It’s been a long six years for Deus Ex fans, who’ve understandably been concerned that the long-dormant cyberpunk series would remain untouched. But today, in the cold, harsh light of an industry-shaking acquisition, we’re feeling…is it hope? This is what hope feels like, right?
Last night, the Embracer Group scooped up a bunch of stuff from Square Enix’s western portfolio. For the price of a one-bedroom apartment in today’s housing market, the Swedish conglomerate acquired three studios (Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal) alongside the rights to more than four dozen intellectual properties, including Legacy of Kain, Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex.
Under its previous stewards, Deus Ex was treated as secondary, at best. In 2011, Eidos Montreal released Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a revival of the then-dormant Deus Ex series of immersive sims. Five years later, Eidos released a sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Then, in 2017, Eurogamer reported that Square Enix had put the series on ice. (A few months later, Square Enix said the series was still “very important” but declined to detail any plans about its future.)
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Those who played Mankind Divided will remember how the story, well, “ends” isn’t the right word—more like “stops right as it gets going partway through the second act.” Where Human Revolution had a solid, satisfying conclusion, Mankind Divided was clearly intended to be the second part of a trilogy, teeing up a bunch of dangling plotlines. But instead of getting a chance to make a proper follow-up, Eidos Montreal was pivoted onto other projects by Square Enix.
In 2018, the studio released Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third entry in the revived take on Lara Croft. (Crystal Dynamics, the developer behind the first two, is currently working on a fourth game.) Eidos diverted developers and resources to assist Crystal Dynamics on the disastrously received Marvel’s Avengers, which came out in 2020. And last year, Eidos released a narrative-driven action game based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. That game, let the record show, is freakin’ amazing. But it wasn’t Deus Ex.
That’s a fact fans are reminded of regularly, thanks in part to the growing prominence of Elias Toufexis, who famously voiced Deus Ex protagonist Adam Jensen. While his primary vehicle sat untouched for years, the Canadian actor picked up plenty of voice and live-action roles: Prometheus in Immortals Fenyx Rising, Leonidas in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Traitorous Bastard in The Expanse, Some Random Dude in Horizon Forbidden West. All of those performances are top-flight. Each one also instantly reminds Deus Ex fans (hi) that the most recent game ended with Jensen defeating an undercooked final boss and uncovering about 18 different conspiracy theories.
It’s high time to bring back Deus Ex. There’s precedent: It’s not like the series hasn’t previously sat untouched for years only to mount a revival. Only, this time, there’s a narrative left unfinished. (The catch: Given how long it takes to develop big-budget games, a new entry might not come out until the year Human Revolution actually takes place.) Companies, of course, love money more than a good story. But there’s financial impetus here, too. In a 2017 earnings report, Square Enix pointed toward Mankind Divided as a key factor in the company’s overall profits. And during a livestream announcing today’s sale, Embracer Group noted how the two recent mainline Deus Ex entries had sold more than 12 million copies—nothing to sneeze at.
Sure, this all might sound like an obvious call to action. After all, Deus Ex is Eidos Montreal’s most visible series. It’s not like some international mega-corporation would burn hundreds of millions of dollars just to bring back, I don’t know, Thief (2014).