There’s a lot to be said about the first piece of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided downloadable content, System Rift, which brings back everyone’s favorite hacker in a new standalone story. System Rift may be a short piece of DLC, but that doesnt stop it from delivering more of Mankind Divided’s excellent level design across the two-hour campaign.
In the new DLC, Jensen teams up with former colleague Frank Pritchard (present in Human Revolution) in order to hunt down information regarding the Santeau Group. To obtain that information, Pritchard asks Jensen to help him break into the Palisade Blades, one of the most secure data storage facilities on Earth.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Palisade Bank Corporation, they’re one of the most prestigious corporate archiving facilities in the Deus Ex universe. As a company, Palisade serves many big name clients such as Tai Yong Medical, the Picus Group, and VersaLife, alongside private clients such as billionaires and world leaders for whom they keep information and dirty laundry hidden from any country’s legal jurisdiction. Let’s just say they hide a lot of secrets for a lot of people and that really helps build a suspicious presence among the public.
The Palisade Bank Corporation has something else to offer alongside all of that dirty laundry though: some of the most intricate and impressive level design present in all of Mankind Divided. Like the building’s counterpart in Mankind Divided’s main campaign, the Palisade Blades are organized into tiers of office rooms, lobbies, and maintenance closets which are all interconnected by a series of air vents. While there are certainly more optimal paths than others, the Blades are basically another classic playground for you to dive into as Jensen, provided you stick to a more non-lethal approach.
You could opt to go with the more lethal approach as shown in the trailer for System Rift, but it’s honestly an expansion best played non-lethal due to how each level of the Blades is designed. They’re filled with employees working late, janitors cleaning after hours, and a heaping mess of robotic security systems to protect the building. It’s a shame that many of the staff members are almost always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I always felt terrible for knocking out my janitorial buddy — we’ll call him Phil — during my two playthroughs.
Unlike the main story of Mankind Divided, System Rift is an expansion filled with areas that force you to confront enemies and security measures no matter what route you take. This time around the game didn’t offer up a specific path that allowed me to skip through security measures or walk through a series of air vents to reach my objective without encountering a Palisade employee. Instead of feeling all-knowing and all-powerful, I felt pretty weak, which was a welcome change of pace.
Granted, the limited augmentations present in the expansion did help plant this feeling too. In System Rift, you’ll start from scratch when it comes to augmentations and only receive around 15 Praxis Kits to spend over the course of the expansion.
Just when you think you’ve worked your way through the tightest security in the Palisade Blades, System Rift throws another twist at you: heat sensors. Towards the end of the DLC, you’ll find yourself going up against security systems that can see you through walls, and more importantly, Jensen’s cloaking system. The only way to hide from these advanced security systems is by hunkering yourself down next to a heated object or server, where they’ll simply pass you by.
Naturally, these heated locations are scarce across the entire area which makes remote hacking a very useful tool to have in the second half of the DLC. Even with the ability to hack through security at a distance, the last area was incredibly challenging to navigate. I had numerous encounters were I had to either think creatively or I stumbled and instinctively used my cloak only to be shot on the spot. It’s a different type of section that takes away your most valuable stealth tool, and that’s something Mankind Divided needs to keep pushing in additional downloadable content.
These subtle changes and forced encounters are honestly what make System Rift a compelling piece of content even though it may be a bit short for the $12 price tag. Regardless of how you view the content, there’s certainly a classic Deus Ex feel to Palisade Blades’s level design with a few heated twists, and that makes it worth your while if you’re looking for a little more Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Photos via Nicholas Bashore