You have to admire a game with ambition. Unfortunately, sometimes, a game shoots for the moon and misses – a game with incredible ambition just may not have the budget or staff to fully realise those ideas, but you have to give credit to a developer for trying something a little different.
E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy does not shoot for the moon. It hammers together a death laser from twigs and spunk and accidently blows up an orphanage. This game was sold to me as “Warhammer 40000 meets Deus Ex”, but really that does not do this game justice. Everything about E.Y.E is completely and irredeemably mad.
Things start as they mean to continue. The game immediately asks you to create a character with a baffling recombinant genetic system – various genes are spliced together to form a statistical framework for your character, with absolutely no indication what the various stats might be used for nor how they’re calculated. This quickly becomes a running theme throughout this game, as you’re dumped into the universe with absolutely no clue what is going on - either in the games utterly labyrinthine underlying system, or in the bonkers story that surrounds it.
You play a cyber-knight wizard from a monastic order of Space Templars – immediately familiar territory for fans of Games Workshop, though there’s definitely an underlying layer of French surrealism that goes beyond the weirdest nonsense dribbled out of Nottingham. From what I can gather from the largely gibberish story, you are trying to topple a poorly defined federation, as well as dealing with a schism in your order which has lead to cyber wizard infighting. You also conveniently have amnesia, or cyberbrain damage, or something, though in a break from tired tradition everyone treats you like a ♥♥♥♥♥♥ whenever you ask any questions you should blatantly already know.
There’s also monsters that come from, or are maybe made out of something called the meta-streumonic force. This force seems to give you psychic powers (because of course it does), but is otherwise unexplained. It mainly serves to add a bit of enemy variety, though considering how annoying these monsters are to fight, you might wish the developers hadn’t bothered.
E.Y.E. is an RPG/shooter hybrid, one that takes heavy influence from genre luminaries Deus Ex and System Shock 2. The abilities and equipment available to even a starting character is surprisingly vast. In addition to the expected cybernetic upgrades, there are also psychic powers – you begin the game with the ability to clone yourself three times, which in addition to giving the enemies more targets also have an admirable level of firepower, though they appear to have graduated from stormtrooper marksmanship academy. Most characters will choose to specialise as the higher levels of psychic powers, cybernetic upgrades and weapons are only available to characters with an appropriately high stat. Unusually, every stat is useful, and it is quite possible to make a “jack of all trades” character without gimping yourself.
The actual missions are a hectic, sprawling and confused affair. The mission maps are absolutely enormous, and there are multiple ways to complete a mission with various styles that are effective. Combat wise, a character based on hacking and cyberwear might use his cloak to close , drop a drone and hack an enemies brain, whereas a psychic knight might teleport (well, telefrag) about the battlefield cleaving up enemies with the preposterously powerful melee options. Enemies respawn and mill about the place, and unfortunately are ridiculously accurate over long distances – early characters can often find themselves turned into cyber mulch before they even work out where fire is coming from. This can make a sniper weapon even for close range beatsticks an unfortunate necessity.
The ways in which characters can complete objectives are also rather varied – hackers gain a variety of optional shortcuts, and most missions give you two or three ways to deal with a problem, including a diplomatic path. Now would be a suitable time to bring up the game’s dialogue, which is without exception mental. I’m not sure whether it’s a translation issue or the script was just this mad to begin with, but NPCs seem to switch characters multiple times throughout any interaction – a stoic character that starts out your best friend may become incredibly aggressive for no reason, or regress into surfer lingo. That last part is not a joke. In all honesty this just adds to the surreal atmosphere, and whether it was intentional or not it’s certainly entertaining.
What is not entertaining is the way in which this game deals with death. I appreciate that there needs to be a penalty for failure, but this game is needlessly punitive and it very nearly soured me on the whole experience. Every time you die, there’s a chance you will gain a fatal injury – which vary from a minor to an enormous permanent stat decrease. Some of these are the equivalent of losing two or three whole character levels – and considering most people will finish the game at around lv25, this is not a small issue. There is a karma stat that influences the likelihood of these injuries occurring, but I never worked out what influenced it – it seemed to go up and down entirely randomly. A few early mistakes can forever cripple a character, and even with a VERY late game way of removing these injuries it feels like a very poorly thought out mechanic.
However, if you can put up with the rough edges, there’s definitely an intriguing game buried in amongst the madness. You might not love E.Y.E, but you will certainly remember it – and that’s more than can be said for some games with a hundred times its budget.