WARNING: Contains minor spoilers for the main game.
Having just finished the Season Pass for Mankind Divided, I wanted to come back and offer my thoughts on all the content contained therein. While the gameplay has stayed the same as the main game (you can read my thoughts about it here), I wanted to discuss the stories of each piece of DLC and whether I liked some of it better than the main game itself. This will be more informal than a regular review. There will be a section for each DLC along with a score. Let’s begin!
Although originally just a bonus for preordering, Desperate Measures was later included in the season pass. It is a single mission and offers the least content of the three DLCs in the season pass. It honestly should have been included with the main game but was probably chopped out to sweeten the preorder pot.
Taking place after the Ruzicka Train Station bombing, Desperate Measures sees Adam Jensen following up on a tip that the Intellicam Footage (security camera film in normal parlance) may have been intentionally corrupted. After interviewing a metro employee who claims a Tarvos Security Officer had access to the footage before the police, Jensen heads off to the local Tarvos offices in Prague to investigate. The story itself isn’t the most interesting but it does provide a little insight into who was the bomber. It also provides a choice at the end whereby you can decide what to do with the information you learned. What I found most interesting were the emails that tied into the first full season pass DLC, System Rift.
The one problem I had with the mission is that, even if you purchased it before playing the base game, the mission isn’t put into the game itself. You have to access it through a separate tab in the main menu. This means that you can’t explore the hub world. You can only explore the mission map. This makes the story feel out of place and disjointed. As a consequence, you are given a handful of Praxis Kits at the start of the mission to level Jensen up. You also gain experience throughout the whole thing so you can receive more Praxis Kits. The gameplay was the same as the base game whereby you could level up Jensen for stealth, combat, or both. There was a variety of ways to get through the level and the map design was great as always for a Deus Ex game. I just think it was out of place being in a separate menu and not in the base game itself.
Final Score: 6/10
Like Desperate Measures, System Rift takes place in Prague. Unlike Desperate Measures, however, its events occur after the main game, feature a hub area to explore, and its story felt substantial and complete. It didn’t feel like it should have been in the main game even though it involved some of the same companies and people. The best part about System Rift is that it reunites Jensen with Adam Pritchard, Sarif Industries’ former cybersecurity chief. The back-and-forth between the two throughout the whole thing was absolutely fantastic. I missed Pritchard during Mankind Divided and I’m glad he was brought back.
Pritchard contacts Jensen under the pretense of needing help with a contractor who has gone quiet. The contractor has a device that Pritchard wants back and he requests Jensen’s help to get it back. Jensen reluctantly agrees and goes in search of it. As it turns out, that device is very important in Pritchard’s new line of work: corporate espionage. Jensen is not happy for being used but he quickly forgets his unease once he learns that Pritchard means to break into the Palisade Property Bank. After much pleading, Jensen agrees to help his old colleague since he could possibly learn a lot about the Illuminati seeing as Palisade holds a lot of information within its Blades (storage centers). And so off Jensen goes to Palisade Blade-01 to break in.
One of the things I liked the most about System Rift is that all of the characters you meet are fascinating. There was something missing from Mankind Divided that I could never put my finger on and I think this is it. The game was missing really interesting and engaging characters. In addition to the always entertaining Frank Pritchard, you come face-to-face with a virulently anti-Aug gang (remember this is post-Aug Incident), a grief-stricken man who says that Palisade murdered his wife, and a hacker who has a grudge against Palisade’s Chief Technology Officer. All of these people are more memorable than anyone I met during my playthrough of the base game.
In addition, all of the emails, written material, and the stuff you find within the levels were great too. On the one hand, while reading, you find out all about a corporation (Palisade) hellbent on keeping its secrets by spying on its employees. On the other, you can read benign and relatively mundane emails scolding employees to clean up after themselves. If you look hard enough, you can even find a cubicle where employees have played a prank on their coworker. The juxtaposition of impersonal corporate cruelty with humanity was memorable and is what I think was missing from Mankind Divided.
As for the gameplay, it is mostly the same as the base game. You receive a handful of Praxis Kits to level up Jensen as you see fit. You get access to both the regular and experimental augments. There is no penalty for using the experimental augs since System Rift takes place after the events of Mankind Divided. The level design is fantastic and offers the Deus Ex trademark style of doing things your way. The only drawback (which really isn’t one for me personally but could be for some people) is that the levels and the mission is primarily designed for stealth. You could go in and complete it with guns blazing but it would be very difficult. This is because the Palisade Blade-01 is heavily guarded by humans, turrets, and robots. Close to the end of the DLC, the robots and turrets can sense body heat so even the glass-shielding cloak won’t help you. System Rift even features a trippy level taken from the multiplayer Breach mode of Mankind Divided. All of these parts combine to make it a well-designed piece of DLC.
All-in-all, System Rift is reminiscent of the longer, self-contained levels between hub areas in Mankind Divided’s prequel, Human Revolution. This is a good thing in my book as it had all of the ingredients that made Human Revolution a great game: plenty of secrets, variety of ways forward, lots of extra content for the curious, bonus objectives, great characters, and a compelling story. I hope that Eidos Montreal remembers these elements and puts them into any future Deus Ex installment.
Final Score: 9/10
A Criminal Past:
Unlike the previous two pieces of DLC, which take place during and after the events of Mankind Divided, A Criminal Past takes place before the main game but after the Aug Incident. This is important since everyone’s emotions are still raw over the Incident and tensions are high. In fact, what occurs during A Criminal Past is a direct consequence of the aftermath of the Aug Incident.
You play as Jensen once again as he goes undercover on his first mission for Task Force 29 (TF 29). His mission: infiltrate a supermax Federal prison for the augmented, under the guise of a prisoner, in Arizona to extract an agent who has been undercover for two years. Nicknamed the “Penthouse,” the Penley T. Housefather Correctional Facility was one of the first prisons of its kind built after the Aug Incident. As you can guess, this isn’t a great place to be given the anti-aug fear permeating society at the time. It makes for a great setting full of conflict: guards vs. prisoners, guards vs. administration, and prisoner vs. prisoner. The whole place seems ready to burst (and, minor spoiler, burst it does) and I feel it is one of the best designed locations within Mankind Divided’s world.
Jensen relates his account of what happened during this mission to TF 29’s resident psychiatrist: Dr. Delara Auzenne. TF 29 wants clarification about the mission and thus Jensen finds himself talking to Delara. It is an interesting way to tell a story, in my opinion. Whenever you make a decision (and there are a lot of decisions throughout the DLC), Delara and Jensen’s voice overlay the gameplay discussing the merits of the decision you just made. It was a very cinematic way of doing things as it reminded me of several movies which have done the same thing. I thought it was a creative way to convey the story. It was intriguing listening to Jensen defend the choices he made to Delara as you played the game.
Unlike Desperate Measures and System Rift, you don’t have access to your augments since you are undercover as a prisoner. A suppressor chip has been installed in you and it renders your augments unusable and makes Jensen feel pain whenever you try to use his augments. This adds a whole new level of challenge to Criminal Past not seen in the rest of Mankind Divided. You must be very careful when trying to accomplish your objectives in the opening hour of Criminal Past since you aren’t god-like anymore. Worry not, though, since you can regain access to your augs should you choose to (I won’t say how since that would spoil it). I will say that once you gain access to your augs, you gain experience and Praxis Kits fairly quickly. Although this makes it kind of easy after a little while, I believe the developers designed it that way so it wouldn’t be impossible to get around the prison. Also, if you choose to unlock the hacking augments, you will find that most electronics are at a low hacking level. I think they’re at a low level for the same reason why you receive experience points quickly. Additionally, since the story takes place before Mankind Divided, you get the choice to only have access to your standard augs or break continuity and have the opportunity to unlock the experimental ones as well. It was a nice touch and I’m glad the developers paid attention and put that option in there.
Once again, the level design is topnotch just like the rest of Mankind Divided. I think the Penthouse was my favorite setting in the whole game overall. As you progress forward, you can open up various shortcuts to make it much easier to get around. Like System Rift, this mission seems designed with stealth in mind rather than combat since there are so many robots, turrets, cameras, and guards. I will say the one drawback to the mission, and this ties in with the level design, is that the in-menu map is kind of confusing. It splits each building and section of the prison into separate tabs within the map. It is hard to explain but you’ll know it when you see it for yourself. It’s almost as if the designers knew this would be a problem since they included in-game markers to point the way to certain parts of the prison. I had to rely on them several times to get where I needed to be instead of using the map.
Criminal Past also displays a lot of character both in the literal sense of the characters you meet and in the emails you read and things you see. You will meet an inmate who recognizes you from your days as a cop in Detroit (though this turns out to be a wasted plotline, in my opinion), a former doctor who hides stuffed animals with useful items in them around the prison, and the hard-ass head of security who is unbelievably corrupt. All of these characters coupled with the environmental storytelling gave the Penthouse a feeling of being real. As if it could actually exist here in our world. That is what I miss most about Human Revolution, the first Deus Ex reboot game, and is a feeling that I hope Eidos Montreal is able to incorporate into future installments in the franchise.
Although I loved Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I think I actually liked A Criminal Past even more (I also liked System Rift more too). Its level design, great characters, choices, and level of challenge all add up to one of the greatest pieces of DLC I’ve ever played. If you choose to play one story DLC from Mankind Divided’s season pass, I would recommend you choose A Criminal Past.
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for reading and please return on Tuesday for another post!
p.s. I didn’t mention in my original Mankind Divided review but I noticed it more while playing through the season pass: the controls are kind of weird. I don’t know if it was just me or what but the controls seem like they weren’t designed very well. If you’ve played Mankind Divided, what were your thoughts on the standard control scheme?