypass or spare the boss), the incorporation of The Missing Link is infuriating, and no doubt others have different problems (when certain weapons are introduced to the game, for instance), but it is still a hell of a game. I had a ton of fun playing it both times through and I'm betting that the people who actually try and don't just blunder through these games have an even better time.