So Square Enix have introduced their new Dawn engine, using a screenshot of next Deus Ex game to show it off. Well, they haven't actually confirmed that it's Deus Ex, but come on. Dark cyberpunk city scene? Check. Black and gold? Check. Fluorescent tube lights at jaunty angles? CHECK.
Anyway, completely unrelated to this image, which has nothing to do with Deus Ex, we've been thinking about what we'd love to see in the sequel. Here's what we came up with.
A bustling metropolis
Andy: I’m all about the hubs. Hengsha and Detroit were fun spaces with a lot of detail, but they didn’t really feel like the bustling cities they were supposed to be. Traveling the globe is a big part of Deus Ex, but I wonder if the game would benefit from having just one massive, hyper-detailed hub. An intricate cyberpunk city that feels alive.
Blade Runner was an obvious influence on Human Revolution, but this only extended to the visuals. I’d love a Deus Ex city with the same overcrowded, filthy, chaotic feel as Ridley Scott’s futuristic LA, rather than just a handful of dead-eyed pedestrians standing around waiting to spout dialogue at you. Maybe this’ll be possible with Square Enix’s newly announced Dawn engine.
A better story
Chris Thursten: Rethink the structure of the narrative. Or, more to the point—get better at telling the type of story that Deus Ex has always told. Cyberpunk and film noir have always been close, and Deus Ex very much fits that pattern: these are detective stories about lineage, power, and conspiracy. There are moments in Human Revolution that really nail this type of story: particularly the way the persuasion system blends future-tech and gumshoe sleuthing. But there were failures, too. The moments when choice is taken from the players’ hands to force Jensen to kill somebody; that bin-rummaging informant.
And the most egregious: the ending. Deus Ex’s love for push-button conclusion rooms needs to go, because it’s totally discordant with what precedes it. These games are about figuring out how to use the power at your disposal—putting the player in a big room with three switches that change the world is the dumbest reduction of that concept. Instead, have the ending result from the small decisions that players are making across the whole of the game. Be brave enough to force the player to live with the consequences of their actions. That’s the real film noir ending, and the more interesting approach to cyberpunk.
Let us see more of the world
Sam: Give me more places to explore. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was my favourite game of 2011, but even so, it felt a hub short of being complete to me. The two hubs themselves were spectacular and multi-layered—hours later I was finding new things and there was a lot of replay value because of how detailed these environments were. The next Deus Ex should give us three or four utterly different hub worlds to explore. I guess I just want more of Human Revolution with a higher level of detail and loads of things to see. I’d even be happy to see the same hero return.
While Human Revolution’s story concluded in a way that shaped the world, to a considerable degree, I’m not sure that Adam Jensen’s story ever really got a proper conclusion. What happened to him? On the surface, he is just a gruff cool leather jacket guy and not the sort of character you’re really allowed to like publicly.
But I was a big fan of Adam Jensen: his weird and cool apartment, the fact he starts as a victim who grows into this powerful superbeing, the relationship between him and Megan. He was this oddball, lonely superman, and I’d be perfectly happy to see him return as a protagonist in the next game. Given Deus Ex switches leads with every installment, however, it’s more likely he’ll return in a supporting role. That’s fine too.
Lie to us
Phil: I want to be lied to. This, for me, is what ties Deus Ex's conspiratorial stories to the chisel-armed action. People are dishonest, and casually. They will tell you what you need to hear in order to further their agenda—and not just for some dramatic he-was-a-villain-all-along cutscene reveal. People ostensibly on your side will lie to you, because you yourself are an unpredictable entity. They're trying to manipulate you. Not Jensen (or Denton), but you.
That's pretty cool. Games rarely do this—at least not in a way that isn't obviously telegraphed—because there's a fear it'll be confusing to the player. Deus Ex trusts you to engage with its genre, and Human Revolution turns it into a game. The conversational back-and-forth is a battle of wills; of two manipulators trying to get the upper hand in order to reveal (or keep hidden) essential information. It's so perfect that this world has a broad selection of social enhancements. It's a fiction where everyone is wrapped up in at least some level of conspiracy. Untangling that web is a thing I want from any Deus Ex game.
An augmented society
Tom S: How do you beat retractable arm chisels? Human Revolution had guns that could bend bullets around cover and augmentations that could shower a room with warheads, but these were mostly reserved for the player character. Human Revolution teased us with a society on the cusp of revolution. Augmentation is available to the elite, in military R&D facilities and haute couture clinics, but it’s not everywhere.
Go further. What happens when augmentation and neural networking become blasé. What experimental commando toys exist in such a world? How does the technology exaggerate and alter gaps in society? What new cults and religions emerge? I want to meet characters experiencing a full-blown transhuman identity crisis and deploy a cloud of nanomachines to smell their angst.
Also, more beautiful ceilings, please.
Samuel R: Let’s not get too silly, Tom. That’s one step away from sentient sex robots.
Better boss fights
Wes: I'll make the obvious suggestion: boss fights that aren't totally terrible. The Deus Ex: Human Revolution team owned up to the fact that their boss battles were outsourced, and didn't really fit into the rest of the game. Now I'll go a step further and say that I don't really want boss fights in the next Deus Ex at all. At least, not in the conventional "tough dude in an arena" way. Deus Ex is defined by how thoroughly it empowers us to make choices about how we play. In the original, you can almost always do the wrong thing, or the weird thing, or the unexpected thing, instead of playing in the most obvious way.
Boss fights in the next Deus Ex should reflect that. I should be able to use charm or intimidation to talk my way around a fight, like in any good RPG. I should be able to hack the boss's cybernetic implants and disable them, or even rewire their brain and turn them into an ally. I should be able to avoid a fight altogether by sneaking around. And hell, this is a cyberpunk future. Why are we fighting with guns? Make the new Deus Ex villains cyberspace masterminds who we outsmart rather than outshoot.
No third-person view
Evan: Eliminate third-person. It worked alright enough in Human Revolution, but it’s absolutely a feature that’s meant to make the game more gamepad-friendly. Deus Ex is at its best when you have to guess what’s around the corner, or peek and risk detection. First-person leaning would be a fine compromise.
Phil: That's all well and good, Evan, but if there's no third-person cover, how will people Safety Dance?
Tom: Or see Jensen’s lovely coat?
Tony: Boss battles are bad, but battling is not. Don’t throw out the battle baby with the boss battle bathwater. I find my most abiding memories of Deus Ex are of those moments when I had to take on a dozen armed and armoured future-soldiers at once in a fight to the finish. It happens in the first game when the bad guys come for your brother, and I can still remember the buzz of piling up furniture in Paul’s apartment hallway to create a killing zone, and setting motion-sensitive mines on the walls, and just being so excited that a game was finally letting me do this clever stuff.
It happens again in Human Revolution, when Zhao gives you the slip in her penthouse and leaves you to face a dozen heavily armed guards who can come at you from two sides at once—but with just enough time to prepare a few surprises for them on the turn of the stairs. More of this, please. Stealthing is great, and an essential part of Deus Ex, but it’s in the pitched battles, where you have to use all your assets and all your ingenuity to even the odds, that I really get to feel like a cybernetic badass.
Chris Livingston: Considering how much fun it is in Far Cry 4, I'd love to see some sort of drop-in co-op multiplayer action. Especially in an RPG like Deus Ex where your character build might vary greatly from that of your friend, being able to pop into their game and team up on side-missions, tackle special events, or just skulk around together would be a lot of fun.
Phil: If we're stealing from Far Cry 4, let's add bears too. Augmented cyberbears with jaw-chisels and Icarus pouncing systems. I'd play that boss battle.
What would you like to see from the next Deus Ex game? Let us know in the comments.