10 February 2011

How Deus Ex: Invisible War Fails to Engage the Player - by Joannes Truyens

      Posted 02/07/11 07:01:00 am  

The recent hands-on impressions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution all emphasise the fact that the game stays true to the core tenet of the original: leaving the player free to choose between a wide variety of approaches to complete any given objective. As such, Deus Ex became well-known for engendering a deep sense of agency, but this applied more to its gameplay mechanics than to its story. The broad strokes of its plot were set in stone, with only the minutiae left up to the player. Naturally, a fully dynamic story is something that’s nigh-on impossible to attain in a game that isn't something like Minecraft. It’s less about what the player wants to do and more what the developers allow him to do. Those two can be the same if the developers did their job with a modicum of foresight, but it remains a compromise at best. 

Deus Ex: Invisible War sought to foster that same level of agency, and in the first few levels, it seems to succeed. The player walks around in cities and interacts with NPCs who all give him conflicting goals on both a microlevel (collecting evidence on a corrupt senator or helping him out for cash) and a macrolevel (aligning with one of the game’s central factions against the others). But after a recent playthrough, it occurred to me that there is a very specific way in which the game ultimately fails to engage the player.

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