Deus Ex: Assault on Battery

The second mission sends us to Battery Park, on Manhattan’s southern tip, where the NSF are holed up in Castle Clinton (a 19th century fortification of Doom-brown stone) and in the subway tunnels below, and desperate, starving people, the ones UNATCO is in theory supposed to be defending, are dodging the crossfire.

The whole level starts with a very explicit choice between storming the castle and finding a sneaky way in. I chose the latter, obviously. I’m still trying to continue keeping anyone from dying, even as my allies do their best to make this difficult. Not far from the starting point, there’s a place where UNATCO forces are already in a pitched battle with the NSF over a small shantytown. Just getting close enough to do anything about it before anyone dies is a challenge — maybe throwing a tear gas grenade in would help? (Tear gas in this game is a nonlethal substance that temporarily disables those caught in its cloud. In real life, its use in warfare is banned by the Geneva Conventions, but for some reason it’s considered okay for police to use, so it’s kind of up in the air whether its use here is a war crime or not.)

Regardless, it seems like the fighting doesn’t get started until you’re close enough to see it. So if I want to keep everyone alive, the simplest solution is to just not go over there. But that’s the exact opposite of the thoroughness I was talking about in my last post! There’s some decent loot in those plywood shacks, too — goodness knows how the ragged inhabitants of this future dystopia got their hands on it, but I want it.

That’s my ethic in this game: I must go to extraordinary lengths, not just to never kill of my own volition, but to make sure no one dies on my watch — but robbing them blind? Even those in the most desperate circumstances? That’s fine. The game kind of tricks you into this back in the Statue of Liberty mission: it presents you with an ATM that you can hack for some extra cash, and then shortly afterward you can find a note written by the person whose account you hacked, letting you know just how much it’ll crush his dreams when he sees he’s been wiped out. And you can decide you’ve crossed a line there, I suppose, and go back to an earlier save, but here’s the thing: if you do that, you’ll have less money. (Refraining from killing people doesn’t have this problem; you can loot an unconscious person as easily as a corpse.) My feeling about this is basically that this isn’t Undertale. My code against killing isn’t really motivated by caring about the characters. It’s more motivated by, well, the same thing it was motivated by in the beginning parts of Undertale, before I made any friends: challenge, and novelty, and a desire to see as much of the game’s content as I can. I really think that last point is too often overlooked as a motivator.


2 Comments so far

  1. Arthegall on 28 Jan 2023

    I still remember my first playthough of this section. Shooting tranq darts through ventilation grates and watching the terrorists drop one by one with no understanding of what was happening was extremely satisfying and unlike and gaming experience I’d ever had before.

    I’ve still ever encountered a stealth experience quite like it.

    The subway hostage situation is also the moment where my sympathy for the NSF started to unravel. You can’t really be the good guys if you’re threatening to blow up a bunch of innocent bystanders, can you?

  2. Arthegall on 28 Jan 2023

    Also, props for the post title.

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