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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution - The Missing Link

Unnatural selection.

It's a paradox that lies at the heart of Deus Ex: give a player true choice and you ultimately limit their freedom.

Undeniably, with the ability to augment the character of Adam Jensen in a handful of different ways chosen from a selection of many, we gain the ability to express ourselves in how we want to approach the game. We can choose to be stealthy: muffling footsteps with a leg augment, investing in a cloaking device and some extra batteries to power it in order to skulk, Sam Fisher-like, in the dark. Or we can choose to play as a trenchcoat Rambo by paying for tougher armour and a clutch of explosive rockets that fire like hail from his arms.

These choices are meaningful not only because they cannot be undone, but also because there are only a limited number of points to spend on augments across the game. Each augment comes at the expense of another and every choice in Deus Ex deepens your expertise in a specific approach to the game, but makes the game a little bit narrower as you do so.

This truth is never clearer than in the first half of The Missing Link, a four-hour downloadable excursion that fills the last remaining gap in Deus Ex: Human Revolution's story. Jensen's search for the augmented Black Ops soldiers who broke into Sarif Industries and kidnapped its top researchers six months earlier has brought him to China. Stowed away on cargo ship registered to the private military contractor, Belltower Associates, he is discovered, stripped of his clothes and weapons and placed in a holding cell deep in the belly of the ship as it steels itself against a storm.

The ship, as you discover after you break from the confines of your cell and locate your Neo-esque, not-so-chic clothing, is a network of narrow corridors and ladders. And it's in these tight confines that the realities of your augment choices present themselves more clearly than they did in the main game.

Fail to have invested in strength augments and you will be unable to move the larger crates that block the air vents that provide access to other parts of the ship. If you've neglected to augment your ability to withstand poison gas then you'll be unable to pass through the corridors that (somewhat inexplicably) are filled with green, noxious clouds. If you've ignored cranial augments then you will be unable to hack into door keypads in order to gain entry to offshoot rooms or to disable CCTV cameras. All of this was true in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but in the close confines of a ship, where every closed-off avenue stares you down, the consequences of the choices you've made often feel negative rather than liberating.

Thankfully, Eidos Montreal has chosen to give you a clutch of Praxis points to spend at the start of the add-on, which are not tethered to the choices you made in the main game. In fact, you can elect to play The Missing Link at any point from Human Revolution's main menu, dipping back and forth between the two. As such, it's possible to experiment at the start of the DLC, perhaps choosing to fashion a character in a different style to the one you played in the main game.