While at PAX Australia 2015 in Melbourne we were fortunate to get some question time with Mary DeMarle, the lead writer on Eidos Montreal’s upcoming game, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. We discussed some of the story and new things we can look forward to early next year.
Grant: First up can you introduce yourself and explain to us what your involvement is with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided?
Mary DeMarle: I’m the Executive Narrative Director on the Deus Ex franchise. Basically that means I was the lead writer and the head of the narrative development for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. On Mankind Divided I’m doing the same thing.
Jude: Can you tell us a bit about the story in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided?
Mary DeMarle: The story takes place two years after Human Revolution ended and the world has changed in that time. (Spoiler Alert) The mechanically augmented people at the end of Human Revolution were forced into psychotic fits which led to alot of death and destruction. The world is reeling from the aftermath and have turned against the augmented. The divide has become huge and mechanically augmented people are very much feared. They are being shoved into augmented ghettos and separated from society as their rights are being stripped away.
This environment has bred a lot of chaos and with it many acts of terrorism. Adam Jensen comes back into the story having left Sarif Industries and has now joined with newly formed division of Interpol known as Task Force 29. Their job is to fight this rising tide of terrorism that is happening in the world.
Jensen is in there to stop the chaos and investigate the terrorism but he has a secret double agenda. At the end of Human Revolution he became aware that there were people operating in the shadows, manipulating society and they are the real source of a lot of the problems. Adam has decided they need to be stopped.
He has teamed up with a group of hacker activists known as the Juggernaut Collectives in order to get to the truth, find the illuminati and take the fight to them. He is working in the task force to both stop terrorism and discover the source of it all.
Grant: Can you tell us about some of the themes you are trying to explore in the game?
Mary DeMarle: The Deus Ex franchise is always looking at the idea of transhumanism, what happens when mankind has technology and biology combining and where it is going to take us. That leads to a deeper question of ‘what does it mean to be human?’ We are always looking at that kind of idea. With each story we are pegging it from a different direction. In Human Revolution it was ‘why do we do the things that we do?’ In Mankind Divided we are looking at how human beings react to these chaotic events. Are you ruled by reason or emotion?
Within the chaotic environment comes the rise of opportunists; ‘How do we take advantage of things?’ ‘Should we take advantage of things?’ It all basically comes down to, as human beings, what are we really ruled by reason, emotion or something else?
Jude: Can you tell us a bit about the choices in the game and what impact they have?
Mary DeMarle: The game has always been about choice and consequence. When we did it in Human Revolution a lot of the choices played out on a gameplay level but they didn’t really affect the story that much. This time round we really wanted to change that, we wanted to push the envelope as much as we could. Right from the get go, we asked ourselves; ‘If by presenting story choices can we change the narrative?’ ‘Can we have a different experience?’
How you deal with characters early on may shut down a path. You might be over and done with that character but depending on the choices you have made, the character might come back and have an actual effect on your critical path story later on.
Midway through the game we present you with choices that you can only do one or the other, you cannot do both. As a result, your story will change and when you get to the end of the game, there is no four button ending. How you get to that ending, what you have at your disposal and the choices you made all along are changing your experience
Side missions can also affect the story, they can be quite short if you want them to be but if you explore them you can discover a lot more. This means side missions can become a lot bigger and can come back and impact the main story.
Grant: What are some of the real world inspirations that have gone into creating the game?
Mary DeMarle: That is a hard question to answer as there is a lot, but we definitely try to hold up a mirror to the world with it and see where we go. With this one you could say that since we are dealing a lot with terrorism we are looking at things like the military-industrial complex, militarization of police and how people that are there to protect and serve, but they are so separate from us, they are not [serving and protecting].
We can look at things that are happening in the US, with Ferguson and all that, with a lot of the rioting against police. You can even look at things like the war in Syria and the refugees. There is a lot of different little things as we are building the story that we can touch upon. I wouldn’t say there is any one big thing for inspiration.
Grant: What are some of the big improvements gamers can expect to see in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided?
Mary DeMarle: We have put a lot of effort into making the combat a lot more visceral and fun to play. We have also introduced quite a few new augmentations that enable you to really feel powerful weather you are playing stealth or combat.
For instance we have new things such as the Titan Shield which is an augmentation that creates this dark black triangular body armour around Jensen that absorbs a lot of heavy damage so he can be a bit of a human tank. There is also a gun arm augmentation where one of his arms is serves a lot more as gun. One example would be the Nano blade he has always had which now can be shot like a crossbow. You can also charge it before you shoot to cause an explosion.
We are also trying to have a better balance with non-lethal augmentation, for instance the Typhoon is still there, it turns Jensen into a human grenade but there is another Typhoon version that is now non-lethal, so players can access a really cool but non-lethal augmentation and not kill people. The P.E.P.S. gun arm is another non-lethal one where you can hit people with a concussive blast.
We have also fine-tuned the gameplay a bit, for instance the take-downs are back, both lethal and non-lethal. These can now be performed from cover and won’t break your cover whereas in Human Revolution these would take you out of cover which made playing stealth very difficult.
So there are lot of improvements as mentioned a lot more that I’m not going to mention.
Jude: Finally, can you summarize Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in couple of sentences?
Mary DeMarle: It’s a near future story that is set in dystopic cyberpunk world and an action RPG that is based on five pillars of gameplay: combat, stealth, hacking, social and exploration. It really is our attempt to build a universe you can really lose yourself in. Everything in the universe is cohesive if we have done the job right.
Eidos’ Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is due for release on the 23rd of August 2016 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.