E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy Review
E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy (PC [reviewed])
Developer: Streum On Studio
Publisher: Streum On Studio
Release Date: July 29, 2011
Approaching an armored Federation cop on patrol from behind, I have about 50 bajillion options for dealing with him.
I can activate one of my cyber implants and make use of active camouflage to sneak past him; I can pull a silenced pistol and blow the back of his head out the front; I can shatter his mind and his body by psionically imploding him; I can hack into his cyber circuitry and turn him into an ally; or I can close the distance, pull my trusty katana and slit his throat.
The options speak to the insane depth of E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy. A role-playing first-person shooter that owes a lot to the Deus Ex series (along with other Source Engine games like Half-Life 2), E.Y.E. is filled with the kinds of things that make that series great — augmentations, cool abilities and multiple paths through its various missions.
In E.Y.E., you play a member of a group known as E.Y.E., an armed military group dedicated to fighting psionic monsters created and let loose during some earlier war, and which is actively resisting the totalitarian government known as the Federation. The game takes place in a strange future, and E.Y.E. soldiers like you are sort of like the Grammaton clerics in the Christian Bale film Equilibrium. The story’s a bit on the convoluted side beyond there — there’s in-fighting among the factions of E.Y.E., and your loyalties are being tested between the orders of E.Y.E.’s supreme commander and your “mentor,” the agent who trained you. The Supreme Commander means to crush the rival faction and the Federation and seize power; your mentor looks to reunite the two warring factions.
All that’s well and good, but as to what is actually going on at any given moment, E.Y.E. isn’t just unclear, it’s nearly indecipherable. It also does a fairly poor job of explaining its crazy number of internal systems. At any given moment, you could be leveling up, conducting research that will lead to new abilities, visiting shops to upgrade your psionic and implanted abilities and finding new weapons. The RPG elements of the game are myriad, and interesting, but exactly how to play E.Y.E. gets a little confusing — this is a game of discovery, and despite its tutorial videos, you’ll usually be doing that discovery on your own, mostly by beating your head against menu after menu until you start to see how they work.
Figuring out all the cool things you can do in E.Y.E., however, has its rewards. In any given mission, there are huge environments to explore and lots of quests to complete. Most missions will include multiple paths by which they can be completed, just like Deus Ex: you might sneak past your enemies, or employ a neutral faction to start gunning down police and provide a distraction. Turncoats may help clear out patrolling guards or provide you with other goals for rewards — or lead you into ambushes by posing as your friends. How you deal with any of the missions, and what choices you choose to make (whether you shoot various people in the head, for example) affects the flow of the game around you.
All these aspects may not seem so groundbreaking until you start to consider that E.Y.E. is an indie title created over the last five years by a small team of French developers. Seen from that perspective, the sheer size and depth of E.Y.E. is kind of spellbinding — as is its $20 price tag. There’s quite a bit of value available in this little downloadable package, and it’s hard not to recommend this to all kinds of RPG and FPS fans. And E.Y.E. isn’t just pushing the envelope a little bit, it’s throwing tons of great, strong concepts at the player and just telling us to deal with it. Hacking, for example, may as well be its own turn-based combat game, and when you hack a door or a computer system, you run the risk of being hacked in return and suffering effects if you lose or fail. You can play the entire game building on your Psi powers or never realizing you even have them, for example; there’s so much going on here that E.Y.E. becomes a refreshing bit of really ambitious gaming.
That’s not to say that E.Y.E. is for everyone. It’s confusing, that’s for damn sure, and its story is hard to follow; much is made of dreams and the questionable experiences of the amnesiac main character. For example, you never actually die — you instead wind up in a dream state, either having seen a glimpse of your own future so you can change it, or awakening before the events that killed you took place. There are also some other surreal moments; the blurring of reality and dream occasionally call into question your perceptions and decisions. If your character undergoes enough stress, you’ll even start to go crazy, losing the ability to fight and hearing and seeing things until you run your implants’ maintenance program.
It’s wonderfully involved, with lots and lots (and lots) of elements to keep in mind and learn to use. But while it’s to E.Y.E.’s credit that it throws in all kinds of systems into its game, and that they’re usually pretty interesting, it’s also a bit of a collection of half-baked ideas. Not everything seems fully realized: the research system, for example, has benefits provided you dump lots of time and money into it in a fully trial-and-error manner. Eventually it starts to become apparent that you’ll maybe get new weapons or abilities out of the system, but it’s by no means clear and I suspect many players will play the whole game never realizing you can do it.
The game itself is also a little too big by half, it seems. Major locations like the E.Y.E. headquarters are so large as to be really, really confusing, and a big waste of time to navigate. Just getting to the cybernetics shop, for example, takes you through twisting hallways and is on the entire other side of the facility from other useful locations, like the psionics shop. Mission maps, too, seem unnecessarily huge, and exploring them often yields nothing but lost time and a few deaths.
There’s also a co-op play option, which supposedly allows up to 32 players to run through a mission simultaneously. I never got it to work, whether it was an issue of my connection’s lag or something else, but from what I’ve read it’s basically fast-moving chaos in which you gain the benefits of the mission and probably won’t have a chance to do much. Smaller co-op games make more sense, but like everything in E.Y.E., it’s cool that the option for insane teams is even in there.
Overall, E.Y.E. makes you wish more developers really went for broke with their games. It doesn’t all work and it hardly makes sense, and you might struggle to learn to play, but damn is there a lot of cool stuff to do. It’s possible to sink hours and hours into the game exploring all its nuances, progressing your character, finding new ways to fight and complete missions and exploring the game with friends. Many players will get multiple playthroughs out of E.Y.E. as they explore its possibilities — others will get through the game never knowing half of what could have been. Not everyone will love it, but I can’t think of a game that has ever done more with a $20 price tag.
It’s games like E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy that remind us how incredible PC gaming can be. It’s worth the cost of entry just to see an uncompromising game from a team that just did everything they wanted with it.
- An insane amount of stuff to do.
- Uncompromising, deep gameplay with lots of mechanics.
- Some very compelling, cool game systems, with lots of variety.
- A steal at $20, seriously.
- Story is often totally confusing.
- Not a lot of help as far as explaining how to play.
- So many concepts that some aren’t fully realized, or are at least easy to miss and hard to understand.
- Awkward difficulty spikes; levels are often too large.
Final Score: 80/100