Augmenting The Future – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Interview With Eidos Montreal

Adam Jensen and the Deus Ex franchise return’s next Tuesday when the fifth installment – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided releases for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, the first title in the series developed solely for the current generation of consoles. Since making its debut back in 2000, the cyberpunk-themed series has changed protagonists and locations taking players through New York, Detroit, Paris, Cairo, even Antartica and Area 51. Mankind Divided revisits the most recent protagonist, Adam Jensen taking him this time to Prague, in what the developers tell us will be an evolution for the series.

Stephan Rodts caught up with Eidos Montreal Producer Fleur Marty during Gamescom 2016 earlier this week to find out more about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Stephan Rodts: How do you build on the success of 2011? From a player’s perspective, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was smart, brilliantly scripted with gorgeous visuals and a protagonist to die for in Adam Jensen. Receiving widespread acclaim, it also helped to elevate the Deus Ex series to new heights. What aspects of Human Revolution did you feel required the most improvement and what elements or features did you feel the studio needed to implement into Mankind Divided?

Fleur Marty – Producer: At the end of the production of Human Revolution, there were elements of the game we were not 100% satisfied with. We also got feedback from the players and the community and that actually matched pretty well with what we thought needed to be improved. 1 of the 2 most important elements was its combat. We knew that in Human Revolution we had a really solid stealth experience, it was very satisfying for stealth oriented players. But for the combat oriented players, it wasn’t as satisfying, we felt that the combat was not on par. So we worked a lot on action-oriented augmentations, the controls, the cover system and the AI. With all of this together to give a really cool combat experience. Another big thing for us was the choice and consequences, we really wanted to push them even further than before with Human Revolution.

For Mankind Divided, the studio opted to leave Asia and North America behind for a European setting, more specifically Prague. What led you to leave the game’s previous setting in favour of a new one? What can players expect with the new location and surroundings?

Deus Ex is all about that traveling around the world and seeing different places and to us, it felt right to go and explore Europe. Our vision of the world in Deus Ex is a mixture of the old and the new. We don’t see the future as a place where cities will be totally transformed. You will always see new things, but there are also old things that will always stay there. And Prague is very much like that, it has a big history that you can see in the buildings, and it also has some more modern parts. It felt really right and also the players will travel to more places then Prague. The game starts in Dubai and players can expect to go to other locations as well.

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Mankind Divided continues the story of Adam Jensen. Was there ever a time when you considered introducing a new protagonist to the series or did you always intend to stick with Adam? He’s a very likeable character.

For a very short time we considered not to bring Adam back, and actually, it is the first time (in the series) we have a recurring main character. So in all, the first 3 games had a different main character. We always tell the story about Mary DeMarle – the executive narrative director – when she was asked to bring back Adam she said, “I have no more stories to tell for him (Adam), he is finished he is dead dead dead”. But the thing is he was a very beloved main character, fans love him, and also it’s not that easy to create a strong powerful charismatic main character. So we considered for a minute not to bring him back, but it made so much sense to continue with him.

It’s been 5 years since we last saw Adam Jensen, how has the character changed in that time?

Mankind Divided actually takes place 2 years after the events of Human Revolution, Adam has really changed after what happened at the end of Human Revolution, it affected him. In Human Revolution he was like the “I never asked for this” guy, always running errands for other people and in Mankind Divided he is very much his own person. He is manipulating others he is more assertive, he now has fully embraced what he is, he is a weapon and he knows it. He even thinks that if he wasn’t who he is he wouldn’t be able to get to the truth.

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When we last saw Adam Jensen he was aboard Panchaea attempting to shut down a signal which resulted in sending augmented humans completely insane. With multiple endings to Human Revolution, how difficult was it to orchestrate a beginning for Mankind Divided that made sense to players of Human Revolution and can we expect to see multiple endings with the latest game? Is any one of the endings “canon”?

All of the endings in Human Revolution are canon because what happens at the end is you make a choice, but you are the only one who knows. At the end of Human Revolution Adam broadcasts his message and the game ends, when a thing like Panacea happens it is a very tragic incident, we are talking about millions of people who have died, the message just gets lost in the noise, or people are gonna try and use it for political agenda. So you choose what Adam broadcasted but who heard it? so it doesn’t matter in such an incident, there will always be repercussions. And yes there will be multiple endings too for Mankind Divided.

Are there now multiple approaches for dealing with boss encounters? This was one of the sticking points for Human Revolution.

So you don’t have to kill a boss if you really don’t want to, you can truly stick to your play style there is really no more issue there. The bosses were already fixed in the director’s cut for Human Revolution, it is one of the first things the team worked on, we knew that.

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After the events of Panchaea Adam joins the group Task Force 29, what can you tell us about the anti-terrorist group and what role they play throughout Mankind Divided?

TF29 is actually a task force from Interpol and they are specifically looking into augmented terrorism. They will play a key role in Mankind Divided. Adam is a part of them, the thing is, he is really trying to do good there but he is also infiltrating them because he thinks they are actually manipulated by the Illuminati. So he is trying to do good with them but he is also trying to figure out what is going on on the inside.

Mankind Divided also see’s the return of hacker group ‘Juggernaut Collective’, previously seen in Human Revolution‘s prequel novel Icarus Effect as well as its DLC – The Missing Link. What can you tell me about the hacktivists involvement in the latest game and of their relationship with the game’s main character?

Well, they are the other side of the point, they are the ones who actually tipped Adam that TF29 is infiltrated by the Illuminati. They are trying to use Adam but, in actuality, he is using them and TF29 to get to the truth. So those two factions are really the most important ones. There also could be conflicting interest at one point, so players could have some tough choices to make.

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What kind of challenges did you encounter when writing the script for Mankind Divided?

It’s the direct consequence of wanting to expand on choice and consequences. The thing is that when you have a lot of those in the game if you are thinking a player is gonna do that an hour into the game, it will maybe have a consequence in the 20th hour of playing Mankind Divided, so everything should coincide with that. So with everything we are writing in the script we are constantly thinking “should this have an impact on something or is this a consequence of something?”. It’s a huge challenge, the narrative team has this document called the tree of life, it’s all the branches of the story. It’s also a challenge for the testers because they have to go through every possible outcome and they should know if they do this then 5 hours later that has to happen. So it’s a challenge to write the script and a challenge to test that script out.

A key part of Human Revolution was the use of Adam’s various abilities, with cloaking, strength and other areas readily available for upgrade through the use of Praxis Kits. What new augmentations have you introduced to Mankind Divided? And how will they help Adam?

There are a bunch of new augmentations for Mankind Divided, the focus was actually on giving the players more active augmentations. That’s also the part of building a better action feeling. Adam returns with all the augmentations from Human Revolution, the major ones now are guns in his arm. So at the same time, you can hold a gun and use your arm as a weapon. The Nano Blade, which was already in Human Revolution and was used for takedowns, now you will be able to shoot, he can charge it and make it explode. He has tesla in his arm which shoots bolts of electricity and he can target several opponents at one time, this is a non-lethal augmentation.

It’s very important we also support a non-lethal combat playstyle. He has the titan shield that is shown in the trailer. We also have the Icarus Dash that allows him to kind of teleport himself short distances.

Thanks to Fleur Marty of Eidos Montreal for taking the time to chat with us.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is available August 23rd on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

 

About Stephan Rodts

Profile photo of Stephan Rodts
Better known as RzrsS in the video game scene, Stephan Rodts has been playing video games for nearly his entire life. He started out shooting poor ducks out of the sky in Duck Hunt on the Nintendo, but now shoots everything that moves. Be warned.

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