9 things I wish I knew before playing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is finally here, and the sequel to one of our favorite immersive sims expands Human Revolution's scope, providing more tools and bigger spaces to play in. How you tackle missions—violently, like a ghost, or with a silver tongue—can have big consequences. The amount of choice is impressive (as we lauded in our review), but it might leave new players confused about what skills to focus on, the infiltration methods available to them, and whether or not Adam Jensen’s facial hair is cool or very, very uncool. Don’t fret, keep a few simple tips in mind, and Mankind Divided will feel familiar in no time. 

Get these essential augmentations ASAP 

Deus Ex has always been about player choice, but without certain abilities the available options are pretty limited. It can be infuriating to see a ventilation shaft just beyond your reach, the one that will take you exactly where you need to go, but just because you skipped leg day you’re stuck weaving through vision cones and land mines. Get these augs and save yourself some grief.

Remote Hacking - By far, the most helpful ability in Mankind Divided is Remote Hacking. With it, you can simply look at a device to hack it for a small energy cost (and some well-timed button presses). Maxing out the Remote Hacking stat is ideal since it allows you to temporarily disable robots, turrets, and security cameras, which can come in handy for both stealth and assault builds.  At only 3 Praxis points for everything, it’s a good deal. And don’t worry about overclocking Jensen’s cybernetics—so long as you’re trying to complete all the sidequests (and you should) overclocking won’t matter a few hours in.

Klipspringer Jump Mod - Without the ability to jump higher, you won’t be able to access escape routes or perform mad dunks. Entrances to vents, rooftops, and peace of mind will remain just out of reach, locking out some of the more clever methods for infiltration.

Social Enhancer - The Social Enhancer makes pivotal NPC conversations much easier to sway by ‘translating’ the character’s personality type into some basic flashing UI elements. Responding with the right line of dialogue can soothe the character, opening them up to persuasion. You won’t need it often, but when you do, it will make a massive difference in terms of how the story plays out.

Optimized Musculature - Most levels place a vending machine in front of a particularly convenient ventilation shaft, but without big muscles, you can only ogle it with x-ray vision from afar.

Stack barrels and trash bins  

Perfection requires iteration.

The environments are littered with physics objects which are great for throwing to distract guards, but best when used to make crude effigies of our true lord and savior, the trash bin. One mission has you infiltrate the headquarters of a cult (aka, non-believers) starting from the first floor. Or you can just go outside and construct a trash and crate tower that takes you straight to heaven. Be sure to stop by the fourth floor window on the way up and complete the mission for some XP before resuming your slow dissolve into the sky.

Do every sidequest you can

Mainlining the game takes about seven hours, but our reviewer did everything he could and finished in just under 30 hours. There’s a lot of great extra stuff to see, and without the extra experience, your abilities will be much more limited than if you were to see and play everything. Sidequests dole out experience like candy in a tri-county parade, and you’ll want all the abilities you can get. Late game levels are complex spy jungle gyms that test every facet of your cybernetic arsenal, and behind those missions are some great side stories that give slight nuance to Mankind Divided’s hands-off cyberpunk representation of civil rights politics. Dig into your past (and get an invaluable reward for it) or help a rogue ‘zine hack the billboards around town to get the truth out—or, just do it for the XP.

...Or ignore missions entirely and explore Prague

Prague is no Skyrim, but it’s a huge, dense hub area with plenty to see. Nearly every building is hiding something, whether some story tidbits in an email or a hidden stash of weapon mods and scrap. The sewer system is a labyrinth all its own, and while spelunking in its stinky corridors I happened to find a way into the hideout I’d been trying to infiltrate unseen for hours. And of course, everything is just pretty to look at. There’s more character and minute detail in Prague than any Deus Ex game before, worth admiration for the artistry alone.

Read every email and pocket secretary 

Massive blocks of tiny text can be a strain on the eyes, but in Deus Ex, reading emails and pocket secretaries are vital for expanding your infiltration options. Some contain key codes and computer passwords in their entirety (cyber security in the future is pretty trash, eh?) and others might detail secret alternative routes. I read an email that mentioned untrampled, whole leaves made their way into a secure vault, so I went looking for leaves outside and found a well-hidden entrance I would’ve missed otherwise. 

Check under desks for secret buttons 

Everyone deserves to find a secret door in their lifetime.

If you like stealth games, avoid the glass-shield cloak ability 

It reduces stealth to energy management, which isn’t fun and skips more interesting methods of infiltration (hacking, exploration, intel) for a boring series of bolts between cover while waiting for your energy to recharge. Grab the Icarus Dash, a slightly clumsy approximation of Dishonored’s blink dash, and fill out your hacking abilities instead. Do your part to roleplay the ideal stealthy cyberpunk.

Don’t put all your augs into one basket

By the end of Mankind Divided, you’ll have plenty of wiggle room when spending ability points, but early on, your core abilities will feel severely limited. It might be tempting to pour everything into hacking or combat trees, and having a maxed-out specialization early on can be immensely helpful, just only in particular situations. No mission in Deus Ex makes exclusive use of one skill set, so while you may be able to hack like Mr. Robot, when it comes to spatial awareness or traversal, you may be backed into a corner. Spread those points out in the early game so you always have a way out of a sticky situation. Be a decent hacker with mad hops and big biceps instead of just a great hacker. 

Get messy

This is more of a personal recommendation than anything, but the most fun you can have with Deus Ex is by letting yourself mess up. How you react under pressure and what skills you build out to prep for future screwups is what make it so great. There’s room for save-scummed ghost runs, but for a more memorable playthrough, let the systems do their thing. My strongest memory from Human Revolution is from one of the earliest missions where you infiltrate a police station. I was caught almost immediately, and decided to make it easy for myself by knocking out every officer in the building and hiding them in vents. It’s a silly way to pivot, but made me laugh and actually worked. Mankind Divided has even more room for experimentation, so get after it and fill those vents with unconscious bodies. It’s what PC gaming is all about. 

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.