Three Endings and Invisible War

"Just do what you think is right."

Back to Deus Ex 

Warning: This page contains spoilers about the ending. Turn back now if you have not completed the game. You have been warned.

Deus Ex has three endings, and everyone seems to have a favorite. But, with all the moral dillemas in the game, one must wonder which is "right". As with the quote above, Paul tells JC he must do what he thinks is right. Here I list the endings, in order of right to wrong.  Following each description is a link to watch the ending on YouTube.  These are from the PlayStation2 version of the game, which features slightly improved graphics.  (Now, if you'd like to download those clips, get the Firefox browser, install this extension, and get a media player or codec pack which can play FLV (Flash Video) files - VideoLAN can do it, or the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack will let you play them in any media player - one place to get both is FileHippo.)

1. New Dark Age
Also known as the Tracer Tong ending. Follow his instructions, and blow Area 51 into the ground, eliminating global communication and preventing global conspiracy. This is actually a common favorite among some gamers, but most overlook why it's the worst ending: With the global network down, there is no way the rebels can fight the Grey Death plague. Therefore, you essentially lose, as you've spent most of the game fighting for that cause. But it is a cool ending, in an "Escape from L.A." kind of way.
Watch it on YouTube

2. Illuminati
Follow Everett's instructions. You kill Bob Page (sadly, without a fight) and the Illuminati move in to restore order. Everett gives JC a top position, but when JC wants to put the world back together, Everett explains that the Illuminati doesn't touch anything directly, they only help things along - a box within a box within a box, as he puts it. This is a cool enough ending because it's mostly a half-victory. You (the player) think you did right, but it's not as good as you thought. The problem here is that it restores the world of Deus Ex (our own world in the 2050s) to the real world now; as Paul puts it, "it will be 20th-century capitalism: a corporate elite protected by laws and tax-codes." If you work for a living, you might not see that as such a good idea. If any upper-class citizens play the game, perhaps they will prefer this ending. I don't know, I don't understand the wealthy much.
Watch it on YouTube

3. Helios
When Warren Spector and Ion Storm created Deus Ex, they perhaps believed that there was no "right" ending, but when they made Invisible War, this is the ending they chose - but more on that in a minute. If you follow Helios' instructions, Helios basically downloads itself into JC's systems, and JC is now connected to everything, can build anything, see everything - basically what Bob Page has been bragging he'll be able to do. The reason I consider this the right ending (Invisible War aside) is not because it is exactly good, but better than the others. The New Dark Age is overkill and prevents fighting the Grey Death, and the Illuminati bring the world back where it was right before everything went bad (so it could again). Here we have a benevolent dictator with no ambition but to regulate human affairs. True, there are some things that shouldn't be decided by a computer - personal things - but that's part of why it needed a human brain to merge with. This ending lacks the punch of the other two, but it's cool in a Matrix/Hacksign kind of way. You know, the whole idea of the power of cyberspace coupled with the human mind and all that.
Watch it on YouTube
Watch all three endings (PC version) on YouTube

4. Secret Ending
This isn't an ending per se, but I feel as though I must add it for completion. Also known as the dance ending, there is actually no way of which I am aware to access it in the game without using a cheat. If you have cheats enabled, enter the code LEGEND to access the hidden menu. Choose Load Map and load 99_Endgame4. Many of the characters from the game are dancing in a nightclub, and it goes on forever, until you use the map loader to go elsewhere, load a game, or quit.

Warning: The following section contains significant spoilers for Deus Ex: Invisible War. Please do not continue if you have not completed Invisible War.

Invisible War
In an interview, Warren Spector said that one of the endings from Deus Ex would be selected to continue into the sequel. It was later stated that all three endings were in effect used. Oddly enough, both are true. Knowing that, and taking the stories from both games, here is what I believe happens between the two games:

JC does, in fact, merge with Helios (this is the ending they chose). However, Helios has made a fatal error in judgment. While extremely advanced, JC Denton is simply not equal to the task of containing the AI. He hides it for a while, but before long, Paul and Tong have to put JC in stasis, in Antarctica where his enemies will not find him. This causes the Collapse, integrating the New Dark Age ending. The global network is not taken down, but it is severely damaged.

The Illuminati move in (integrating that ending), but as Everett said, they do not do anything directly. Chad forms the World Trade Organization, and Nicolette forms the Order, known to her followers as Her Holiness, never showing her face. These two groups create a conflict, but in truth Chad and Nicolette work for the Illuminati - and if I remember correctly, are lovers.

Meanwhile, JC's group forms ApostleCorp, with the goal of bringing nanoaugmentation to the masses. Their ultimate goal is to force nanoaugmentation on everybody, creating a perfect democracy - and distributing Helios among the masses, thus relieving the strain on JC alone, and Helios ruling based upon the will of the majority.