Compared to the deep and intricate worlds that the Deus Ex series builds for players to explore and play through, Breach isn’t just a departure from the norm, it might as well be a completely separate game. Except it isn’t, it’s a fascinating new addition to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, giving you something that will be easy to dip into for ten minutes and feel like you’ve accomplished something.
“We’ve wanted to give another experience on top of the single player for a long time,” Fleur Marty, producer on the Breach game mode said. “For a while we considered having a multiplayer thing, but that didn’t really make a lot of sense.
“The thing is that when you make a Deus Ex game, everything has to make sense and feel very real, so we wanted to extract ourselves from that very realistic gameplay, keep the core pillars of the stealth, the combat, the Augs and the cool toys, and just play with something a bit crazier. Of course, it’s still Deus Ex, so we’re still in that universe and it still has the conspiracies, the corporations, and everything. So we’re giving a story on top of it, but the main focus was to play with the gameplay.”
Instead of venturing out into Prague or taking missions in Dubai’s half-finished, abandoned hotels, Breach sets you up as a remote hacker, a Ripper, taking on jobs to infiltrate the various shady corporations of the future and uncover their misdeeds and secrets. It’s not the same look as the hacking from the main game, but rather a kind of virtual reality abstraction of the process, the entire process of hacking having been turned into a game, so that any citizen of this future can break into servers and uncover conspiracies.
There was an April Fools gag that Eidos Montreal posted, that said that Deus Ex was ditching yellows and gold for pink, and while that’s not true for the main game, Breach does use a lot of pink and has a very, very different art style. Think of Tron and combine it with the low polygon style of Volume, and you won’t be too far off. Even your in game avatar is a relatively low poly construct.
“We tried to imagine what that VR world would be, and again, we wanted to take a step away from the credible world of Mankind Divided, but at the same time, we wanted to reflect the personality of the corporations that you’re actually invading. So we have a basic set up, which is the pink and white thing, with the data towers and so on.
“There’s a funny story about that, because pink is the only colour that doesn’t feature in Deus Ex! The only pink in Human Revolution was Eliza, and Eliza is an AI. She’s not real and so pink is not real! So that’s why the main colour of Breach is pink.”
Beyond the dramatically different art style, it actually builds on the kinds of gameplay and abilities that you’ll find Adam Jensen has in the main story of Mankind Divided. Unlike the terminal hacking there, you’re in a fully 3D world, trying to work your way from room to room, taking cover, figuring out how to get through to a server node, solving environmental puzzles and more, as you try to connect to enough servers to get the data you need, and then safely get out before the timer runs out.
“One of the cool things that we have in Breach that’s not in the main game,” Fleur said, “is that we have weapon abilities. They’re basically cards that you play on your weapons to give them funky effects. […] So for instance, you can apply an ability to your combat rifle, and each time you shoot an enemy, he’s going to turn hostile to his own faction and start shooting someone else, or you’re going to gain HP each time you shoot a bullet.”
It feels, especially with the early levels and the initial glimpses of the game in the video, that there’s more of an action oriented focus to the game. However, Fleur said, “I know the video gives that impression, but if you’re a stealth player, you can stealth all the maps. That’s also one of the core pillars, and if that’s your play style, you get to keep it. So if you want to be full stealth, you can, if you want to be full combat, you can…
“The only thing is that we have objectives for each of the levels, and some of the levels have a stealth objective, so you will be forced to be stealthy, otherwise you’re just kicked out of the server, but those are optional maps. But again, it’s Deus Ex, so it’s multi-path and multi-play, and you can play how you want.”
The action is wrapped up in a simplistic computer interface in which you chat and talk to a facilitator of sorts – replete with Deus Ex’s familiar dialogue options – and purchase new abilities and boosts for your hacking avatar using praxis points.
This will be a live game mode, Eidos say, meaning that it will see content updates after launch to expand and add new stories. “We have a dedicated live team, and we built Breach cooperating with the main team, but once those guys are on vacation, we’re still going!
“At launch, we will have three different corporations that you infiltrate and then we’ll be adding new corporations, which also means new stories and new conspiracies to uncover, and also new toys and weapons.”
Breach is an unusual new addition to Deus Ex, admittedly, and it neatly follows the industry trend of trying to hook people into staying within a game long after its main story has been finished. With so-called cards, leaderboards and challenges, it sounds like a similar idea to the challenge system in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but Eidos Montreal are going quite a bit further than that game did, with a unique art style and more ambitious plans for what Breach can do after launch. Breach won’t necessarily be the main reason anyone buys Mankind Divided, but it might just keep you dipping in for short sessions months after you do.