Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action, FPS, RPG, Stealth
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an incredible game. In many ways it's more than just a game; it prompts a very real conversation about the dangers of advanced technology, bringing to mind cautionary tales as Orwell's classic 1984 and countless other sci-fi stories. It perfectly captures the "what if" of a society fallen prey to its dependence on technology and gives us a grim look at the future that could one day be our own.
It's taken me so long to review this game simply because I wanted to explore all that it had to offer. I wanted to see everything, do every side quest, read every computer and talk to every NPC--I wanted to spend as much time as I could in this broken future, with all of its technological wonders that breed pain and suffering instead of peace and prosperity. And I'm glad I did: this isn't a game you should rush through... it's an experience that you should savor.
Mankind Divided picks up from Human Revolution without a beat. It's what I call a perfect sequel: it doesn't compromise features found in the original, and stays consistent with its scope, story, and overall mechanics. Gamers are used to sequels taking out as much content as they add in, but Eidos is extremely fluid with Mankind Divided. In many ways the game feels like a huge leap forwards from the Human Revolution and in others, it's just a small yet meaningful) step forwards
Mankind Divided has everything found in Human Revolution. You still have freedom to pick your augmentations that fit your playstyle, and your decisions matter. There's a strong sense of meaningful RPG impact within the game, and the world itself is jam-packed full of delicious tidbits that add tons of immersion to the experience.
The game is layered and absolutely infused with secrets waiting to be explored, but ultimately the player has the final say whether these things ever get discovered or not. How you play the game is up to you, but I highly suggest you take the long meticulous route. It's much more satisfying that way.
That being said, you still have the freedom to play your way. Mankind Divided still carries Deus Ex's legacy of an action game, and just because it's thought-provoking and expresses socio-political problems doesn't mean you can't gun down enemies and slice them like an augmented Predator. You can tackle each situation differently, and adapt to every given event--it's not as simple as being Rambo or sticking to the shadows like Ezio.
While I've seen some other reviews criticize Mankind Divided's story, I find it to be amazing and extremely powerful. Again, though, how much you enjoy the story hinges on how much you've discovered. In a sense, Adam Jensen is like a cyborg super detective who has the ability to uncover the secrets of a corrupt techno-driven future. A lot of these secrets are optional, but to get the entire scope--the entire story--you'll have to dig deeper.
The digging isn't boring, however; it's quite the opposite. The main story quests are layered organically with tidbits and info, and the side quests naturally co-exist with exploration. Futuristic Prague is laden with beautiful technological advancements and architectural marvels, and you genuinely want to explore the city to see more. As you explore you'll uncover quests in a natural fashion--there's no annoying grinding here.
Since the game's story is my favorite part, let's go over what makes it so great.
How many main story missions are there? Mankind Divided has 13 main story missions and 12 side missions.
How long does the game take to beat? I spent some 90 hours in Mankind Divided, but that was a stealthy playthrough with tons of exploration, deaths, pausing etc.
How close is it to Human Revolution? This is a direct sequel to HR, and it's very very faithful to the original. In fact, it retains just about all of the mechanics to Adam Jensen's first adventure, and goes lengths to further flesh out the world of Deus Ex. Mankind Divided only deviates from the original in advantageous ways, but is basically the same game as HR, only better.
If Mankind Divided is so close to Human Revolution, why should I buy it? If you enjoyed the first game, Eidos has basically made a continuation. That being said, Mankind Divided stands on its own feet quite well, and you don't need to have played HR to enjoy this one.
I hate those energy bars. Please tell me those are gone! Yes, Cyberboost Energy Bars, aka the bane of all Human Revolution players, are gone. BioCells take their place, and the game is quite liberal in handing them out. You can even craft BioCells or buy them from merchants.
What about the microtransactions? Yes, Mankind Divided has microtransactions. But the game doesn't hinge on you buying them, especially the Praxis Kits. The game distributes skill points liberally and organically so you really don't need to buy them in order to have fun. On a whim I bought the 5 Praxis Points pack just to see if I needed them, and it turns out I had extra points by the end because I had already picked up what I wanted.
Does Mankind Divided have NewGame+? Yes, and you even start with your complete inventory, skills and upgrades in NewGame+ mode!
At its heart, Mankind Divided is a human story. It's a tale of humanity's struggle as it finds a new way to destroy itself from the inside out, a tale of terrible prejudice and woe that reflects modern day--and past--societal issues. It's an engaging and authentic look at our possible future, almost like a cyberpunk Twilight Zone, if you will.
Eidos Montreal has gone great lengths to make everything feel believable; from the streets of Prague to the destitute Aug ghettos of the Utulek Complex, the world itself feels real. While this illusion does break down from time to time, you'll find tons of personal stories in NPC's computers and PDAs that lend real agency to the world, fleshing out its metallic endoskeleton.
To understand the real magic of Deus Ex, I have to give you some backstory. It's incredibly important as this is the literal backbone of the game.
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, players are pulled into a dark future where humans are blended with machines, augmented to become something better, faster, stronger.
But this technology comes at an incredible price: a hopeless addiction to the drug Neuropozyne, which counteracts the rejection syndrome from the augmentations. So if you're an Aug, you need this drug for the rest of your life. And the price of the drug kept raising, turning Augs into desperate fiends and completely destroying their life. Augs turned to crime out of desperation, leading to police and government intervention.
So instead of reaping the rewards that comes with advanced technology like the strength of bionic limbs or seeing through walls with bionic eyes, the Augs were reduced to the state of common drug addicts. So Augs became dangerous, just as people do when they're pushed too far, when they're completely desperate.
As if their lives couldn't get any worse, along came the Aug Incident.
The Aug Incident was basically a worldwide frequency pulse that made every augmented person in the world temporarily lose their mind. It's not unlike how Skynet became self-aware and switched on the Terminators, or a zombie apocalypse: these super humans were transformed into horrible unthinking murderers. The world caught fire and bled during the Incident.
After the carnage, the non-augmented humans saw the Augs as animals. The Incident literally divided mankind. Augmented people were now subhuman, and needed to be muzzled like bad dogs. They were dangerous, they were lethal, but above all else, they were no long human. This prejudice spread like wildfire and soon humankind was rifted, with ordinary flesh and bone on one side, and flesh and metal on the other.
Countries started making laws against the Augs, stripping them of citizenship. Augs were now stateless aliens, and Police started cracking down on them, gunning them down and arresting them left and right. Augs were forced to constantly update their permits, and having a metal arm or leg was now a badge of shame, marking you as subhuman. Augmented men and women fled these terrible conditions like refugees from a broken country, seeking shelter, seeking hope, seeking a life.
The way the Augmented are treated in Mankind Divided reflects real-world issues like racial tensions, and the radical prejudice ties in with how the Japanese were treated in America during World War II as well as the horrible treatment of the Jewish people. While the Augs aren't necessarily systematically slaughtered outright, they are oppressed at every turn, breeding a cruel psychological torment that emphasizes the socio-technological world.
After the Incident, hundreds of thousands of Augs fled to the Utulek Complex, a massive facility designed to house augmented people. They found shelter, but Utulek soon bulged with Augs. Supplies were extremely low, Neuropozyne was all but non-existent. Soon Utulek turned into a kind of third-world ghetto and earned the name "Golem City". Prague started to round up Augs that couldn't keep up with the expensive permits and documents and sent them to Golem City, treating it as a sort of prison.
During my visit to Golem City, I saw that the Augs living here were destitute. They were without hope; their lives were broken things. They had no freedom--they didn't count as citizens--and no Neuropozyne. There was barely any food, and to stay alive they had to constantly fight with the other augs, which splintered into a kind of makeshift caste system.
Augs are people who are trying to put the pieces of their broken lives back together. They're people with families, with loved ones, with lives, most of which have been torn apart and annihilated by the Incident and its aftermath. They still bleed, they still cry and hope and dream, they still need to eat and have a sense of purpose--they're still human.
You see evidence of their humanity--and their complete and total desperation--all throughout the game. Some fair better than others, but all of them have been traumatized by the Incident and the prejudice.
Then came Talos Rucker, an ex-doctor turned Aug messiah. Rucker came to Golem City and spoke for the Augmented people, gave them a voice, gave them hope, but most of all, gave them a purpose. Rucker formed ARC, the Augmented Rights Coalition, and Golem City became his city. Rucker spoke fairness and peace, but the desperate people in his employ often turned to chaos and destruction in an effort to promote justice and revenge. The Augs in Golem City had their lives completely broken by the Incident and the ensuing prejudice and oppression.
As a result, ARC was known as a terrorist group. ARC is blamed for various bombings across Europe, including the infamous Ruzicka Bombing that occurs at the beginning of the game.
The police, government military and INTERPOL (Adam Jensen's branch) kept ARC on a short leash, with the police invading Golem City and further increasing the tensions between Augs and humans. The world saw ARC as an unstable radical terrorist cell that would eventually destroy the world, breeding violence and havoc wherever they went.
But players know better; we're conditioned to know both sides of the story, and the game does an amazing job providing actual reasoning as to why people do the things they do. We empathize with the Augs, and as Jensen, we uncover the truth behind ARC and Rucker's movement. We see firsthand the plight of the augmented people, we get to step into their lives and know their suffering. We're able to justify their actions, able to take what the world calls a terrorist and truly understand why they do what they do.
One of the most emotionally jarring parts of the game's story is that players can't help everyone. I had to pass by dozens of Augs shaking and begging me for Neuropozyne even though I had an excess of vials. I couldn't do anything to liberate the people of Golem City--even if I killed all the police, it wouldn't make a difference.
You do make a difference in Mankind Divided, but it's never enough to save everyone. A few quests hammer this point home and make you choose who you'd like to help. Give permits to a shopkeep with a family, or a woman who's so traumatized by what's happened to her that her mind has split into two people?
Help a clock-maker recover his Aug daughter and unravel a conspiracy, or infiltrate Palisade and uncover the secrets to the assassination that rocked the world? These choices are impossibly hard, and often make you think. This is the weight of a fantastic game, the type of game that makes you itchy about your decisions, the type of experience that makes you second-guess yourself.
The game sets up all these different situations in a very dynamic way, making everything seem like a giant web of conspiracy with shadowy figures at every turn. There's corrupt anti-aug politicians, whole sectors of government that are being led by augs who want to kill other augs, and indomitable powers constantly shifting forces and focus across the globe, hiding nefarious deeds with other nefarious deeds like terrorist bombings.
You also have the choice how Jensen plays his cards. You can withhold information from your superiors and keep your identity close at hand, or you can trust them. However, you handle the situation and what you tell certain people can have an effect on the game itself, which is pretty refreshing.
There's all these powers vying for control: separate countries like the U.S. and the Russian Federated States, multi-country powers like the United Nations and Interpol, and then we have factions like the Aug-run Juggernaut Collective spies who deal in espionage as well as ARC and para-military groups like Belltower. All of these groups affect the characters and world in many different ways, most of the time negatively, and the world itself feels like a playground for these factions to enact petty skirmishes and shadowy wars.
Uncovering the truth to these factions brings a real sense of intrigue to the game, adding in a very real sense of espionage and facilitating a strong bond to Adam and his allegiances. It's a little bit like how Snake's interpersonal relationships with specific political and spy groups flesh out the character as well as the world itself.
This is the sign of a great game.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided allows you to not only see this fractured cyberpunk world, but experience it from the inside out and truly empathize with both sides. As an Aug, players are treated the same as any other augmented in the world. But at the same time, you're able to empathize with the everyday humans who are just scared of Augs and had their lives ruined or compromised as a result of the Incident.
But as always, it's up to the player how far they want to investigate. You can look deep and uncover all the secrets like I did, hacking every computer and terminal and reading over every PDA to get a true understanding of the world and its people. The game prompts all kinds of existential thoughts on humanity and leads you to question certain things, like how far society should go with technology.
At its core, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a human story that engages players on many levels and creates a compelling look at a future gone wrong.
Game Mechanics & Gameplay
Mankind Divided is quite close to Human Revolution, but the sequel tightens everything up and offers a bunch of new toys for gamers to play with. The HUD has been changed up a bit, with Jensen's power bar getting a recharge overhaul, and gunplay is much tighter. Oh, those Cyberboost Energy bars are gone now, and they've been replaced by BioCells that can be crafted and bought. Thank god, right?
The cover system has been tweaked a bit to become more fluid and responsive, but it's still basically the same. You can still snap around corners while in cover, letting you simply glide around obstacles and surfaces while staying out of sight.
Hacking is still a big part of the game, but players can now craft Multi-Tools that instantly unlock any hackable computer, safe, or terminal. This is another massively welcomed change from HR, as you had to pre-order the game in order to access Human Revolution's version of Multi-Tools. You can also buy MultiTools and find them throughout different levels of the game, primarily in hidden caches and zones.
Crafting is also a big change that makes Mankind Divided more accessible to everyday gamers. You collect Crafting Parts throughout the game that can be turned into a number of gadgets and inventions, including HypoStims that replenish HP, BioCells that replenish Energy, Multi-Tools that instantly unlock computers, as well as mines, Typoon/TESLA/Nano-Blade ammo.
Combat is more satisfying, too. Gunplay is more optimized and responsive, but to get that absolutely perfect accuracy you'll have to sink in some points into recoil and other gunplay augmentations. While stealth is more suited to my tastes, I did play a portion of the game like an FPS, and I have to say that blasting down enemies is actually quite satisfying. Eidos has created a competent shooter that stands against top-tier FPS games of our era.
Now we get to talk about the real star of Mankind Divided: the new Augs.
As it turns out, Adam Jensen had some super top-secret augmentations implanted within him after the events of Human Revolution. These enhancements are experimental, however, and are quite unstable.
These awesome new toys include a new Titan armor system that makes Jensen look like Metal Mario; a short-range PEPS system that blasts an entire group of enemies with knockout first; the immensely useful and satisfying Tesla arc that can incapacitate enemies from a distance; the Remote Hacking aug that pretty much saved my bacon a billion times in the game (no seriously get this ASAP!); the lethal (yet satisfying) Nanoblade that executes enemies with Predator-like style; and the Icarus Dash aug which lets you fly forward in a supercharged thrust of speed (think Falco's forward+B move in Super Smash Bros.)
These new Augs are incredibly fun and add a wonderful breath of fresh air to the game. There's augs that fit every playstyle, and you can even mix and match them to make a kind of stealth-combat hybrid if you wanted. These new augs come at a price, however; since they're unstable, every new aug you turn on "overclocks" your system by 25%, so you have to turn off a separate augmentation upgrade to balance out the system.
If you keep playing with your system overclocked, you'll gradually lose health and be all wonky. So you'll have to pick your upgrades carefully and turn off unnecessary skills. This might sound pretty annoying, but don't worry: there's a few skills that are entirely conditional and you don't really need them.
Mankind Divided doesn't force you to play any one way, and there's always another way around certain obstacles. For example, I turned off the Rebreather aug that lets me bypass gas-filled zones, and I've always found another way around specific areas. If you're going for a stealth run, you can turn off the Nanoblade to make room for your essential skills.
The old skills have been tweaked a bit, too, with enhanced upgrade trees and an overall more concise listing. All of the enhancements are clearer now and give players a more in-depth analysis of what they do.
Players have plenty of opportunities to try out their new augmentations, but there's never one way to solve a mission or get into an area: you can go in guns blazing, or you can meticulously and carefully chart your path with stealth.
The level design is also more straightforward. Eidos has created a beautiful high-tech playground for players to explore and interact with, complete with miles of winding airshafts, hackable computers and terminals, locked doors, and other such obstacles.
The progression is exceedingly well matched and balanced within the story missions, and you won't really have trouble unless you run around and try to go into an area you're really not meant to go yet.
Of course, being the inquisitive player I am, I came across these areas almost right away and modified my augs accordingly.
As far as infiltration goes, there's a definite pattern to the restricted areas, and once you see this pattern you won't have much trouble. Players use a combination of skill, augs, and luck to infiltrate areas, but it all depends on your preference and playstyle.
Stealth players will benefit greatly from the Smart Vision ability that lets you see through walls for obvious reasons, and if you pick up the Remote Hacking ability, you can actually hack cameras, TVs, radios and even turrets through walls while Smart Vision is activated. It's pretty nifty.
The NPCs are both smarter and dumber than Human Revolution, but the game is more forgiving when it comes to stealth (depending on difficulty, of course). Even if you don't unlock the invisibility upgrade, the game lets you pick up random items and throw them to distract enemies--you can often use the environments against your foes in creative and specifically designed ways.
Sometimes, though, you'll face augmented enemies that are impervious to specific weapons. This forces players to think on their feet and use different weapons and strategies for specific events. It's awesome to hack drones and disable them, or to sneak up behind an exosuit and yank out his battery to knock him out. At the very end of the game you face some pretty upgraded augs, but they still aren't any match for your ingenuity.
The developers do an excellent job arming you with the tools you need to do your job, whether it's with augmentations, a well-placed air vent or stun gun, or even a throw-able coffee cup. In fact, the augs skills are paced in such a way where you never really feel that you're too weak or too strong.
All in all, the mechanics are very fluid, smooth, and designed to be advantageous to players. You feel empowered by the augs in Mankind Divided, and it's absolutely clear that Eidos listened to our feedback to give players exactly what they wanted in a Deus Ex game.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of the most meaningful games I've played this year, and possibly in the last five years. The game really had an impact on me, and the deeper I dug into its dystopian cyberpunk universe, the more impressed i was at Eidos' sheer level of dedication. The studio has crafted a gorgeous and grim look at a broken future, a future that reflects our current world and tumultuous periods in history that resonate strongly with our very existence on this planet.
The story arc is just as impressive as Human Revolution, but Mankind Divided tells a different kind of story--it's a more intimate human story, one that's tinged with despair and suffering but also a loud wake up call to our high-tech age. It's a story about technology gone wrong, about the wonders of the future being used as blunt objects to divide humanity right down the middle.
But it's more than just a story you watch; it's a story you take part in. As the player you have an impact on this world; while you won't change it overnight, you genuinely feel like you're a part of this universe and that you are Adam Jensen.
Decisions you make have an impact on the people in this world, but the people don't always have to be right in front of you to have an impact on you: Eidos has stuffed computers, tablets, PDAs and terminals full of human strife and drama that fleshes out the world and its characters.
The story and its message are powerful, and it resonates strongly with human nature and our struggle on this planet. The message is broadcast on a universal frequency that transcends the language or cultural barrier, for it's the frequency of human strife, a tale of caution amid our technological advancements. Even with all the wonders at our fingertips, we still remain human, for better or worse.
The game plays exceedingly well insofar as its mechanics, offering more than 50 hours of meaningful gameplay. The world is absolutely enchanting in its grim beauty, with the city of Prague embodying what I imagine as a future city. There's something that keeps me coming back to this world, regardless of its horrible prejudice and wanton suffering, and I can't rightly put my finger on it.
All in all, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an incredible game that shouldn't be missed. It has all of the trimmings of a masterful AAA experience from solid and fluid gameplay to the freedom of playstyle preference and the augmentations that go with it. The story stays perfectly authentic to the original game and maintains the traditional Deus Ex feel, and players are pulled into a world that's both familiar and brand new at the same time.
Powerful story immerses players - I don't often play games that make me actually care about the characters or the people in the world; Mankind Divided made me do this quite often. The game fleshed out so many different characters and made them seem real to me, delivering a poignant and eerily similar tale of woe to our current technological path.
You feel as if you've made an impact - You can't help everyone, and the world is broken, but Adam Jensen can do something. Even if he's not saving every single aug he comes across, his actions have weight, and the game makes you feel as if the things you do matter and have an impact on the world.
New augmentations are an absolute blast, empower players to kick ass - Although I'm a stealth player, I had a blast with the TESLA gun and Remote Hacking. I was hacking turrets and cameras through walls with my eye-vision! I also played a part of the game as a rough-and-tumble FPS badass to see what it was like...and let me tell you it's awesome. This game holds up with modern day FPS quite well, and the augs make you feel like a bonafide superhero.
Freedom to do things your way - If you want to be a stealthy ninja, you can. If you want to blow things up like Rambo, you can. If you want to be a badass cyborg who mixes both stealth and destructive FPS action, you can; Mankind Divided gives you all the tools you need to do things your way.
Environments are incredible - Even if the PS4 version's graphics weren't so great, the game's multiple environs were rendered in high-tech style befit of a futuristic cyberpunk adventure. Prague is a beautiful mix of modern tech and old European style, offering a realistic look through a window of the future.
There's a lot to explore, discover, and play - My playthrough of Mankind Divided lasted some 90 hours, so I got great mileage out of my experience. Of course I completed all the side quests and explored everything I could and played stealthily, so that factors into my playtime. If you plan to do a NewGame+ you might want to hold off on some quests so you have something to come back to.
You feel connected to characters - This game sets up its characters in the best way possible. Often you have certain themes, posters and myths forming about certain NPCs (like Talos Rucker), making your meetings with them feel all the more satisfying. But Mankind Divided does an excellent job sparking a connection to everyday people through emails and the like. It gets to the point where you feel as if you know this person just by reading their emails and pocket secretaries...and their stories are always unique and so human.
Few FPS drops here and there - Mankind Divided ran excellently on PS4 for about 95% of the time, but there were some minor FPS drops and hiccups here and there. I didn't face any game-breaking glitches, though!
Fall damage is just absurd! - I didn't invest in the Icarus Landing System until far into the game for obvious reasons; the main benefit of this aug is to prevent fall death. And yes, you will die a lot from falling when you're exploring. It's bound to happen. But honestly you don't need the aug... unless you get fed up with reloading your saves from a single misstep!
Noteworthy things I noticed and did in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Warning: Minor plot spoilers below, but I assure you that I haven't spoiled anything major. I feel it's important to outline these moments because they actually made me feel something. Note that these are just a snippet of the moments I experienced during the game. Mankind Divided is a very deep experience.
Suffering at Golem - Golem City (Utelek Complex) is one of the most memorable moments in this game. If you pay attention you hear all kinds of things about the complex; how it's a haven for the destitute, how everyone fears going there. When I visited Utelek, I saw the suffering first-hand, and while I felt bad, I was also enchanted. I hadn't' really seen what I consider actual suffering depicted so well in a game; these people were shaking and begging for "pozy," whereas others lived above in third-world conditions--barely any food, severe overcrowding, police abuse, etc.
Talos Rucker, Aug Messiah - I was utterly captivated how the Augs of Golem City venerated Talos Rucker as a kind of augmented messiah. They hung on to his every word, and worshipped him. Rucker restored their humanity and gave them hope, gave them a purpose, gave them an identity when their own home nations stripped their citizenship. He made them people again. It was an amazing thing to realize and to see.
The Nursery - When I was exploring Golem, I found this abandoned Nursery. This place haunted me, and almost brought me to tears. You see, this was a place that the augs brought their children and babies. The woman who owned the Nursery made makeshift play areas; there was a painted slide made out of an old duct and other things. I saw little makeshift babyseats and highchairs and it nearly broke my heart.
I hacked the woman's computer and saw a conversation she had with Golem City's doctor. In the email chain the woman and the doctor decided to drug every woman at the complex and make them infertile, so no child had to grow up in these conditions. There's a silver lining to his story, though: Nathaniel Brown, CEO of Santeau Group, offered to take all of the children and their parents to Rabi'ah, a new complex that offered hope and salvation.
The mythologizing of Rabi'ah
Rabi'ah was to be the Augs' new home. The Santeau Group's CEO Nathaniel Brown promised hope for the augmented, promised them a new world made up of their kind. Rabi'ah was to be the antithesis of the Utelek Complex; it was to be a haven for augs.
People saw Rabi'ah as a new start. Augs venerated the complex the same way destitute foreigners speak of America; with the air of hope for a better life. This really interested me, especially after seeing the suffering at Golem City and the less-than-fortunate augs in Prague. People everywhere fled to Rabi'ah (the same way the originally fled to Utelek), but quickly found out it wasn't the Promised Land. You see, Rabi'ah is being built on the backs and sweat of millions of augmented; it's a new home for the augmented built by the augmented.
And to get in, you had to buy your way in with labor. Santeau assigned literal indentured servitude in order to fund this expedition, and you had to work your metal ass off to get in this place. But the people on the outside didn't know that; they saw it as the literal embodiment of hope.
Richard the Great
This is one of the best quests in the game, so I don't want to give away too much. Let's just say at one point you come across a mind-bending hypnotist that uses his "magic" on you. Trust me, you'll find this quest if you explore the sewers!
Helena the Robot
This was another heart-breaking tale. Helena the Robot is an aug woman named Irenka Bauer who adopted multiple personalities in order to deal with the trauma of her life. Before the Incident, Irenka made gorgeous artwork and statues in her store called Vincent Van Aug.
After the Incident the woman's mind had broken and she couldn't accept her real life, so she became Helena the Robot and put on these childish plays on a makeshift stage in the basement of her store. Her audience was stuffed animals and toys that she talked to like real people. She believed the fantasy and when I arrived during a side-quest, she thought I was a character from her play called Optimus.
I kept going with the ruse, and eventually helped her. But it was pretty heart-breaking to see her in that state.
Making connections with NPCs via emails, computers, and pocket secretaries
I read everything I came across in Mankind Divided, and was rewarded for it. It's amazing when you read about someone in a pocket secretary, then come across them in-game to help them. This happened with Helena the Robot, and the woman who was crushed during the Ruzicka bombing--as well as countless others.
You often see those connections and decisions have an actual effect on in-game NPCs, making you feel as if you've actually helped someone. The computers and emails help flesh out the characters and give them purpose, so when you see them, you have a better understanding of who they are.
These details are like the ghosts of people's lives. I often broke into their houses just to read about who they were and about their situation. I saw the lady who died in the Ruzicka bombing had a son, Lukaz, the very boy who you see in the cut scene. I read about her awful custody battle she fought with her vicious husband, and her debt problem. I read about her life, and I got key insight on someone who I had never seen or never met--and I felt a connection to them, a real connection.
This is the sign of an amazingly well-written game. I connected with this woman's life and she was never even in the room. I've connected this way to dozens of other NPCs, and it makes the game all the more satisfying.
Anna Gunn's murder case
You actually get to play as a sleuthing gumshoe in a side mission and help solve a murder. Anna Gunn, a reporter for Picus News, was murdered in a horrible way. The manner of her death actually reminded me of the Black Dahlia. Some horrible monster is harvesting aug body parts, and you investigate.
What makes this all the more interesting is that I read about Anna Gunn's murder in a Picus News e-newspaper hours before I came across her body. Reading about something and then coming across it in-game is really awesome, and it adds a lot of immersion.
During this case you have the opportunity to take the easy way out and complete it right away, or you can look deeper and find clues and interrogate suspects. I actually felt like a detective. This was just a side-quest, but it felt important, it felt like a full-on quest. I cared about Anna because I read about her life, I interrogated her husband, Johnny, about her life and got key insight about what she was like.
All of this for an NPC I had never met. I didn't have to meet her, though: the game made her feel important to me. That, again, is the sign of a good game.