Deus Ex – Invisible War:
Poor Choice

By Shamus
on Apr 21, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I found Friday’s skewering of Deus Ex Invisible War to be quite satisfying. So much so that I thought I might just indulge in it again. I’m not trying to be a bully, I just find it interesting that so many things that looked good on paper wound up falling so short in practice. The people behind the game are talented, so we can’t blame the failures on simple ineptitude. Certainly the console-itis (the miniscule levels and the harsh simplification of gameplay) crippled the title for fans of the original, but that doesn’t explain everything that went wrong.

Deus Ex – Invisible War.
This is going to have endgame spoilers, so choose wisely.

The one gameplay aspect that they retained from Deus Ex to Invisible war was in offering lots of choices in how your character can behave. The sad thing is that in Invisible War the choices you get just aren’t satisfying. They’re just little detours where you choose which of the two or three factions of idiots and bastards you want to side with temporarily. No matter who you’re working for, you’ll usually travel to the same locations and do the same mission, but when you get to the end you can choose to do A or B. Perhaps A is “kill somebody” and B is “don’t”. Your choice will earn you a reward from a faction in the game and scorn from the others, but down the road it doesn’t make any difference. For the most part other characters don’t seem to remember which side you’re on. You can call this “branching gameplay” if you like, but meeting the requirements of a definition while not meeting player expectations is a cunning way to disappoint the audience.

In the past I faulted Jade Empire (an otherwise flawless game) for having some unsatisfying choices. Like many of the Star Wars Jedi games, it supposedly presents you with moral challenges between “good” and “evil” but usually end up as a choice between “good” and “jerk”. Invisible War is slightly worse, in that you usually aren’t given choices which might somehow be related to a particular philosophy or worldview. You just choose what kind of jerk you want to be. Do I support the murderous religious zealots or the murderous bureaucrats? The game repeatedly asks the player to make distasteful yet ultimately meaningless choices. (And of course the game is always filled with the meaningless faux-choice to gun down irrelevant NPCs.)

Consider the following scenario, which was offered in the original Deus Ex:

You are sent to eliminate a leader of the NSF – a terrorist organization. But this target is a friend of your brother, and he surrenders peacefully. The charter under which you operate prohibits killing unarmed prisoners. He has information that may change your view of the people you work for. Or maybe he’s trying to mislead you? Do disobey orders and spare him? Worse: One of your fellow agents shows up, and she is prepared to do the job if you don’t. This presents a fiendish situation. If you spare him, she will kill him anyway. You’ll endure the penalty for disobeying orders, but the man will still die. If you really want to save him, you’ll have to kill one of your own.

This is a cunning situation, and you could make a reasonable case for any course of action. It was a great moment. I made sure I explored every permutation of it in my various re-plays.

There is nothing in Invisible War that comes anywhere near this in terms of involving the player in interesting decisions. Even when your choice is between killing someone and sparing them, it feels contrived. Unlike the example above, your choices are clear cut and obvious. Do you kill a generic scientist because a church is willing to pay you money to do so? It’s the classic good / evil choice, except that here every faction in the game will ask you to do evil things at one time or another. Assuming you don’t want to be someone’s petty hired thug, you’ll be changing sides often. You won’t be acting in the name of any particular cause or ideal, you’ll just be trying to undermine whoever is currently acting like the biggest jerk – a fact which is in a constant state of change as the schizophrenic leaders hand down assignments to commit absurd little injustices.

At the end of the game you must decide which of three major factions you want to support. Each one wants access to a technology which will enable them to defeat the other factions and impose their own view on the rest of the world. Choose one of the following:

Knights Templar

The most obvious “bad guys”. They wish to cleanse the world of biomods, and are willing to kill a tremendous number of people in order to do so. The problem with them is that – even if their aim was noble, which it isn’t – they are confusing fighting an idea with fighting the people who adhere to that idea. Bringing about peace by killing everyone who disagrees with you is a solution which scales poorly.

Siding with these guys will give rise to an ugly, murderous regime, a dark-ages kingdom wielding space-age weapons.

Illuminati

The classic “shadow government”, they make lots of sounds about manipulating the world with everyone’s best interests at heart, but it can’t go unnoticed that the world spirals into chaos and war as the Illuminati enjoy wealth, power, and a good layer of insulation between themselves and the masses.

Siding with these guys results in a world where everyone lives under the thumb of a manipulative superstate with no respect for privacy, ruled by an arrogant shadow government.

ApostleCorp

The supposed “good guys” of the game, who want to end all war and conflict by assimilating every human being into some technological post-human collective. Without asking. They are basically the Borg with better public relations. They wish to launch this effort from their base in the Statue of Liberty. I was never able to figure out if the irony was intentional or not.

If you side with these guys you arguably end the human race by taking away the individuality of every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. A hundred years later that collective seems happy enough, although since nobody has the freedom to think outside of the collective I’d assume they’re as happy as the collective tells them they are. It seems to me that they’ve just undergone a species-level lobotomy. Other interpretations are possible, but I didn’t find the ending any less distasteful than the alternatives.

If you choose “none of the above”, the world plunges into chaos and war that scorches the earth, which is an insulting cop-out. It suggests that without these rulers imposing order, people would revert to savagery (a bit of a non-sequitur, since all of the fighting in the game is because of these rulers) and that people would be unable to select a different set of rulers to take their place. It had a cheap, “rocks fall, everyone dies” feel to it, a punishment for not choosing one of the “real” outcomes.

While some endings are better for the planet than others, it all feels sort of arbitrary. I got all four endings, and none of them felt like a “success” for me.

I do give the game credit for making the choice more complex than the usual binary Sadistic Evil / Idealistic Good choice. I also enjoyed the way the various factions perceived one another, and that each one thought of itself as “good”. I wish that sort of thinking had extended into the endgame. I admire a choice with no obvious “right” answer, but I’d like for some choices to feel at least partly right. Certainly it’s not fun to choose between four options which are all wrong. It wasn’t so much about weighing tradeoffs as just deciding what group of arrogant bastards you want running the planet. Perhaps the ending cutscenes are the problem. I think they just looked too far forward. It would have been better if the outcome of your actions was less explicit, or at least more open to interpretation.

Worse still is how the decision is made: When it all comes down to it, choosing a faction is literally a choice between three buttons. You slaughter your way to a computer console and push the button for the ending you want. Nothing you’ve done beforehand has any bearing on the final moments of the game, rendering every previous decision moot.

This was a frustrating cycle for me: To agonize over a decision, trying to determine which of my two railroaded choices was the lesser evil, only to discover later that it didn’t really matter in the long run. In the original Dues Ex, I always lamented the road not taken, and wondered what I’d miss. In Invisible War, I regretted having to make the choice in the first place.

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20205Feeling chatty? There are 45 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Like others have mentioned. I love the little comics you’ve been including with a lot of posts. I want more!

    But, anyhow, back on topic: I played this game when it came out. And I remember almost nothing about it, whereas I still remember quite a bit about the first one. I have a feeling that has a lot to do with what you’re talking about. The sequel just wasn’t satisfying and wasn’t worth remembering.

  2. MintSkittle says:

    I don’t remember much about this game either. One thing I do remember was the pop star holo that gave you missions being nice and the real person being a jerk when you saved her. I ended up blowing her away. I just didn’t care anymore. From then on, I just killed everybody.

  3. Phlux says:

    I actually kind of liked the “good ending” you mention. While it definitely had the possibility of being a borg collective kind of thing, the way they describe it in the game makes it sound more like an instant global democracy. When an issue needs to be decided upon, everyone just stops a minute, deliberates on a global level and then a decision is made.

    Ordinarily this would be a really bad idea, but the biomods everyone has been “subjected” to have made them smarter, and theoretically the global information sharing would lead to wisdom.

    I’m not saying I would want this to actually happen, but to me this ending falls into the “partly right” category. The goal is laudable..universal democracy, level playing fields, intelligent and informed populace. The means, however, are crass and cynical. People will never be able to get to this point on their own, so we have to “make everyone better” against their will.

    Edit: Here’s a link to the official website for deus ex 3, which has a teaser trailer that really says, shows or means nothing.

    http://www.deusex3.com/

    • TSi says:

      I agree, It felt right for me too by taking into account these facts. It’s something i would also like to see IRL. Those who want to participate in the country/world decision making could somehow login and share their opinion making it count towards what would probably be the best solution for everyone but also for nature (ecology should be important). You could also imagine a reward system for those who volunteer in some activities and information would be shared globally like peer to peer. There is potential but i guess it’s just an idealist dream.

  4. Gregory says:

    I found the ending of Deus Ex disappointing as well. Despite all of the choices and all of the interactivity you had throughout the game, you always (spoiler) ended up in that same damn silo, with the ability to choose one of the three endings. There was no branching to the plot. None of your choices mattered as far as the progress of game was concerned, beyond a few changes in where you started a given level.

    Of course, DE:IW made it worse by deciding you chose all three of the endings in Deus Ex. Sigh.

  5. Cadrys says:

    What game meets this Holy Grail of branching story? What developer took the risk of creating levels some users would never see, based on their decisions? Multiple cutscene endings is one thing, but the budget required if your choice sends you to Antarctica instead of Cairo, or means that you don’t get to visit the moonbase…I can see that angering more fans than weak choices.

    That said, I also found the “Group Mind” ending the closest thing to a “Happy Path”–it did appear to be an…enlightened…democracy, administered by an impartial mediator. [I also note that NONE of the endings specifically address Alex’s fate. Guess (s)he doesn’t survive pushing the button–which also rubs me the wrong way.]

  6. ReluctantDM says:

    To answer Cadrys: Fallout 2. In that game there were several locations/people that stood out depending on the path you took. You could go to any location but playing through certain paths led you to different locations. PLUS that game had it right (fingers crossed for Fallout 3) in that your choices combined to create the end of the game (partly). There was an endgame cutscene but then also the stories of all the people places you had an effect on in the game and what happened as a result. I can’t recall a good example but I’m sure someone else will jump in for me! ;)

  7. Oleyo says:

    I found this statement rather profound “Bringing about peace by killing everyone who disagrees with you is a solution which scales poorly.”

    The “scales poorly” part speaks volumes with few words, if thats not the sign of good writing, then I dont know what is.

    Nice :)

    PS: I don’t mean to make the discussion heavier than intended, I like when you lambaste games in a carefree manner…carry on :)

  8. Dave says:

    “Siding with these guys [the Illuminati] results in a world where everyone lives under the thumb of a manipulative superstate with no respect for privacy, ruled by an arrogant shadow government.”

    The world we currently live in, you mean? *rimshot* Thank you, I’ll be here all week . . .

  9. Nihil says:

    You won’t be acting in the name of any particular cause or ideal, you’ll just be trying to undermine whoever is currently acting like the biggest jerk – a fact which is in a constant state of change as the schizophrenic leaders hand down assignments to commit absurd little injustices.

    When you put it like that, it sounds awesome. Not having the option to save the world – just to make the best of a shitty situation – is pretty much how it works in real life, only with badass outfits and sci-fi technology.

    The Witcher has a similar approach; for example, in Chapter 1, you get to pick between the religious bigots and a not-quite-harmless witch. Of course, unlike in DEx:IW, in The Witcher the choices you make through the game have long-term consequences, rather than all being decided in the end – which does indeed sound like a really awful design choice. Heck, at least in the Vampire Bloodlines endgame you could only pick between the factions you had treated well.

  10. Nihil says:

    You won’t be acting in the name of any particular cause or ideal, you’ll just be trying to undermine whoever is currently acting like the biggest jerk – a fact which is in a constant state of change as the schizophrenic leaders hand down assignments to commit absurd little injustices.

    When you put it like that, it sounds awesome. Not having the option to save the world – just to make the best of a shitty situation – is pretty much how it works in real life, only with badass outfits and sci-fi technology.

    The Witcher, which I quit early because of its insufferably repetitive gameplay, has a similar approach; for example, in Chapter 1, you get to pick between the religious bigots and a not-quite-harmless witch. Of course, unlike in DEx:IW, in The Witcher the choices you make through the game have long-term consequences, rather than all being decided in the end – which does indeed sound like a really awful design choice.

    Heck, at least in the Vampire Bloodlines endgame you could only pick between the factions you had treated well.

  11. Hal says:

    Time to play Devil’s Advocate™ again!

    (Spoilers!) Shamus, your scenario from the original Deus Ex suffers the same exact problem you lament. Whether you kill Lebedev or let Anna kill him, you still end up going back to UNATCO headquarters and being either congratulated or reprimanded before heading off for your final mission. It’s not so much a branching gameplay as it is a “multiple paths to the same goal” kind of thing.

    Which is one of the things I always loved about the game. Take the scenario where you must infiltrate the submarine base and then sink the superfreighter: You have half a dozen ways of getting into the base and then onto the ship. Each of the various paths are suited to certain styles of gameplay, but all of them will get you onto the ship.

    Your criticisms of Invisible War are not unjustified, but the original isn’t completely immune to such complaints, either.

  12. Tom Armitage says:

    To explain in more detail for Cadrys, the obvious Fallout multiple endings example runs as follows (spoilers ahoy!):

    In the first Fallout, your goal is (initially) to recover a water-chip. This device enables the processing of waste water in the underground Vault where you live. Yours has died, so your character is sent into the world to find a new one. Once in the world, you eventually discover that this is a major subquest, and that a bigger quest – saving the world, effectively – awaits you when it’s over.

    Anyhow, you can find a chip in Necropolis. Necropolis is a city full of not the dead, but mutants, humans who were badly mutated following the nuclear war. They have a working water chip. They also have some manuals on repairing water-chips that they’re not smart enough to read. You can just take their chip, or you can take their chip, and spend a few hours (if you yourself are smart enough) learning how to fix theirs, so they can still have water after you steal their chip. After all, they’re only mutants, right? They’re not people! Except, as you know if you’ve talked to any of them, they’re just as much people as you are, and some are very sweet; they deserve some compassion, right?

    If you take the chip, don’t fix their purifier, and come back later in the game, you’ll find a city full of corpses. They die out after about a week with no water.

    If you don’t come back, then that’s more of a surprise in the endgame. You complete the game, and get an “ending clip” for each major settlement or area you went to. And you can get a good ending – saving the world, being nice to lots of people, resolving things peacefully throughout… but still have committed small-scale genocide in Necropolis. And it’s there, as a reminder, at the end. No matter how much – or how little – of a hero you were, you killed a lot of people through your actions. A few hours with that repair manual, and they wouldn’t have had to die. The other characters in the game don’t know this, but the narrator does, and the ending reminds you of both the good outcomes, and the ones you should be ashamed of.

    (The other good example is the town you visit where all its quests turn into a miniature version of Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars).

    You didn’t have to visit all towns, or even complete the quests in them – that also affected the number of endings you saw, and what they were.

  13. krellen says:

    Cadrys writes: What game meets this Holy Grail of branching story? What developer took the risk of creating levels some users would never see, based on their decisions?

    The two real Fallouts achieve this to a point, but for a better and more recent example I’ll point to SpiderWeb Software’s Geneforge series. The third one is slightly disappointing in having only two factions to choose between, but the first and second have many varied options and endings – and while no zone is locked down to you for the choices you make, the way you interact with those zones is. One choice, one alliance in one area will make another area hostile, possibly dangerously so that you can never explore it. A different choice, however, may make that zone open to you for peaceful interaction, but closes another.

  14. Shamus says:

    Hal: You are right, of course. The original has collapsing branches all the way to the end game, but I think each choice is more interesting in the short term. And some choices DO affect you hours later. (There are several different ways to end up fighting Anna. Okay, she dies no matter what, but being able to fight her in different contexts adds a lot of replay value.)

  15. Shamus says:

    And to everyone who mentioned Fallout: I agree – that’s the perfect way to resolve the branching gameplay issue.

  16. Will says:

    Hah. I wrote up an almost identical rant on the endings four years ago. I think I’ll just paste it here (I don’t think the forum it’s posted to would handle a Shamus-lanche).

    “Like the original, which had three different endings, the sequel sets you up to make a decision between 4 potential outcomes, none of which are either compelling or satisfactory.

    If you haven’t played the game and intend to one day, just stop here.

    Option 1 ~ Help JC Denton complete his project in social engineering by jacking up everyone on the planet with biomods (in an attempt to equalize “ability”, with or without consent) and wiring everyone, in some small way, into the Helios AI that turned him into what amounts to god-on-earth.

    Prognosis – The leftist wet dream. A socialist utopia where the Helios AI factors in the prevailing emotions and opinions of everyone on the planet, then automatically updates all government operations accordingly.

    Slight problem – It’s global. Should you not share the opinons of the collective, you have nowhere to go, and no respite. Half the carbs of the Human Instrumentality Project, and one third the Judeo-Christian mumbo-jumbo.

    Option 2 – Assist the Illuminati as they slowly merge the economic force of the WTO with the spirituality preached by The Order until they form a continuum of business, religion, and government, all overseen from a new Aquinas router located in orbit aboard the station Ophelia.

    Prognosis – Ralph Nader’s worst fever dream. I’m at a loss to find words to clarify the weird mix of this outcome. Facsicm doesn’t really fit, because there isn’t much nationalism to be had after the Collapse. Global capitalism governed in secret by a small Illuminati monarchy.

    Slight problem – Again with the international enforcement. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

    Option 3 – Decent into Fundieland. Turn over the knowledge of your biomod technology, and control of the original Aquinas, to the Knights Templar so they can go on a crusade to eliminate any and all modified humans.

    Prognosis – Do fillings count? If so I’m screwed. Seriously, this ending blows. And they punctuate that fact quite well. The last thing you see are the feet of a young Tarsus student lynched from the rafters in a Templar church. Not cool. Good Lord, Ion Storm… could you make things any more depressing?

    Slight problem – Yes, they could…

    Option 4 – Kill. Everyone. Eliminate the leaders of the rival factions and destroy Helios.

    Prognosis – Given the above options, sounds like a good plan no? Well you don’t get off so easily. Instead of wiping out the vying factions so everyone one can just get on with their lives, your actions set off another global war (though there’s little explanation as to how) leaving all of humanity dead. Except that is, for the Omar. They’re a group of mercenaries and black market smugglers that originated from a Russian experiment. They’re modified to the point of ceasing to be human, and they continually tweak themselves to adapt to increasingly hostile environments. They are also a mental collective. Think of them as a slightly less belligerent Borg. Anyone can become an Omar, but it’s a one way street.

    Slight problem – Other than the complete lack of justification for an escalating and cataclysmic war between non-existent, poorly-armed nations? Maybe it’s just a lack of optimism over at Ion Storm. Maybe the years of toil and deadlines finally got to them.

    They also managed to gut a lot of the more fun aspects of character development. No stats, extremely limited weapon moding, and augmentations that just weren’t up to what was possible in the first game. It’s like going from a 24-speed mountain bike back to your Play-skool Big Wheels.

    This seemed to be a trade-off for the expanded dialogue options, and tons of little side missions for people. It’s possible to kill plot-critical characters, and the game will account for it.

    All in all, a decent distraction from chores, but not up to the original.”

    I wrote that up not long after the game came out. I didn’t get much response. I guess a lot of people were waiting for it to hit the $20 bin.

  17. Phlux says:

    I haven’t played the original in a few years, but just how exclusve were the branching plotlines? I might just remember it wrong, but I sort of remember being able to save close to the end and not go back too far in order to get multiple endings.

    was there a sort of “middle of the road” approach to the game that allowed you to choose the ultimate ending closer to the finale? I definitely saw all the endings, I just don’t necessarily remember playing through the game 3 or 4 full times just to get them. most of my repeat playthroughs focused on exploration and trying to break the scripting.

  18. Shamus says:

    Will: Really well said.

  19. guy says:

    see, it would make sense if they said/implied that survivors of the power groups waged the world war, so that it makes sense in that they don’t have the power to end the war fast, and drag absolutely everyone into it through a combination of alliances, faked war plan leakages, and plain and simple targeting non-combatents by accident. but it sounds like they don’t do that.

  20. Patrick says:

    The problem I had with the Apostlecorp ending was that there was no choice given. You were required to submit to this pure democracy (all that pesky nonsense about individual rights done away with, apparently). And guess who set the agenda? HUmanity? Nope. The godlike Super-Ai-JC Denton.

    That itself irked me. JC Denton was MY character from the first game. He had a definite story. Blowing up my choices from the first game AND making him a bit player in his own story was the height of arrogance on the part of the developers.

    Finally, I eventually chose the Templar ending. I didn’t interpret it such that they’d necessarily wipe out all biomoded humans. Nanomods were now impossible, and they had the cool armor to deal with cyborgs if those caused trouble. If you look closely, the only man who see them hang is actually the WTO leader Dumier.

    Thus, in a strange way the semi-religious nutjobs were probably more freedom-respecting of the bunch. They didn’t want to destroy the opposition so much as much sure it couldn’t control them. They didn’t want gods to rule over the world, at least not the fleshy, imperfect, semi-mortal gods of the WTO/Order or JCD/Helios.

  21. Hal says:

    Phlux

    There were three endings in the original (SPOILERS). At the end of the game, you end up at Area 51 where Bob Page has holed himself up with the Helios AI, ready to merge himself with it and become “god.” All three of your options work through this part of the game, with the only backtracking being your carousing all over the huge facility.

    Ending one saw you killing Bob Page. This allowed the Illuminati to waltz into Area 51 and take over the world. Again.

    Ending two saw you merging your consciousness with Helios. JC Denton is now “god.”

    Ending three saw you saying, “The hell with it all,” and blowing Area 51 up in a nuclear holocaust. This collapses the global communications networks and results in a new dark age.

    No middle of the road. All mutually exclusive.

  22. DGM says:

    Shamus said: “There are several different ways to end up fighting Anna. Okay, she dies no matter what, but being able to fight her in different contexts adds a lot of replay value.”

    Actually, it is possible to spare Anna (as well as some others you might think have to die). See the comments here: http://dungeon-games.com/blog/?p=62

    I’ve never tried it myself, but I recall reading that the dialogue gets a bit odd in places if you let her live – supposedly Gunther still rants about you killing her as you leave UNATCO for the last time, but when you meet him again in Paris his dialogue changes as though the developers anticipated her surviving.

    Maybe it’s like with Manderley; you can let her live, but they kill her anyway for failing and pin the blame on you. :P

  23. Gunther still writes about you killing Anna because that method of not killing Anna is an unforeseen exploit. It kind of bothered me, though, that they threw that one wrench into what would otherwise have been a perfectly pacifist-able game. Still love that game, though. Also, I didn’t kill Anna, she walked into a LAM I misplaced…

    I agree with Patrick. JC Denton was my character. 6 times. I don’t want to be playing another game where suddenly he’s just an arrogant douchebag, even if I did play him with kill-everybody conduct that one time. One of the things that made DX2 a worse game than it maybe deserves to have been is just that it violated DX’s legacy in so many ways. Not that it really did things well or was a good game on it’s own, but it would have been at least decent if I hadn’t played the original.

  24. Joush says:

    I liked that the endings in the first Deus Ex were are least a -little- hopeful.

    Killing Bob Page ends the MJ12-Illuminati war that had ravaged the world, and the world could do worse for it’s shadowy leaders then Nicolette DuClare, JC Dention, ect.

    Merging with Helios was a dark ending too.. but at least had the hope that the JC / Helios entity might be able to help people. DX 2 assumes this ending and parts of the next. If you go by that, this is by far the darkest ending.

    Ending three? Ruin the shadow government’s hold by killing Bob Page and the Aquinas’s router that serves as the center of the spider’s web. In the bargain, blow up Area 51 and it’s cache of alien tech (and aliens) the Iliminati had used to cement it’s hold on the world’s governments.

    The result is a dark age, but frees the world from the conspiracies that had lied to everyone.

  25. Count_Zero says:

    Shamus,
    I would be interested in your thoughts on the Shin Megami Tensei series (particularly the core games in the series). I didn’t make it all the way through the first game (which you would have to get through methods of dubious legality, but from what I recall correctly, you had a choice to side between the forces of Law (faceless oppressive bureaucracy that would strip us from individual choice), Chaos (which favor an society where there are no laws and only the strong survive), or Neutrality (someplace in between). I don’t recall, off the top of my head, how good the choice is, and I really need to play the game again, but, anyway, if you had played it (or any of the other games in the series, aside from Raidou Kuzunoha – which is a bit more of a rail-road fest) I’d be interested in your thoughts on those games and how they apply the concept of “freedom of choice” (or illusions thereof).

  26. Kasper says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to remember that there is a fifth ending to the game. (spoiler alert of course) I have played it through two times, and I remember being able to “let” the omar win. I don’t know exactly how I did this, since its about 3 years ago, but it gave an ending movie where an omar walks through an arid landscape, and passes by a human corpse. Being better adapted they have outlived the humans and are now the caretakers of our world. I remember wondering at the time what possesses the main character, being the big savior and decision maker and all, to decide to let his own species die in favor of some other species, just because they were better adapted and he did some stuff for them back a few days…

    Off topic, since this is the first time ever I post here, I might as well add that I enjoy reading your stories shamus, and am always disappointed when I come around here first thing in the morning and there is nothing new ;) keep up the good work

  27. DaveJ says:

    The JC Denton ending of Deus Ex 2 lied to me. In the game the rich people are able to modify themselves to be smarter and stronger and glow in the dark and all that. This creates world with an actual gap between the rich and the poor, or the super humans and the humans as you may want to call it. JC tells me that he’s going to use the biomods to make everyone an allstar athlete with a monster brain, everyone will have the same awesome bodies and fantastic brains and magic powers, but it is going to be our willpower and drive and work ethic that makes us who we are.

    Oooh get me in on that.

    Whoops I helped create a global hive mind and the other stuff is forgotten. Stupid game.

    Later I thought it might be JC lying to the character because he knew that would get an emotional response, while he really is just trying to take over the world. That way of thinking makes me laugh and I don’t hate it anymore.

    Explaining how you pick all three endings from the first game: You merge with helios, fail and create dark age, illuminati step in. So you really chose one, but ended up with three.

  28. Kasper says:

    Hmmm, I was wrong… this is the fourth ending. Forgive me my inability to read :)
    The rest of the post is still as true though

  29. Joshua says:

    Never played this game, but sounds like what I complained about on this blog a week or two ago with “choices” that make no sense given your previous actions. If you choose the path of “A”, you shouldn’t be able to choose the path of “B” and “C” down the road, maybe just “B-lite” and “C-lite”.

    Cadrys, I don’t know about you, but I think most players would LOVE this kind of game- that creates REPLAY value, especially when you create different paths that are exclusive to choices you made along the way, not just choices you make at the last second.

    I think most developers just don’t do it because of:
    1. A sense of vanity -They want you to see all or most of their work and not miss it.
    2. Lack of effort(it takes a lot of work to keep write multiple diverting storylines that lead you into exclusive plots and areas, almost like creating 2-3 times as many games. That also requires more money.

  30. Steven B. says:

    Also, the main character is awful. Look at him in the comic there. His hair alone qualifies him for douchebag status.

  31. Zaxares says:

    I rather liked the ApostleCorp ending, actually. I agree that it’s distasteful how JC forces the global nano-evolution on everyone without asking permission, but I do appreciate his sentiment for wanting to ‘level the playing field’. He could hardly do otherwise and still claim to be granting equality to all peoples of the Earth.

    What a lot of readers here seem to be forgetting is that joining with the Helios collective does not destroy the person’s individuality. In fact, if you listen to what Helios says, he mentions that ‘the last barriers are disappearing’. This suggests that following the global nano-evolution, there were still many humans who refused to ‘plug in’ and become a member of the Helios collective. (Of course, it’s debatable exactly HOW Helios is overcoming these barriers. Is it because through 200 years of existence, it’s convinced the dissenters that it really does have humanity’s best interests at heart? Or is it through systematic elimination of said dissenters? We can’t really say, the game doesn’t give us enough information to judge one way or another.)

    In any case, I still feel that the ApostleCorp ending is the most uplifting and hopeful of the four endings. It promises a truly egalitarian society, where everyone has an equal voice and can be guaranteed to have that voice heard. True, humanity is no longer recognisable as humanity, but I see the nano-evolution as a good thing; the next big step forward for civilisation.

  32. Zereth says:

    Kasper: There _is_ a fifth ending, though.

    DANCE PARTY! (you have to do some weird stuff involving bringing a flag to a bathroom in the ruined UNATCO HQ. Good old nonsensical secret endings!)

  33. MaxEd says:

    Shamus, concerning story-driven games and choices… Are you planning to try “Witcher”? I’d say choice of fractions there were more or less satisfying, thought I’ve only completed game as total neutral character (just like Geralt from the book would behave, really).

  34. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Every time I read something about deus ex 2 Im glad Ive never played it.

    Oh,and U just want to mention a game that is a contrast to fallout in that it is closed,yet still manages to have your choices quite meaningfull and influence the rest of the game,as well as the end itself:The second expansion to neverwinter nights.I remember opening the modules to HotU and the dialog trees were HUGE.And,unlike in other games,playing lawful evil finally was playing lawful evil,meaning you could become a cruel and calculated dictator with mephisopheles bound as your slave.And even if youve played someone who absolutelly cares about no one but themselves,youd still have the motive to go through the quests,since it would be your life thats endangered.

  35. Phlux says:

    Hal: Thanks for the refresher. It’s all coming back to me now. I do recall going back to the beginning of area 51 to get the extra endings. the way other people were talking made it sound as though choices made much earlier in the game affected which ending you would get, which was contrary to my experience.

    I thought they were saying that if you sided with one faction or another early on that you would ultimately have no choice but to select a certain ending.

    When I played through the first time I got to the end, chose the Helios AI ending, and then went back to the beginning of Area 51 twice to get the other two endings. On subsequent playthroughs I mostly was just messing around trying to find stuff I’d missed.

  36. Yeebo says:

    Actually to me one of the saving graces of DX:IW was that there was no clearly “happy” ending. Seemed quite realistic, and an oddly mature direction for the storytelling given the spotty narrative that precedes it.

  37. Kazeite says:

    To answer Cadrys‘ question, I do remember one game which did had branching storyline, with unique levels and such. It’s True Crime: Streets of LA. Y’know, GTA clone where you play cop. Now I don’t know why, but despite being superior to Vice City in every way (at least in my humble opinion), it’s not perceived as very good…

    Anyway, it does have a branching storyline, and it was possible to advance the storyline despite failing some missions. Yes sir, DIAS syndrome was severely weakened in this case. For example, during one mission, where PC is tasked with protecting his brother, if he fails, he’d go straight to “bad ending”, with final fight on top of the skyscraper. Being a good cop and finishing all missions succesfully would lead to final fight on the airport. See its Wikipedia entry for more details :)

  38. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I dont know.I tried true crime once,but I found it boring.Never got past the begining.

  39. Zukhramm says:

    Without reading through the comments and without ever playing the game, I have to say I like the idea of having to choose between four choices all of which leads to bad endings.

  40. Faris says:

    Well, I had a different interpretation though. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but although they are ‘bad ending,’ except the knight templar’s ending they aren’t really bad ‘bad’ ending. Or something like that.

    The illuminatus ending got us world peace, where we were ruled by a ruling class that control the world from the shadows… Okay not as good as I thought, but at least we got world peace and prosperity, fake or not. Like the matrix, normal people wouldn’t care.

    The apostle corp got us… collective consciousness. Might be good, might be bad, depends on your preferences.

    The ‘chaos’ end? This caught me off guard. It’s the worst short term ending, but in the end, Mankind survived the initial chaos and rise as a strong, hard edged species. Then mankind started to set off to space. Any alien species that meet us and thought that we’re a weak mammal species will got some surprise..

  41. Dev Null says:

    Continuing my habit of commenting on ages-old posts, but I just finished playing Deus Ex (the original… which I picked up on eBay almost entirely because of this discussion.)

    I _loved_ the fact that your choices had consequences in this first game. The example you give with the head of the NSF was a great one – I think I played that scene about 2 dozen times trying to get him to survive it – but my favorite was actually much more trivial:

    Early on in the game you come upon a bunch of footsloggers from your own organisation having a firefight with some terrorists. So I waded in and lent a hand, and their leader comes over to me afterwards, thanks me, and opens a door for me. And walking around after that, the random UNATCO guards would say things like “Good going JC!” “Thanks; you saved a buddy of mine.” But you also get a reputation for being a bit bloodthirsty, and the “goodguy” supply sergeant will only give you nonlethal weaponry, and the “evil” assassin borg chick kinda takes a shine to you. And then I did something stupid like walked off a building and had to go back to an ancient save game. And this time I tried to be a bit less violent and use non-lethals so the sergeant wouldn’t get pissed off, which made me pretty ineffective and lots of my guys died. And now the soldiers weren’t so friendly (and didn’t open the door – I had to break in a window) and made comments like “Don’t worry about what theyre saying in the locker room JC; I’m sure you would have helped out if you weren’t busy with something really important…”

    I loved that. I wanted to go back and do it again, just to make my guys like me better (but didn’t, because I’d written over the save game.) Its a shame they didn’t keep it up through the whole game though. By the halfway point there were no longer innocent footsoldiers working for evil causes that you felt obliged to taze instead of killing – everyone was a bastard, and you could slaughter them without compunction and noone would even comment. And the choice at the end of the game sounds a bit like the choice at the end of Deus Ex II; which particular way would you like to screw over the entire planet? Plunge it into formless chaos, or choose between a pair of megalomaniac overlords?

    Don’t get me wrong – I thought the game was brilliant! – but it seemed like here, as with so many other games, someone had a really cool idea which they implemented for the first act, but which got chucked by the wayside in exchange for delivery dates after that.

  42. Harvey says:

    So great to see analysis like this, so articulately breaking the games down…where we went right with DX1, where we went wrong with DX2. Always hard to get right, moreso each year, but always worth trying.

  43. Nate says:

    I *still* remember during the first time I played through Deus Ex (original) all the way, when Navarre busts in on that conversation with Lebedev. I didn’t react quickly enough, and she gunned him down before I could “learn the truth”. I remember sitting there with an assault rifle pointed at her for a good long while, trying to decide if it was worth it to kill my partner just in retalliation, since Lebedev was already dead. I didn’t, but most times since, I kill her early in the exchange (somtimes I even “cheat” and stick a LAM on the wall where she has to walk past).

  44. RandomCommenter says:

    Liked the IW endings, for the same reasons Yeebo mentioned. I’m not very fond of the leftish bias most of the tech-savvy Internet seems to share, and I don’t feel quite at home with the political right either, so having to choose between multiple outcomes with various drawbacks, none of them implicitely endorsed by the developers, felt like a refreshing take in the midst of all these games enforcing strict good and evil definitions.

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