Deus Ex: Pacifist Arsenal

The lair of the “mole people” — by which the game simply means people squatting in abandoned subway tunnels — has been overrun with NSF troops, who the mole people do their best to ignore. I’ve found this whole scene less difficult than I remember from my first pass at the game. I think I took a different approach back then, inching around stealthily, trying to find the moments in the guards’ patrol cycles when I could make my way without raising an alarm. This time around, I’m okay with being seen as long as I can render the witness unconscious before he damages me too much.

Let’s use that as an excuse to talk about the game’s array of nonlethal weapons somewhat. There are three that I’ve been using routinely. First, there’s a miniature crossbow that fires tranquilizer darts. (Or just plain darts, if you don’t care about lethality.) A single dart, preferably delivered from concealment, is enough to take down a normal unaugmented human. The one downside is that it takes a while to take hold, and the person affected tends to run around alerting others until he collapses. Still, it’s a lovely tool, and I’d use it all the time if its ammo weren’t so scarce. Every once in a while you meet an NSF soldier armed with a similar device, and it’s always a joyous moment, because you get to scavenge his ammo.

I suppose the reason tranq darts are doled out so sparingly is to force the player who doesn’t want to kill to use the melee weapons. There are two: the riot prod and the telescoping baton. The baton is a bit like the blackjack in Thief: the Dark Project: best applied to the back of the head of someone who doesn’t know you’re there, although it’s a bit tricky to pull this off. It’s a lot faster than the blackjack, though, and thus less useless in general melee. You can use it to take down someone who’s spotted you if you don’t mind getting shot a few times.

The riot prod is a melee weapon that uses ammo, in the form of “prod chargers”. One hit with it will render an opponent stunned, a state in which they just stand there and vibrate for a little while. A second prod will knock them out, but that’s a waste of prod ammo. The better approach is to quickly switch to the baton for the coup de grace — which still seems to be more effective when applied to the back of the skull, so the ideal approach is a prod-stun followed by circling behind while the weapon-change animation plays.

In addition, there are two other nonlethal weapons that I know about but don’t use so much. There’s pepper spray, which I simply haven’t figured out how to use effectively and takes pretty rare ammo, and there’s tear gas grenades, which are rare enough to be saved for only the really difficult fights. Tear gas is a bit like the riot prod, in that it causes temporary helplessness, but has the disadvantage that fully exploiting it by clubbing people on the back of the head before they recover usually requires walking into the cloud yourself and taking damage from it.

Which brings to the question of what exactly nonlethal damage means when applied to the player character. As far as I can tell, it’s not in practice any different from lethal damage. When you’ve taken more than you can withstand, it’s game over, no matter if you’re dead or technically only unconscious. Indeed, I’m not at all sure that lethal and nonlethal damage are tracked separately for anyone. It seems like the difference between death and unconsciousness is purely a matter of what kind of weapon dealt the final blow.


1 Comment so far

  1. Arthegall on 15 Mar 2023

    A single prod hit from behind in the torso or head is an instant KO.

Leave a reply