A Pre-Order Divided – Growing Concerns Over Deus Ex
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the stand out video games in recent times. The blend of cover-based action, and neatly balanced stealth mechanics, resulted in a complete video game experience. The themes touched upon in the main game were smart and compelling, mirroring modern society and works of science fiction. Human Revolution, even with it’s faults, was a fantastic piece of work, oozing with respect for the franchise.
As with any successful game, a follow up soon follows. Deus Ex: Mankind Divide was announced back in April 2015, the direct sequel to a prequel, complete with all the worrying traits of modern video games. The more they show of Mankind Divide, the more I worry, and it’s not because the game looks bad as such. All of my concerns centre around the tone and focus on display with each gameplay video.
The gameplay footage has mostly been loud and proud, with only basic stealth being showcased. While the action does look slick, with various creative means at the players disposal, the lack of stealth options shown leaves me underwhelmed. While I can understand the joys of playing through the game loud and proud, firing off various fancy gadgets, but subtly rewards the most satisfaction.Taking a rather old school approach to RPGs, using a combination of words and trickery, has always result in a more memorable experience as opposed to killing everything in site.
Franchises like Deus Ex are validated by giving their player options. The original entry into the franchise was famous for the sheer range of approaches the player had available to them. While shooting your way to success remained a valid strategy, sneaking, hacking, trapping and convincing often came with a superior sense of accomplishment.
Mankind Divided seems to be focusing more on action, disrupting that balance between even further subtlety and brawn. While the new additions to Adam’s arsenal do look interesting, there’s a craving to see the new additions to the stealth mechanics Mankind Divided, rather than more of the combat related features.
Some of the criticism aimed at Human Revolution was the fact you were forced to go toe-to-toe with bosses, regardless of how you played the game. This issue created a huge problem on harder difficulty settings, resulting in the overall game being somewhat lopsided. Mankind Divided needs to address this by legitimizing the stealthy approach as a viable option throughout the game. Aside from the apparent focus on action, there’s element of Mankind Divided that worries me greatly, the pre-order format.
Square Enix have created a hideous abomination of a pre-order format. Taking elements from crowd funding, typical pre-order DLC bull shit and a healthy dose of ‘what the fuck?’, Square invite you to ‘Augment your pre-order’. Customers choose their pre-order rewards from a list of options including the likes of DLC, digital art and digital comics. New options can be unlocked depending on how many people pre-order Deus Ex Mankind Divided. The ultimate unlock is the game releasing four days early…which brings up a number of questions.
The worrying thing about this bizarre system is how abusive it is towards the consumer. The content is already there, it’s already finished…but you can’t have it all, you can only have bits of it. It’s such a strange approach, even more so given more content unlocks depending on pre-order numbers. Pre-order DLC has long been a farce, but this is a whole new level of bullshit. The whole concept seeps of boardroom wizardry, Square
Enix style wizardry.
While Square may of purchased Eidos Montreal during the development of Human Revolution, the game was already nearing completion. Square’s influence over it’s sale was minimal, as too was their input into the game. The first full release under the former industry icon’s was 2014′s disastrous Thief reboot.
Regarded as the lowest point in the franchises illustrious history, Thief 2014 was a mess of ideas and half baked mechanics. Caught between trying to appeal to the franchise’s ageing fan base, while desperately trying to bring in the modern gamer, the overall product failed to appease both. Thief’s main issue could be pin pointed to one thing, the illusion of choice. While the levels looked complex, with various ledges, routes and vents to utilize, but it was all a ruse.
Attempting to take various paths often led to the same thing, which was never a satisfying result. Thief 2014 may of carried of the name, but it’s soul was anything but the treasured franchise people had come to love. After a mixed critical reception, Thief performed poorly commercially, labelling the reboot as a failure.
Square Enix’s influence has seemingly come back tenfold with Mankind Divided. Much like any company, Square are driven by money, sales and performance, even if it comes at the expensive for iconic franchises. Augmenting your pre-order is just the next step in their blind greed. The format is such a aggressively poor deal for the consumer, cutting away the games content and offering a choice between one or the other. Cutting out content in order to offer it as a ‘reward’ for pre-ordering is nothing new, but this is a worrying step in dangerous direction.
Worryingly, there’s a number of people trying to defend the Augmented pre-order scheme. Loyalty franchise is understandable, though most of the original fan circles have expressed disdain, but remains a curious thing to behold. Youtube is littered with comments trying to justify the format, some even explaining how it’s a ‘good’ thing.
There’s a argument to be made that having a choice of what your chosen package comes with is a good thing, but this is flimsy at best. Square have progressively tip-toed further and further in exploitive pre-order rewards, be it numerous launch day content in Thief, or one of of a thousand pre-order rewards for Final Fantasy 13 – 2(?).
As a fan of Deus Ex, as someone who sees it as a special video game franchise that goes covers questions of ethics and perspective, to see the franchise reduced to this is a sad thing. Human Revolution was a triumph, a slick video game experience neatly woven with a story that explored class divides within society and the acceptance of inevitable. I still have faith that Mankind Divided will be a fantastic game, but I can’t help but worry.
Square’s whispers, and recent failures (to their credit, they have success stories with the likes of Final Fantasy: Realm Reborn) may influence the overall product. It’s clear that a franchises credibility and worth mean little in the pursuit of patching up the holes left by past failures. You can’t fight ideas with bullets, but you can kill them with cooperate boardroom bullshit.