After grinding Human Revolutions achievements from both the standard edition and the Director’s cut and walking away from the the game for good, I noticed something I’ve always known: If you want players to do something, reward them for it. Killing an enemy nets you 10 experience. Knocking the enemy unconscious gives 20 additional experience. And doing it with a melee takedown awards yet another 20 points of XP. If you go through an objective without setting an alarm off, you gain 250 XP. And if you manage to do it without being seen at all, it’s a whopping 500 XP bonus. There is absolutely no reason to ever use lethal force, since killing people is noisy, therefore negating pretty much every XP bonus.
Now, this is completely understandable. Human Revolution is at its best when you play it as a stealth hacker. Stealthing is fun and well-made. I could tolerate all 4 additional playthroughs because the gameplay was good and fluid. But the thing that makes me sad is that there is a LOT of content for treating Human Revolution as a shooter. You have a ton of different guns, gun upgrades and augmentations that would be very interesting to test out. But the loss of potentially hundreds of XP is too much. Therefore, there is a lot of content that I will never experience because the game rewards me to play it like it wants me to. My master has a name and it’s Pavlov.
So here’s the dilemma: Deus Ex wants me to be a stealth hacker, but it still wants to have all sorts of cool weapons and weapon upgrades and all that. It motivates me to be stealthy by giving me XP. But by being stealthy, I’m not going to use the guns and toys. What to do?
First of all, remove XP gain from takedowns. In my stealth playthroughs, I knocked out every enemy since they were always worth XP, regardless whether they were in my way or not. This way players become as stealthy as they naturally are, knocking out only the characters that they deem important enough to knock down.
Second, have knocked out enemies wake up by themselves. This way killing becomes a viable choice: Knocking people out is silent, but short-termed. Killing people is noisy, but permanent. Then you can have Jensen automatically cuff and gag them automatically when they are dragged. This way you have to take the enemies to a place far from people where they won’t cause scrutiny when they wake up.
Third, make the total XP gainable by shooting people equal to the XP gained by avoiding detection. This way if you screw up, you do not lose that sweet, sweet XP bonus, but instead you have to fight for it. Then the people who have all the sparkly gun mods will get to shine, and there would be a reason to lug a large, inventory-space-eating gun with you at all times.
So that fixes combat. But there is another point that irks me: Hacking. If you hack a device, you gain XP. If you input a password, you don’t get anything. In the old Deus Ex, finding a login and a password was pure joy. It played to the natural human urge to scavenge, and it let you cheat your way through an otherwise impassable wall. In Human Revolution, you don’t ever use passwords because hacking gives XP. So that is an entire feature sacrificed to the altar of Experience.
This should be the other way around: Give XP for using passwords and keycodes. This encourages exploration, taking guards down (they might have pocket secretaries) and puzzling out what the passwords might be. And whenever you find a set, you get that small dopamine spike: “Ah, sweet! XP and a key to secrets!” Only if you have no other option do you sit down and hack, which is time-consuming and might give your position away.
So there. Wield XP wisely and responsibly.