Deus Ex: Thoroughness

It took me a while, but I’ve finally gotten through the first mission without anyone dying. This is probably harder in the first mission than in any of the subsequent ones. For one thing, as I mentioned earlier, there are the various defenders on your own side, both human and mechanical, who will gladly gun down anyone who runs towards them. Then there’s Gunther. A cyborg like the player character (albeit from an earlier generation of tech), he’s been captured by the enemy, and one of the mission objectives is to spring him. Unlike me, he has no qualms about killing, and indeed relishes it. If he sees anyone he can kill on the way back to base, he will fight them and he will win.

But most of all, there’s the ending. When you complete your mission, your backup will sweep the area and take down anyone still standing. Please understand that these are not simply abstract, story-level deaths. Completing your mission objectives doesn’t simply end things and load the next map: you can freely wander the site afterward and observe the fallen. That means that if you want to get through the scene without bloodshed, you have to knock every single enemy soldier unconscious before finishing the mission off.

And sure, I’m making things unnecessarily difficult for myself. But I could be doing worse. This is a stealth game, and stealth games have a tradition of “ghost” runs: never be seen, leave no evidence of your passage. I remember playing Thief: The Dark Project and feeling like ghost mode was clearly the correct way to play it, the approach intended by the authors. Not that I did it that way myself, mind you. I played Thief more or less the same way I did this mission: rendering anyone I came across unconscious. It just made things so much easier! Places fraught with peril are rendered completely safe for leisurely and thorough exploration. There’s a heightened sense of freedom in that.

Especially here, where my pointless commitment to not letting anyone die has forced me to explore rather thoroughly. But unlike in Thief, this kind of feels like the right way to go. Not picking options that constrain you, but expanding the possibilities as much as possible. Open every door, unlock every chest. You’re not just a cyborg killing machine, and you’re not just a thief. You’re an investigator of secrets.

It took three sessions, but I finally feel like I’ve hit my stride. It’s a slow stride. Last time I tried this game, I had a self-imposed deadline, and I’ve come to believe that was a mistake. The stealth in this game is the sort that requires patience, and I intend to approach the rest of the game in the same spirit.

1 Comment so far

  1. Arthegall on 26 Jan 2023

    I love how you’ve decided to go about this. The thorough, stealthy approach is exactly the approach I would have recommended.

    I agree with you that the game is basically asking to be played this way. It makes for a very clunky shooter, IMO, whereas the secrets to be discovered by patient, silent exploration are many.

    It’s interesting the contrast you make between the “ghost” approach and the “knock ’em all out” approach. I 100% can relate to the freedom offered by the latter approach, and that’s how I played it at first.

    Later though, I began to try to challenge myself to higher realism for role-playing purposes. Though not implemented in game, guards would likely have comms, and people going offline and missing check-ins would be noticed. This the need for a ghost approach, and stealthy haste once the first guard was neutralized.

    Thanks so much for picking this up again after all this time. I have found myself refreshing this site more than is probably sensible.

Leave a reply