View Full Version : On Mankind Divided and Unforced Errors

26th Aug 2016, 02:47
The post is somewhat critical of Mankind Divided, but in no way do I intend to imply that I'm unhappy with the title. It's a very good game. Rather, my criticism is intended to help identify and generate discussion regarding how future entries in the series can be elevated from very good to GREAT.

I will make efforts to include constructive criticism when possible, and fully believe most problems I identify can be resolved to the satisfaction of both gamers, and Square Enix / Eidos Montreal.

I'd like to write a short summary of a nagging feeling of disappointment I've had while playing Mankind Divided, one that wasn't as strong while playing Human Revolution, and utterly nonexistent for the original Deus Ex. Given the reaction on Steam (roughly 3k positive reviews to just over 1.5k negative reviews), it would appear that I'm not alone in feeling Mankind Divided has some non-trivial issues.

I've spent some time thinking on the issue, because the reason for my disappointment wasn't immediately clear to me. The game world is spectacular, and I've no complaints with the plot. The gameplay itself is very solid, and feels like a step up from Human Revolution. So why was I feeling a bit underwhelmed?

It dawned on me after I realized I had been alt-tabbing between playing MD and chatting on Facebook: Mankind Divided simply isn't terribly immersive.

Some examples of design decisions that have harmed my sense of immersion:

Integration of microtransactions. Seeing a "shop" button in the main menu unavoidably harms the immersion factor. It draws me back to the real world of credit cards and capitalism - not the in-game world of Augs and Naturals.

Microtransactions can probably be integrated if Square Enix feels the need to do so, but I feel they shouldn't be present within the game itself, including the main menu. Place it in the Steam page for the game, place it on the Square Enix website - but don't put "SHOP" right above "QUIT".

Integration of Deus Ex GO and Breach. How am I supposed to sink completely into the world of Mankind Divided when I'm being constantly reminded to take out my cell phone or explore the multiplayer component of the title? I'm glad that there are other aspects to the game in addition to the single-player experience, but they're pushed in a manner that affect my sense of immersion while playing Mankind Divided itself.

Clunky menus. The UI is supposed to be seamless; throwing up a giant screen-wide wheel menu when interacting with Adam's stash or conversing with a NPC is not seamless. Sluggish responses to mouse clicks and key presses is not seamless. I feel like I'm controlling the game through a gamepad emulator at times.

If the development team can't think of alternatives for gamepad-based control schemes, fine - but the PC version can easily leverage keyboard shortcuts for these things, and it can do so responsively. Take the time and effort to develop and integrate two different interfaces - one for keyboard/mouse players, and one for gamepads. It's worth the investment.

I could go into detail on other problems, such as merchants and NPCs recycling conversations and acting as if they've never seen you before when you return to Prague after a day / night cycle, or unlocked doors and keycards magically being restored to their original state when you return to a building after certain significant storyline events, but I think the point is made.

The problems I described are both unforced, and eminently solvable. They affect arguably the most important component of a Deus Ex title: immersion. They are also particularly noticeable to gamers like myself, long-time fans of the series going back to the original title, people who still choose to play on the PC.

So take the time to develop truly responsive interfaces, and build two if need be - players on a keyboard shouldn't feel as if they're basically using a mapped gamepad interface. Keep the microtransactions and related mobile / multiplayer content if you must, but don't integrate it into the single-player game world, or into the in-game menus. This will go a long way toward addressing my concerns, and the concerns of gamers like me, who have been playing Deus Ex titles since the beginning.

It will elevate future titles from 'very good' to 'great'.

Oh, and for pete's sake, don't add insult to injury by delaying the PC release by 9-12 hours over the console versions. I had to work on Tuesday, so it didn't really affect me, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. If you need all hands on deck for the more diverse hardware platforms, then delay the console versions accordingly. Make the release a truly global one - all regions, all platforms.

26th Aug 2016, 14:08
I don't understand how having 'shop' in the menu is harmful to the immersion, when you haven't started the immersion in the first place since you're in the menu?