Mankind Divided is set in the year 2029, two years after Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The Deus Ex series is set in a cyberpunk future rife with secret organizations and conspiracies: among these forces is the Illuminati. In the lead up to Human Revolution, advances in biotechnology and cybernetics have led to the development of “augmentations”, artificial organs capable of greatly improving and enhancing the human body’s performance; the price of augmentations is taking Neuropozyne, a limited and expensive immunosuppressive drug that stops the body rejecting the technology. The creation of augmentations created new social divides between those who use augmentations, those too poor to afford them, and those who are either opposed to them or cannot use them.
During the events of Human Revolution, the Illuminati created a plan to place limitations on augmented people as they threatened their control using a new biochip. They are opposed by Adam Jensen, chief of security at the pro-augmentation corporation Sarif Industries who is heavily augmented after an attack on his employers leaves him critically injured. Illuminati member Hugh Darrow subverts the Illuminati’s plan with the intent of prejudicing humanity against augmentations, broadcasting a signal from the Arctic research base Panchaea that made anyone with the biochip go berserk. This mass chaos is later dubbed the “Aug Incident”. Jensen stops the signal, and is left with a choice; broadcast stories which can support Darrow, the Illuminati or his employer, or destroy Panchaea and let humanity decide. In the canon ending, Jensen destroys Panchaea, but social trauma from the Aug Incident and the Illuminati’s manipulation cause people to stigmatise augmented people. By the events of Mankind Divided, humanity has initiated a “mechanical apartheid” against augmented people, segregating them in ghettos and stripping them of many rights.
The story focuses on events in the city of Prague, with some events being set in Dubai and London. Several factions play key roles in the world. One of the most prominent is the Illuminati, a group of corporate elites that influence human society for their own benefit. The Illuminati are opposed by the Juggernaut Collective, a group of hacktivists led by the shadowy Janus, acting as the precursors to underground movements in the original Deus Ex. The two main factions in the story of Mankind Divided are Task Force 29 (TF29), an Interpol-run anti-terrorist team based in Prague; and the Augmented Rights Coalition (ARC), originally an aid group for augmented people and now a controversial body opposing the abuse of augmented citizens.