I’m not particularly squeamish when it comes to death in fiction, but I occasionally wince at certain ones. There’s always one death that really leaves a lasting effect on me; haunting me, even after I’ve turned off the game or finished the episode. In the case of Deus Ex Human Revolution, it had to be Malik. By far. That is, if you fail to save her.
To give some context, it’s been announced that in Deus Ex Mankind Divided (the sequel to Human Revolution), none of your 4 ending choices were canon. Although to be honest, it looks like the new ending result is closest to ‘Darrow’s ending’ i.e. revealing the truth of the augmentations Hugh Darrow made, leading augmented people to be feared. However, it wasn’t just the endings that weren’t canon, but also the continued existence of a particular individual. You guessed it, Malik.
For those who have played DE:HR, you’ll remember that it’s possible to save Malik in the sequence where her aircraft crashes. It’s honestly one of the most difficult parts of the game and I was unable to do it on my first try. This was back when I got the game on PC, playing it through OnLive (yeah, ain’t that archaic at this point).
I didn’t think much of the death, but I was still sad about it. However, my indifference would be toppled when I stumbled into a terrifying sight later on in the level: Malik’s dead body on an operating table. Cold and lifeless, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling. God knows what ‘experiments’ the enemies in that level would do to her.
I was then shaken. Rarely do moments like that in video games get to me but it hit that one soft spot. Let’s just say there’s always one death that really depresses me, and it’s usually a woman. No, not cause they’re female per se, but because deep down I still have that one chivalrous part of my mind. If anything, it’s less about their gender and more about being sad because they’re the one character that didn’t deserve to die.
I felt the same way about Izumi Akazawa from the anime ‘Another’, and Natalie from the anime ‘Total Eclipse’. It’s usually characters who are a victim of circumstance rather than actions necessarily. They may have chosen their path to get there, but they did it because they were forced to and the opposite choice was less favorable. Well, that’s another story entirely.
Suffice to say, Malik’s death affected me so badly that I swore to never let it happen again. I have played Human Revolution a total of 6 times: first on PC, twice when I got the Xbox 360 version, then 3 more times once I got the Director’s Cut version for 360. After my first playthrough on PC, I pretty much dedicated my runs to prepare to save Malik. Saving her the first time, on my first try, on the 360 version was an amazing feeling.
Like I said, there’s a chivalrous part of me. Of course, people who know me understand that I’m not this benevolent sexist that believes that women are fragile or in need of saving all the time. However, I also reject the rigid idea of “strong female characters” that the SJW-types seem to want. My feelings lie in-between: characters of any gender/race should be strong, weak, exciting, boring, important, auxiliary etc. Y’know? Diverse. I much prefer a believable character that’s relatable than a stoic ‘strong character’ specifically. Though, that is also a whole different story.
In general, I just enjoy being the hero in games and saving everyone, men and women. That said, the teenage romantic in me who watched too many ‘guy saves the day and gets the girl’ stories still has that soft spot for romanticized hero stories. So you can imagine how it felt seeing Malik dead like that. My two old AMVs for FFXIII and DMC4 definitely reflect this romantic side of me too.
Now; given you know how fervent I was in making sure Malik was alive in all of my replays of the game, you can probably guess my reaction when I found out Malik is dead by canon. It…feels like all my effort was for nothing.
I stress again that saving her was really difficult; her crashed aircraft was surrounded by tons of foot soldiers, armored heavies, snipers and even one mech. You need to have next to all the combat and movement upgrades, as well as upgraded weapons to be able to survive the encounter. Admittedly it’s not hard after the 2nd time on Director’s Cut, since you get to keep all your augments in new game plus mode, but still.
I don’t imagine that Mankind Divided will repeat the exact same scenario of having to save someone in a dire situation like that with a horrifying visual ramification later on. But I do expect there to be direct consequences and people will die because of your decisions. I doubt I’ll ever get attached to another Deus Ex character as much as I did with Malik either. I know, it’s cheesy, but I really liked and appreciated Malik’s whole character in DE:HR, and her death was something I never wanted. Though I suppose now the choice has been made for me.
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