Friday, 7 June 2013

Deus Ex: The Fall And What It Means To Fans

So the metaphorical beans have been spilled. It's been confirmed after some speculation that The Fall will be the title to the Deus Ex game and there is in fact another one on the way, one in a very similar position in the timeline to Human Revolution. However, it's not quite what people expected and more than a few loyal devotees aren't too happy with a few recent details of the game.

First among these is the path the story will follow. While developer Eidos Montreal made the smart decision not to follow up on Human Revolution's events, something which could have easily resulted in a second Invisible War, it instead follows a previously established tale.
The game will follow the tale of former SAS officer Ben Saxon. Having recently been augmented and recruited into the Tyrants (a Black Ops team Adam Jensen faced in Human Revolution) he finds himself tested and betrayed at every turn. With time running out the former mercenary must uncover the mystery behind a major drug conspiracy which threatens all  augmented humans.

If this sounds familiar to you it's because it's a sequel to the Del Ray novel Deus Ex: Icarus Effect. News which is both good and bad for the series.

The good is that it means Eidos can re-use many elements from Human Revolution which make a re-appearance. Everything from character models to vehicle designs which were present and used in both video game and novel. This means that the likely much reduced budget can be spent on expanding the game and handling much needed changes in mechanics. Things which matter the most and will ultimately make things easier on Eidos to hopefully give us a decent title.

The bad is that the story to Icarus Effect isn't that great. James Swallow is a decent writer when he puts his mind to things and the novel was relatively good as first time tie-in material goes. The problem is that it definitely wasn't up to par with the quality of writing we had seen in the games. It's admittedly unfair to compare such different media but even looking at the basic plot details and pacing Icarus Effect was visibly the weaker of the two. Something made worse by a level of immersion which really didn't sell the overall universe and made it feel very generic. While this might be improved by adapting the plot into a video game, there's a chance this will be a weaker tale as a result of the material it is being built upon.

Further details which have been released is that The Fall will be the first installment of a number of similar titles and it will be limited to two platforms. Namely tablet and mobile devices.

Let's deal with that first point before we get into the second one currently causing a minor typhoon of feces across the interwebs. The fact  this will be told in multiple installments, think Half Life 2's Episodes if they were released at a reasonable rate, might help with the quality of each title. It might help them overcome certain problems when trying to create a shooter for the devices and have them more rapidly learn from their mistakes.

The detail that the game is going to be limited in release on tablet and mobile isn't quite so excusable. For all the novel's flaws it did try to have a grand scope and without a powerful system to back them up it's hard to see The Fall even matching it. Furthermore this runs the risk of limiting the experience of games whose main attraction was (beyond the plot) their freedom within a controlled environment and multiple paths around obstacles. Allowing for a vast multitude of ways to help deal with a problem, break into a building or even combat certain extremely powerful foes. It's harder to imagine this element being preserved for a title with the restrictions a mobile device would place upon it.

More than a few voices have yelled betrayal at this decision in one form or another. Either due to the likely problems outlined above, or simply turning a series which was heavily PC based into an exclusive for other gaming platforms. Another big problem is obvious SquareEnix's history with iOS titles, the publisher having become infamous for outright botching many releases onto it. Usually with either programming issues hindering enjoyability, or in the case of a certain Final Fantasy title making playing it cost more than taking up a hobby from Games Workshop.

The use of touch controls and reliance upon a far more limited interface than a keyboard or controller is obviously another problem. It's hard to imagine that the combat will be able to retain the same level of intensity or tactics when the simple act of aiming is turned into a chore. As a rule any shooter first or third person tends to be a disaster when adapted to the platform and it's hard to imagine that this will be any exception. The term "dumbed down" is something being freely thrown about in terms of mechanics and it's hard to argue that this will be the case from what little we have seen so far. The video which can be found here displaying the game uses language which does not inspire confidence in the direction the developers are going in. Nor do any previous titles from major series which similarly appeared on mobile and tablet devices such as Mass Effect: Infiltrator. A game which is the most poorly regarded installment of that entire franchise.

The only real hope fans have been holding onto in this is the current financial situation SquareEnix is currently in. With many major titles missing their goals in the previous year and the restructuring of the company, they cannot afford to isolate a huge portion of their audience. Especially when it comes to a series as big as Deus Ex, which is one of the best regarded PC titles of all time. The hope is that a version directly suited for PC will be created along-side this and will allow for players to continue to enjoy the franchise.

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