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Micah Curtis (TechRaptor) writes about the legacy of Deus Ex:
While not a unique setting in and of itself (many Cyberpunk stories are similar), Deus Ex’s setting is superior due to the narrative treating its outlandishness with seriousness, thus allowing for much better player immersion. In essence, Deus Ex was an early master of narrative plausibility. Rather than pointing at the setting with a tongue in their cheek and winking, they treat it with a serious face.
From a design standpoint, Deus Ex still stands as one of the bastions of player choice. Similar to Fallout, there are no classes within Deus Ex. Well, unless “awesome guy with sunglasses” is a class. Thus, during the course of the game, your skills are tailored to your play style. This kind of freedom is almost always welcome by the player, but if the world around you doesn’t allow for any type of play style to conclude in victory, it’s ultimately a hollow gesture. In Deus Ex, if you don’t want to kill a single soul, nothing is forcing you to. If you want to become Nanobot Rambo, that option is open to you.
You see, Deus Ex teaches developers everywhere a very important lesson. Player freedom is ultimately decided by the mechanics and the level design. If they aren’t in tandem with one another, the game is less of an experience for it. The fact that the game’s design is still referenced in this regard after fifteen years speaks for its staying power. When the player feels in control of their character, they’re immersed.
So, what is the legacy of Deus Ex? From my perspective, the series stands as definitive cyberpunk when it comes to its genre as fiction and definitive role playing in regards to video games. Fifteen years later, Deus Ex is still very relevant. With the upcoming Mankind Divided continuing the series, the expectations will continually be set high for the developers. When you’re one of the best, you’re expected to be the best, and many gamers out there hope that the series will continue to match the legacy of its predecessors. Even if things were to go sour for the current development team, Deus Ex has solidified its legacy, and one would even argue its immortality.