Deus Ex Mankind Divided executive art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete has spoken to GameSpot about how the game deals with the fallout of Panchaea station in Human Revolution, the themes which have influenced the story, and the changes to the distinctive art style.
In Human Revolution players had multiple options at the end of the game, all of which would have profound implications for humanity's progress in the decades to follow. However, Eidos has decided that Adam Jensen allowed Panchaea, the world's most ambitious geo-engineering project, to be destroyed by doing nothing.
Jacques-Belletete said there are elements of every possible ending in Mankind Divided despite this.
"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," he explained. "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. It's 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," he continued. "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."
Human Revolution had a very distinct, Blade Runner-style, black and gold theme. Jacques-Belletete noted that these colour reflected the transhumanism argument at the heart of that game but now that most augmented people are living in ghettos separate from the rest of society, these colours have faded in the background and there's a lot more blue.
"The world has moved to more of what we call corporate feudalism," he commented. "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."
Some have pointed to the similarities between Deus Ex and X-men stories and Jacques-Belletete said both are based on the issue of segregation.
"People are afraid of people who are different than them. They're afraid," he commented. "I guess the through line is that. It's all about segregation. When you're afraid of someone that's not like you, you have a tendency to push away, racism, discrimination, all that stuff. I think that's what they have in common and, yeah, people are totally right. We knew it right from the beginning, it was even part of our references when we started."
Augmentation is at the heart of Deus Ex and the core of its story, which has led to the so-called "mechanical apartheid" in Mankind Divided.
"I think it's really just duality between what being a human being is and what the limitations are, and is it okay to modify these limitations," he continued. "Should we do it or not? What is the meaning? What kind of questions and moral stuff does it bring to the table?"
Eidos Montreal still receives messages from people playing Human Revolution who are inspired by the technology in it to study bio-technology and related fields, as well as from disabled people who say they've been inspired to study science and are hopeful for the future and the technology that can help them because of the game. The studio also receives letters from people insisting things won't turn out the way they're depicted.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided launches in early 2016 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.