Deus Ex: Swimming

Put on a trenchcoat
And fight some conspiracies
Get experience
And level up abilities
Will you pick rifle
Or computers?
Don’t pick swimming, because
It’s fairly useless
Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s lyrics to the Deus Ex title theme

Having seen this advice years ago, I have in fact not yet put any points into swimming. But I keep seeing places where it seems like it would be useful. This is a game that’s largely about giving the player alternatives, and it goes well beyond just the obvious “sneaking or violence” choice — I’ve just been through a bit where the sneaking option bifurcated into “avoid being spotted by finding a route through a maze-like agglomeration of shipping containers, or leap around on top of the containers where no one’s looking”. Pick the lock of the front door or awkwardly stack crates and climb in through a second-story window. Spend resources to avoid taking damage from environmental hazards or just take the damage and spend resources to heal afterward. The point is that lately I’ve been seeing an awful lot of alternate routes that involve swimming underwater.

One could conceivably build one’s character as a dedicated swimmer, seeking out underwater shortcuts everywhere. It would be an eccentric build, though, and I wouldn’t recommend it to the first-time player; as far as I can tell, there just isn’t a whole lot in the swimming sections other than swimming. You get access to some underwater supply crates, but for the most part, making that choice just means circumventing a lot of other interesting choices and missing out on a bunch of game.

Nonetheless, having decided to indulge that choice, the level designers are left having to support it. It’s a bit like an old Superfriends episode, where every scheme they thwart and emergency they handle has to have some kind of maritime component to justify Aquaman’s continuing presence on the team. But here’s the thing: I’ve explored a bunch of water tunnels — sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes because I fell into a cistern — and I have yet to see one that actually requires you to sink points into the Swimming skill. It takes a while to start drowning, and even when you do, it takes a while to drown for a noticeable mount of damage. Maybe the later levels will provide longer water-filled tunnels to help the Aquacyborg players feel like it wasn’t a complete waste. Or maybe not. We have been told it’s fairly useless, after all.


1 Comment so far

  1. Arthegall on 26 Mar 2023

    Great analysis of the optionality around water shortcuts.

    And don’t forget that Rebreathers are available as items, and Aqualung is an available augmentation.

    I love the freedom of choice, but there’s so much some of it really does come down to role-playing, IMO.

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