Deus Ex Mankind Divided is ditching the Renaissance for an Apartheid feel

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What’s it going to be like, living in a world of post-humanism? It’s not so much science fiction these days, as it is science fact as we move closer and closer to creating technologies that can augment our fleshy and frail bodies.

It’s the kind of question that was asked in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where the world was learning to adapt to the idea of uncontrolled augmentations within the human populace.

If you played that prequel, you may remember having a series of choices at the end that could have upset the status quo for humanity, as protagonist Adam Jensen was giving an impossible decision to make. Or you could have actually done nothing, and let humanity figure out the augmentation issue for itself.

And that’s where Deus Ex Mankind Divided picks up, as Jensen returns to a world shocked by the events that went down on Panchea island, with an amalgamation of endings shaping the path forward.

And according to Deus Ex executive art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete, that’s the path that felt the most natural for the sequel.

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“We kind of went into that quite naturally, really, because we looked at what the Panchaea incident was and tried to evaluate how much of a shock wave it would’ve given the world, and how the world react to such a danger, or such an event,” Jacques-Belletete explained to GameSpot.

Like what they say, it’s like a shock treatment. That’s what 9/11 was. That’s what Pearl Harbor was. A global shock treatment. Its like people get literally in a state of shock, and that’s when people make really rash decisions. That’s when all sorts of control laws are installed, and that’s usually when the state of the world changes quite a bit.

We can analyze the Panchaea incident as being that, and it gave us leeway to have a very, very different state of affairs, a different state of the world while being in the exact same universe and explore different themes within that.

That was definitely one of the reasons [we chose that ending] at a very high level. You have a little bit of all different endings in the canon ending we chose, because at the end of the day, you can still change the truth.

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Deus Ex Human Revolution also had a signature look when it was released. It was like a classical oil painting in motion, a game with warm colours and a renaissance look, amidst a sea of drab shooters from the time. But in the world of Mankind Divided, that look has gotten a bit dirtier.

“Human Revolution was all about clutter and an orgy of details,” Jacques-Belletete said. “We made up like 100 brands, fake brands with the stickers everywhere and all that kind of stuff. It was pretty much unheard of at the time [in games]”.

With Mankind Divided, we have the true power now to do that vision that we had. Before it was the first stepping-stone to that vision, and now we can really achieve it.

There’s nothing new to it in terms of the high-level aesthetic goals and the amount of detail, but we looked at our sandbox and the tools that we had and now we’re like, holy shit, we can really do what we’ve always wanted to do.

Which has resulted in the primary black and gold colours, slowly fading away in Mankind Divided in favour of some bluer and greyer tones. “The black and gold had to do with the baroque style, the transhumanist side of the debate,” Jacques-Belletete said.

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It was a whole cyber renaissance thing, the renaissance analogy to augmentations and transhumanism and all that stuff. Gold also represented the sun for the whole Icarus myth parallels.

But now because the world has made a kind of 180 degree turn, augmentations are seen as something dangerous now. The world has moved to more of what we call corporate feudalism. That’s the norm in the world and Mankind Divided. Corporations are taking over it.

[Mankind Divided] is all based on the brutalism, the brutalist architecture movement, which has to do a lot with crude concrete, crude materials, harsh plain angles. It looks like fortifications. It’s almost like we’ve gone back to the Dark Ages of the medieval era, before the Renaissance.

Because of that, the palette is a lot more desaturated. There’s a lot more blue. Whenever you have this kind of apartheid, or you have this kind of control over everybody, this is when you have the blues, this is when you have the desaturation, and this is when you have that gloominess.

And when you go to the areas that are a bit more controlled by the augmented people, like in the ghetto, this is when the gold comes back, almost as if they’re bringing their own little candles. It’s all an analogy. It was really just with the story it made sense to have less of it.

I don’t think there’s any subject touchier here than Apartheid. It’s a dark time in our own history, possibly the worst. And seeing echoes of that horrid human rights abuse in the Deus Ex Mankind Divided game, hits particularly close to home.

Last Updated: July 17, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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