Tobold's Blog
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

After not having been very happy with Batman: Arkham City, I decided to play another game of the same genre: Call them "stealth games", "action adventures", or even "action RPGs", there isn't really a universally accepted term. These games are somewhere between shooters and RPGs, with you controlling a single character through a long linear main story with some side quests. The unique feature is that there are usually several different ways to get to the goal, including just sneaking past the enemies. And that liberty is something I appreciate.

After a handful of missions and side-quests in Deus Ex: Human Revolution I can already say that I like this game a lot better than Batman: Arkham City. It wasn't the genre I disliked with Batman, but his unique fighting style. Compare to Batman's beat-em-up button-mashing combat, Deus Ex plays more like a shooter. And unlike Batman, Adam Jenses gets the option of shooting his enemies in the head with a sniper rifle or shotgun. Now that freedom comes with a price: Shooting an enemy gives 10 points, using a stun gun or tranquilizer rifle 30 points, and sneaking up behind him and taking him down by hand gives 50 points, so the options aren't exactly equal. But as the points are proportional to the difficulty of the approach, I am fine with that. There is a logical relation there between options and consequences.

Furthermore it appears to me that Deus Ex has more options on how to get to your target. I took the time to explore every option to get into the backyard of the police department, and found that there are at least 3 non-violent ones. I assume I could also get there by going through the front door of the police department, killing everybody, and going out through the back door, but I didn't try that one. Many hidden ways give extra xp, and you get bonus xp if you managed your objective without ever alerting a guard or security system. I scored full points for that police department, while doing all side quests, so that was good.

When I'm not in a hurry, I like to approach Deus Ex a bit like a puzzle game: How do you sneak up on every guard in a room and take him down manually without ever alerting anyone else? That usually takes a few tries, but it is fun. When I get tired of that, I use the other options, like shooting people, and that is faster. But even with all these options I doubt that I will play Deus Ex: Human Revolution more than once: The linear main story gets into the way of replayability. But otherwise this is a very good game.

When I started DXHR I was all stealth and non lethal but as the game progressed it felt more natural (from a role playing point of view) that my character would get more violent. With each new treachery it felt less and less likely that he would respond in a non violent manner. The disparity of experience isn't such a big issue because there is more than enough to go around and you tend to kill more people anyway in an aggressive play through.
You should try Dishonored
It's next on my list, already bought at a Steam sale for cheap.
You must have loved the Thief series then. I especially liked the hardest mode where you -cannot- kill any living person (many monsters and machines that are fair game though, but often sneaking is best).

Even better is "ghosting". Now -THAT- is a challenge. No take downs, no alerting guards of stolen artifacts (because you put a replacement), and no getting spotted. It's not mandatory in the game but since the mechanics for it were there, you can pull it off. :)
Two of the few problems I had with Deus Ex were:

1) Forced boss battles. The Penny Arcade comic put it very well here:

2) I get a little OCD about experience maxing, so there are lots of things I did that made absolutely no sense, just because they yielded better exp.

For example: You go to a lot of trouble hunting down a password to some hardcore security system, but then once you get to it, because it's so hardcore you completely avoid entering the password and instead choose to hack it, because you get zero exp from just entering the password.

Other than that, I really enjoyed it. I haven't played it through a second time yet, though I did start to, immediately after finishing it the first time. Just so I can do a pacifist run, I think.

Normally I play that way, but there came a point where stealthy observation of certain factions' behaviour caused me to lose all concern for preserving their lives. As far as I was concerned, lethality was what they now had coming.
Above and beyond the excellent gameplay, I really liked the setting. There's so many nuances of a world that are just a couple of major world events away that it seems so plausible and yet so worth thinking about.
The game is very satisfying until you get bosses.
In particular, hacking mini-game is good. A bit luck-dependent, but still mostly puzzle-like.
Arkham city has a majority of combat puzzles.

And it's not really a combat puzzle when you get tired of the puzzle, you just gun people down. That's like pulling the stickers off a Rubiks cube, but still calling it a puzzle.
So now you spew hate because I happened not to like your favorite game? Well, at least the maturity of that sentiment is consistent with the age category for which the combat and story of Batman were written.
Well you are in for a rude shock Tobold. Being the rookie gamer you are, once you hit Deus Ex's boss fights you will be singing a whole different tune. Dishonored is a much better game
Rookie gamer? A boss fight in Deus Ex works EXACTLY like a boss fight in World of Warcraft: You watch the YouTube video on how it is done, and then just follow the instructions. I already beat the first boss easily.
So, Tobold, didn't it seem odd to you that super-stealthy guy Jensen doesn't simply bypass or stealthy dispose of Barret like he did with 100s of enemies before, but has to bombard him with fire-entinguishers? :)
Yes, the whole "linear story" deal with all of these games appears strange to me. Not like it would have been in a pen & paper game.

In a pen & paper RPG, if the players believe the guy who is giving them orders is in fact the bad guy, they can turn against him. In a computer game, the player needs to follow the story until it arrives at the point where the truth is revealed, no matter how long before you suspected it.

But I don't think that is something that can be helped. Even the games most hailed for their freedom, like Skyrim, have this sort of linear main story. You only get some freedom in the execution of the details.
So now you spew hate

So you tell me my own mind as if you know it better than I do.

As far as I can tell, what I state is factual. If it's incorrect, okay. But when your doctor tells you you have some ailment, he isn't spewing hate at you by doing so. If you've no interest for facts from myself or readers in general, okay, perhaps that's in your terms of service somewhere.

As for age, what's the quote? “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
If it's incorrect, okay.

Yes, it is incorrect. The existence of an alternative solution does not make a puzzle disappear. The fact that you could win a game of chess in the park by threatening your opponent with a gun does not make chess less difficult a game or the chess situation less of a puzzle.

Why do you have a problem with games that offer more than one solution to a situation? To me that is a great feature, not a handicap. If I enjoy puzzles, I can play it as a puzzle. Somebody who prefers shooter games can play the same game as a shooter. Everybody wins. Compared to that, Batman refusing to use a sniper rifle from his vantage point (or at least a tranquilizer gun like Adam Jensen) just feels more like a stupid artificial restraint.
The Deus Ex franchise is one of my all-time favourites. It's good to see you enjoying it.

If you can stomach the retro graphics, it might actually be worth your gaming time to play the original Deus Ex at some point.

It was somewhat more open-ended with the story but markedly more intelligent in accounting for non-violent solutions. For example, it was possible to bypass one particularly bruising boss-fight entirely by going to considerable difficulty to obtain the cyborg opponent's programmed 'killphrase' and at the right time simply speaking it at him.
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