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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is our latest cover story, and the Human Revolution sequel explores what Eidos Montrel dubs "the mechanical apartheid." The studio says that players can go into the game without any prior knowledge of the series. That may be, but it never hurts to have a little background knowledge. Today, we're going to explore what's at the core of the game's central conflict – augmentations.
The term (often shortened to "augs") are used to describe a wide array of technologically advanced implants in Deus Ex’s world. Their use is also quite polarizing. Knowing that, why on earth would anyone undergo such risky operations? The explanation is complicated and tragic.
During Human Revolution’s story, Adam Jensen worked for a company called Sarif Industries, which was on the forefront of manufacturing these sophisticated Augmentations. If you played it, you might recall incidental conversations between NPCs discussing the augs. In one, a business professional remarks to another that he’s tired of getting passed up for promotions, and that he’s considering a neural upgrade to make himself more competitive. Other upgrades are more overt, such as the limb replacements Jensen received following a terrorist attack.
These augs became yet another sign of the haves versus the have-nots, particularly in cases where the wealthy indulged in completely optional (and expensive) upgrades. But that’s not the entire story. Many of the first wave of aug recipients were wounded military veterans returning home from battle. These augmentations, which included limb replacements and more, were given government stipends to help subsidize the treatments. Others took advantage of incentives that took advantage of the augmented, too.
“Sariff Industries had a plan that you could get augmented, but it’s almost like indentured servitude at that point,” says Mary DeMarle, Deus Ex’s narrative director. Afterward, some recipients realized that these implants gave them an advantage over their biologically pure counterparts. “We were having this new class emerge and they were getting more wealthy because they could do the jobs.”
That changed in the aug incident, where augmented people were temporarily hijacked to participate in acts of terrorism. You can read more about that incident, as well as the Illuminati’s part in the disaster here. Afterward, augmented people were seen as dangerous and were routinely rounded up and forced to live in prison camps, such as the one in Prague where Mankind Divided's early moments are set.
“A lot of people in there were people who had no choice or they were correcting a defect,” DeMarle says. “They weren’t trying to become superhuman, they were just trying to live their lives. Those are some of the worst tragedies in this kind of a universe. Here are people who had to have a heart replacement, and suddenly the aug incident happens. Maybe they actually went crazy and did stuff that they can’t necessarily live with themselves today. Maybe they were lucky and that didn’t happen, but because they had this life-saving surgery, they’re being forced to be outcasts and shunned.
“Some of the people in there, too, are not augmented. Okay, say I was married [to an augmented person], and he’s being sent there. I’m going to go with him. It isn’t just the augmented, but even with that it adds an interesting layer. The augmented who are there may also look upon their spouses as, ‘You don’t understand this.’”
It's unsettling to think that so many of the people who became augmented didn't have a say in the matter, whether they were in car accidents, injured during a war, or were born with congenital conditions. There are millions of augmented people in Deus Ex's world, but they're less than 10 percent of the total population. Will Jensen be able to give those people a voice? Do they actually deserve one, considering the aug incident? The truth may be complicated, but you can be sure that Jensen will do his best to uncover it.
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