When I was playing ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’, one constant issue was always plaguing my mind. Why does Adam Jenson need to steal?
In ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, you are the security chief at Sarif Industries. You would think that working at one of the most prestigious augmentation corporations would lend you some supplies or the cash you need for equipment, but that is not the case. You skulk around different parts of the world, breaking into innocent (and not so innocent) people’s homes and stealing their belongings.
For some reason, I never quite cared about this, as it was a means to an end. In order to best represent the interests of the corporation and find out who was behind the attack that left me barely clinging to life, I’d need to lift every fridge in the game in search of a possible credit chip. (Then throwing the fridge in the bathroom because it was pretty funny).
However, when playing Mankind Divided, something changed, both because of the game and myself.
Mankind Divided is downright gorgeous, the character models and environments damn near took my breath away on more than one occasion. The issue, however, was how life-like it represented the plight of the people of Prague.
Once I arrived at Golem City, the visuals of this decrepit town of thousands living on top of each other left me broken. No matter what I do, these people still live, sleep and try to survive here. Why would I want to steal from these people?
One of the first things you encounter in Golem City is a group of police beating up and arresting a bunch of the augmented individuals. I must have stood there for five minutes just watching this harassment occur in front of me, unable to comprehend how there is nothing I can do for these people. I can’t give them some money, or even some medicine.
This issue of the game conflicting with my own personal beliefs carried on in how the game dealt (or really did not deal) with theft. Theft in Human Revolution and Mankind Divided is never really addressed.
The security chief at Sarif Industries and now special agent at the Interpol Task Force 29, Adam should be given resources or at least the financial backing to get what he needs. However, he steals from those who have done nothing wrong so he can purchase skill points and weapons.
In Human Revolution, the only mention I ever found of the world reacting to your theft was an e-mail in your office of people asking who was stealing their stuff. It even goes so far as to have others in the office accuse other office workers of the thefts. This reinforces one simple rule to the player, you can get away with theft.
I felt like this was fine in Human Revolution because I never felt like I was presented with anything of true value. A couple of credits here and there isn’t going to kill anyone, no problem. But Mankind Divided presented too many scenarios in which your theft could easily cause devastating consequences.
The most striking to me was after I broke into an apartment ,then went into the bathroom. The whole room was littered with empty beer cans and cigarette butts, and on top of a box was a vial of Neuropozyne, the drug that keeps a person’s body from rejecting their augments.
Without thinking, I walked in, grabbed the drug, and almost left before I realized what I had done. This person might have been scraping by to afford the medication, and I stole it only so I could sell it. Adam has no need for the drug, as his body does not reject the augments.
What surprised me most was that Adam does not reflect on this, on how his actions could hurt an innocent person. When it comes to combat, Adam can be a pacifist, but his day-to-day actions are not given any acknowledgment.
In a later cutscene Adam, even says he has a no kill rule, but does he factor the many ways his actions could hurt people besides terrorists or gang members?
Adam Jenson is in a world where he has no reason to steal besides the fact that since he can, he will. He could put in a request for nutrition bars and gas grenades, but since no one will stop him why not just steal.
This is what put me off continuing Mankind Divided, as I felt conflicted to continue playing a character that had no qualms with stealing from the less fortunate. When it came to almost stealing the Neuropozyne, not only did I return the drug but I also left a second one for them.
I imagined that person coming home and finding the drugs left for them, and how much joy it would have brought. This small human gesture gave me more emotional satisfaction than any of the scripted scenarios that do not see me as a person, but as a robot badass with no soul.