Deus Ex: Ion Storm’s Forgotten Masterpiece

By Gourav Dey

Photo by Touann Gatouillat Vergos on Unsplash

Video Games have come a long way from where they started. From in-depth storyline to enchanting graphics, the journey of video games has been astounding indeed. I started with video games at a tender age and have always been an avid gamer since then. Might seem irrelevant for someone born in the era of RTX and flagship smartphones, but for a kid with the experience of Windows XP, the technological advancements have been nothing but a joyride.

Gaming has been an integral part of my life, my go-to stress buster. Saying so, while some video games are fun to play and are easily forgettable, others leave a rare sensation of accomplishment which stays for a considerable amount of time. One such game was ‘Deus Ex (2000)’. I remember borrowing this game from a friend back in 2001. My friend never really liked the game and well honestly I had the same feeling playing it the first time. It was difficult to understand, the shooting was all over the place, I couldn’t even successfully finish the stealth training until the 10th attempt.

As I started progressing, I realized that it wasn’t just a ‘shoot the enemy’ game. There was a complex storyline underneath the main layer of the game. You play as J.C Denton, a recently inducted field agent working for an anti-terrorism organization called UNATCO, it is an action-adventure/RPG in a sci-fi environment. The story surrounds a pandemic with a lot of conspiracy theories intertwined with it. Ion storm developed a game that has aspects still relevant to this date. To be fair, the game was ahead of its time and was a bit draining for a first-timer, the enjoyment is generally subjective. If you’re looking to shoot your way through everything, Deus Ex is not a wise choice. It was not a great looking game and the depth certainly had more gravity than its aesthetic appeal.

The rich character customization made character builds unique. One might need some time to catch up to the shooting mechanics; shooting is not the stronghold of the game. The health system was managed across all of J.C's limbs rather than a generic life bar, and damage to individual limbs had a unique impact on gameplay. The game also offered augmentations similar to the cyber modules in System Shock 2, which allowed going from damage resistance to cloaking. Most importantly, the decisions made changes to the story. There was freedom to kill off major NPCs, which would eventually influence the path taken in the game. The freedom of choices was backed by intelligent and beautiful writing, one of a kind in its time. The game had a memorable soundtrack composed by Alexander Brandon, which enhanced the quest even more.

I have played multiple AAA titles over the years, including Deus Ex- Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. While Mankind Divided will be a debatable instalment, Human Revolution for me was a decent enough game. Even though Human Revolution and Mankind Divided are both good looking games, I do not think the essence of Deus Ex (2000) can be recreated in the distant future. I have returned to the game a couple of times and still find creative as well as weird ways to solve something that I did completely different 20 years ago. Again, I am talking about a game released two decades ago and anyone who missed out on the game should surely try it once. Just for the sheer creativity of the developers.