Deus Ex: Rambling

Usually by this point in blogging about a game, I’d like to do some more analysis of the story and how it affects and is affected by the gameplay. But I still haven’t reached any more story than I got to the last time through, and the main way the gameplay affects it is by slowing it down. Of course, the way I’ve chosen to play it doesn’t help there. I’m currently on my third restart of the Battery Park mission, this time because I realized that I could spend fewer lockpicks by going into Castle Clinton by the front entrance and holding off on picking any locks until I have enough XP from exploration bonuses to upgrade my lockpicking skill. (I’m still doing this stealthy-like, mind you. Instead of charging in guns blazing, I’ve found a way to laboriously climb up to the fort’s roof, there to creep around up above where anyone is looking and snipe them all with tranquilizer darts.) So far, lockpicks are pretty much the game’s most valuable resource, and their electronic counterparts the Multitools a distant second.

Those exploration bonuses I mentioned do a lot to confirm to me that the sort of exploration-maximalism I’ve been engaging in is in fact the right way to play this game. It’s certainly what the mechanics encourage, intentionally or not. It has some peculiar side effects, though. Like, a lot of places have a choice of two ways in, one that’s more sneaky and one that’s more fighty. But both routes can have their own secret areas, with their own exploration bonuses and loot. Obviously the maximalist approach is to claim both! Which is somewhat at odds with the clear intention that it’s a choice. I suppose this is why later games in the same lineage like Bioshock don’t put their major decision points into the environment like this. There’s something to be said for games that force you to make decisions as they come and live with the consequences, no backsies. But there’s also something to be said for games that let you get away with this kind of nonsense.


2 Comments so far

  1. Arthegall on 30 Jan 2023

    Roof shooty down into the castle courtyard?
    That’s genius!

    I don’t remember lockpicks being SO valuable, because so often there are keys to be found. On bookshelves. Behind flour pots. Etc. You can even get them in conversations I think. And often a lockpick is just a trade token for other forms of loot. (Trade the pick(s) used to open the chest for whatever was in the chest.)

    But the urge to have my cake and eat it two was constant, especially early on. For me the driver was skill points. That little sound effect that plays when you get a secret area exploration bonus was a dopamine hit every time, and I wanted ALL of them.

    But in the end, the RPG became more important for me. The game *lets* me do nonsense, but I began to recognize myself as breaking character for doing so. Forcing myself to observe some loyalty to my character narrative ultimately made the world more immersive for me and overcoming the challenges more satisfying because I *didn’t* have every possible tool, credit, and skill point.

    But that’s only when I’m doing a ‘canonical’ playthrough. Believe me I poked in all the corners as well, but sometimes only by coming back to a save point where I said to myself “I know there’s other options I want to explore here, but right now JC has a mission to complete.”

    As you perceived in your first playthrough, this game is long, and the game world is densely populated with stuff and encounters. At some point, getting through the story became more important than parsing every corner right in the moment.

  2. Arthegall on 8 Feb 2023

    Looks like someone may have met their end in Hell’s Kitchen.

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