Deus Ex: The Fall Review
Something In Our Skies
In this PC port of a tablet game, we are reintroduced to the protagonists of a tie-in novel during the missing time between the intro and first chapter of Deus Ex: Human Revolution which is of course the prequel to the entire franchise. Yeah, Deus Ex: The Fall is kinda wobbly all over like that.
The game begins by reenacting the first bit of Ben Saxon’s story from the Icarus Effect novel by means of a tutorial and/or plot setup. It then flashes forward a few months and Ben and his stalwart companion Anna Kelso are stuck in Costa Rica, running low on anti-augmentation rejection drugs and drawn back into the conspiracy in search of his former comrade and a generic version of the needed Neuropozyne.
This game is both short and written as the first episode in a series that probably won’t continue, and as such there’s not much to it. A big chunk of the early game is dedicated solely to establishing the playable character and his backstory and current situation, then just as it establishes the mystery that will drive the plot of future (maybe) episodes and the clumsy big twist character reveal it’s over — roll credits. What little story there is presented via awkward dialogue sequences that may as well be non-interactive. Players get to choose which bit of exposition they can hear first and maybe use an augmentation to boost a reward for a side-quest, but there’s nothing else in terms of story or character interaction. It’s hard to call the story bad, but it is very much unfinished what little there is is derivative of the original Deus Ex.
This may be the PC version of a tablet game, and it plays just like that phrase sounds. most of the UI is placed on the assumption that thumbs are going to be dragged across the screen to select things as opposed to being an easy at a glance display of information. Menus are laid out in the same scroll landscape-wise fashion. The hacking mini-game has picked up a click and drag interface that makes it more effort than it’s worth most of the time. The keyboard controls require very deliberate action to dash from cover to cover or hop over cover, the mouse is not much more responsive. Picking out targets feels like manual labour. I’d hate to say “slap-dash” or “lazy port”, but these are first phrases to come to mind for this effort.
The mobile influence also rears its head in the store, where there are no in-game merchants. All gear is purchased through a section of the pause menu. While the option to turn real money into in-game currency and pay to win has been mercifully removed, it still drops any sort of planning or resource management from an otherwise faithful attempt at translation of the Deus Ex experience. The ability to summon E.M.P. grenades at will kills any sense of challenge the game was presenting, even with limited cash resources.
The design of the environments is reminiscent of Invisible War, in that a major metropolis feels more like a shopping mall, a gang lair more like a condo, and the secret lair of a massive conspiracy is more like a high school campus. In addition to being tiny, they are also under-populated. Not only because there are few NPCs in each area, but as another RAM-saving design element, dead or unconscious characters phase out of existence. This means there are fewer hazards, and barely any penalty to actively engaging foes rather than ghosting through enemy strongholds. In addition to an excess of loading screens, there’s also loads of backtracking. Most side-quests require one to revisit a single location, and the main plot forces the player to infiltrate the same hotel on two different occasions. There are better ways to work within system limitations than what they’ve put forward here.
Another reminder of Invisible War is the game’s visuals. The look of this game evokes an attempt to translate the style of Human Revolution to the PS2-era hardware. There’s a lot of hard rectangles and rough edges in the background. The character models fare better in terms of aesthetic value and detail, but that just highlights how bad everything else looks. On the audio side of the game, the voice is surprisingly good. There are only a few speaking characters but they all come across pretty well considering the reputation of the franchise’s voice over. Music might be this game’s strongest suit by virtue of bringing back Michael McCann from HR to score this as well. It’s just a shame there are so few tracks to listen to.
No one asked for this game. Tablet gamers were not clamouring for a classic Deus Ex experience within the constraints of the platform, and porting the same to the PC only reveals the level of compromise involved in such a dodgy prospect, pleasing no one. This was supposed to be the first entry into an episodic game, but there are currently no announced continuations, and it is doubtful any who played this game are eager for more.
Loads of loading