E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy is an RPG/FPS where you and up to three friends battle to stop the evil Federation in its tracks, a science-fiction Source-based title that allows you to be a gunslinger, psionic practitioner, or hacker. Augment yourself with bionic implants, and improve your chances by researching objects taken from vanquished foes.
That’s a hell of a summary isn’t it? I bet it got your attention, because it certainly got mine. I haven’t done all that since System Shock 2.
From the outset you’ll see you are in for something different. A bewildering array of UI screens and character options threaten to overwhelm, and even the tutorial videos might not be enough to prevent you feeling like you’re completely lost.
You have a choice of eight attribute ratings, four derivatives, and a genetic-themed character creation process that randomises them like the dice rolls of old. Juggle that with your inventory options and special abilities and you’re spoilt for choice; but at least earning experience and levelling up will be familiar to players of any other RPG, as will buying new gear and skills.
You frequently return to the EYE organisation’s base for just that reason. It’s a striking location, yet the levels as a whole vary between bland boxes and lovingly detailed cityscapes— and, dare I say it, the maps often feel too big. You may find yourself beneath said city, wandering a concrete-walled canal and wondering which of the red objective markers dominating your screen will prove accessible via your current route.
Missions often allow the welcome freedom of completing objectives in whichever order you see fit, but lacking the same linearity as your average corridor shooter also makes for a lack of set pieces, with few scripted encounters or overheard conversations or anything else that might give places life. Although the little alien animals that lollop around the place are a nice touch (and I was aghast when one died accidentally and the game had the audacity to award me an achievement).
Although the modern-styled rifles and familiar architecture hint at a near-future tale, E.Y.E.’s setting is more space opera— a story of political intrigue across many planets against the backdrop of the token evil empire causing trouble. If you’re willing to visit your HQ’s library there’s plenty of fluff to educate you.
Alas, characters usually only supply a few lines of dialogue before becoming mute or hostile, undoing much of that implied scope and immersion. Most of it is unvoiced, text-only, and the stuff that is spoken isn’t actually coherent. It’s similar to the recycled alien-or-pseudo-Chinese twaddle uttered by certain cast members in BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic or Jade Empire. With the exception of integral presences, such as your commander or your mentor, there’s little exploration of characters and their motives. Your contacts are just infodumps hidden behind impassive masks.
And said masks are familiar. Although the mission environments are very cyberpunk, E.Y.E.’s creators have clearly been influenced by Warhammer 40k; there’s much in the way of baroque detail and skulls and golden religiously-themed gewgaws. Other factions feature armours not dissimilar to something from Fallout, and the more monstrous critters vary from xenomorph knock-offs to werewolves and nasty four-armed things that aren’t evocative of a particular franchise now that I come to think about it.
E.Y.E. isn’t an ugly game, but as mentioned the maps are of varying qualities and the same applies for some of the character models; it’s understandable why a generic looter has less facial detail than the high commander of your organisation, but that just makes it all the more glaring when that same looter model takes up half your screen for a conversation with an ostensible gang chief.
It feels a lot like an ascended mod. A great deal of effort and passion has clearly gone into this venture, but somehow the whole doesn’t quite gel- the apparent depths aren’t all that deep. When faced with endless waves of horribly beweaponed trained killers it seems that of your multiple options, heavy armour and an equally weighty gun is the only loadout likely to survive.
But having typed that sentence I’m suddenly grateful for it. I am a lumbering great lump plated in metal with a minigun and a sword that makes things explode. Let my buddies muck around with psionics and hacking abilities, I’ll just stand right here and kill lots and lots of things.
Because for all the repetition in enemies, for all the outsized levels and clunky interfaces, I did enjoy my forays in co-op mode. Single player is a stunted experience, reliant on checkpoints rather than full saves due to the quirks of making a co-op friendly campaign- so there’s little reason not to play with two or three friends or maladjusted weirdoes who added you on Steam for some reason (hi, Vince).
Perhaps I’m projecting here, perhaps I’m attributing undue credit to the game. But being pelted by a pesky laser-spouting sniper is a lot less aggravating when there’s a friend there to scramble for cover with you. Turning an entire base hostile because your team-mate murdered a merchant while exiting a buy screen is an experience unlike any other. An objective failing to progress until you restart the map is… well there’s no magic co-operative balm for that one, it was a pain either way.
Fortunately anyone who picks E.Y.E. up now should have a far smoother time of it. In its’ original iteration it would have been hard to recommend this game on any level. Spelling mistakes, crash bugs, missing textures, failing saves, balance issues… there was fun to be had only if you were willing to work for it. But recently a truly massive patch dropped, with Streum On Studio keeping their word after earlier assurances that they’d address customer concerns.
In fact, that’s reason enough for me to propose and attempt another playthrough with my original crew (or perhaps Vince). Maybe I’ll see if the tweaks make other character types more viable. Or maybe I’ll stubbornly stick to my outsized firearms because there was always something viscerally satisfying about the gunplay.
E.Y.E. is someone’s dream game, of that I have no doubt. And while it has merit and some genuinely good ideas, and while it’s infinitely easier to recommend post-patch, it’s not quite one of mine. But as ambitious indie titles go it’s hardly a nightmare either.
Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC