E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy – Shoot, Think, Reboot…

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

You can’t start a conversation with anybody about E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy without somebody mentioning Deus Ex. After having spent the last week playing it, I can see why. However, in the interests of keeping myself on my toes, I am going to attempt to give an opinion on E.Y.E without mentioning its most obvious inspiration.

This is a strange game, people. Set in a steampunk future that smells a lot like Warhammer, this is one of those new-fangled FPS/RPG hybrids we have been hearing so much about. With a firm focus on giving you free reign to approach objectives as you see fit, and giving you an impressive array of tactical options and some meaty guns, this is a seriously deep game.

Shame it doesn’t quite work…

There are a number of initial impressions that went through my head as I started playing E.Y.E, but what caught my eye (hah!) was the fact that it had quotations from something called “Codex Scientia” on its loading screens – presumably some holy scripture of the future. The scary part? Some of the quotes were lines from action movies… In the future, presumably, Joker from Apocalypse Now is something of a prophet, I guess.

I mention this, despite it feeling slightly off-track, because its very much how most of the game feels; it’s unfinished, things put in almost as an afterthought, and some strange concepts that don’t make sense, at least at first. This is not a game for the faint of heart nor the impatient; the character creation screen, for example, looks almost as complex as a Dungeons & Dragons RPG, and just as indecipherable. Although there are tool-tips for just about every stat, so its not that horrible, just expect to spend most of your first hour on deciding on a style of play.

And boy, does this game give you choices on that – You want to be a heavy gunner? Sniper? You want to hack the living hell out of everything and force your enemies to surrender to your will? Its all there, knock yourself out. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ways to kill a bad guy in a game before… well, once or twice, but I’m not allowed to mention those games…

So, is it good or bad? Let me break it down a bit before we get to that…

– “If it bleeds, we can kill it…”

Easily one of the game’s strengths is it’s gun-play – there are melee weapons in the form of swords and a great-axe, but they feel clumsy next to the guns. Not exactly diverse, but they are powerful; head-shots work, and most enemies go down fairly quickly. There are a variety of pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, even (to go with the Predator quote) a mini-gun to choose from. Your only restriction is how much inventory space you have; a rifle, pistol, med-kit and some ammo is generally enough to fill up your pockets.

Furthering the ‘hardcore’ feel of the game, there are a few quirks. Reloading a clip while there are still bullets in it means you lose the remainder – my Call of Duty reflex of reloading at every opportunity meant that I ran out of ammunition stupidly quickly, and it took some serious effort to curb the habit. Conversely, unloading a clip fully doesn’t trigger an auto-reload, meaning in frantic fire-fights, you have to keep aware of how many rounds your clip has left and time your reloads.

Not that this is a bad thing, it was a bit jarring at first, but when you get used to it, it kind of suits the style of the game; you start paying attention to your surroundings in case you get boxed in, allowing you to dodge freely as you reload. It also encourages you to use abilities to maximize your initial attack, summoning doppelgangers to lay down additional fire or distract.

But again, it feels a tiny bit like it was shoe-horned in to avoid people simply going nuts with the heavy guns. You could easily play this game without even realizing there are magic-tech abilities. A slight criticism can be fairly aimed at the interface though: you hold ‘C’ to bring up a radial menu that you can customize with various abilities. It doesn’t sound too bad, but during a fight, it can be crippling; you end up missing the ability you want and activating something you don’t, or simply getting minced while the slightly laggy cursor skips around the wheel.

Sometimes its easier just to shoot everything, but when the game has one of its difficulty growth spurts…

– “Life and death are one thread; the same line viewed from different sides…”

You will die in this game. If you’re anything like me, you will die a lot. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t call attention to this issue, but in this game, with its rather… flawed checkpoint system, I am less than impressed. Every time you start the game, you are greeted by a green portal, flanked by ruined columns and some dusty wind. All very atmospheric, and an interesting (if completely irrelevant) way to open. Every time you die in-game, you end up back here. Got that? Okay, now consider this: there is no save feature in this game. Progress is saved by means of checkpoints, which are both invisible and irregular. It doesn’t let you know when you have passed a particular checkpoint – which is bad – but only certain objectives trigger a save too, which is unforgivable. For a game this difficult, it makes progress stupidly difficult.

Its not all bad, you start with nine ‘resurrectors’, meaning when you are killed, you “Slip into a coma” as the game puts it, instead of dying, before getting back up about three seconds later. Another oddity on the shoe-horned pile, but it makes things marginally easier. Of course, if you happen to die more than nine times during a mission – a feat I managed once – death means you go back to the green portal, and start again from the last save, however long ago that happened to be.

Hardcore? Yeah.

– ”When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite”

Half the fun of this game is experimenting. With abilities, with tactics, or just trying out new ways to deal with a particular threat. An enemy can be shot, stabbed, possessed, eaten, blown up, hacked to become an ally, or (if you are feeling really malicious) possessed, made to shoot his team-mates and then forced to wander into an opposing faction’s area where he is then shot to bits… all while you hide behind a trash can – just shooting the guy almost feels like wasting ammo and opportunity.

Factions! I knew there was something I forgot. There are a few distinct factions in this game, all with their own back-story and motivations. As the plot of this game straddles the line between “F-U-B-A-R” and “Too clever for it’s own good”, I won’t go into that too deeply, all you need to know is they hate each other, and most stages have enemies from both sides.

See where I’m going with this?

They will shoot each other as readily as they will shoot you, which allows for some hilarious set-ups. Again, your ability to hack anything with an implant means you can bend these guys to your hearts content, and with careful choices on who to hack next, you can just about turn an entire area into your unwitting combat-slaves, or just get them to shoot the hell out of each other. Whatever floats your boat. It also helps mitigate the sheer difficulty of combat in the enclosed spaces of this game, particularly in the Looter’s hideout stage, where you are up against hordes of fire-ball throwing creatures (none of which have implants, so are immune to your hacking). Trying to take these constantly spawning things on alone is/was suicide, as I found out…

The sheer variety of routes you can follow in E.Y.E is staggering, and one of the main reasons, I believe, the game is so broken – it was far too large an undertaking for such a small developer. Dodgy death mechanics aside, the game is horrendously buggy, the characters might as well be cardboard for all the relevance they lend to the story, the translation is horrific at times, and during about 15 hours of play, I suffered about 15 to 20 crashes. Having a quick read of the Steam forums, this is not an isolated thing; most people are finding the game to have a number of painful bugs and crashing issues. A massive patch a few days ago, measuring in at over a gigabyte, seems to have alleviated a fair few problems. However, I still suffered more than a few crashes even post-patch.

The interface, as I said, is sub-par. The hacking screen is really terrible – a mini-game of sorts where you constantly chip away at a targets attack, defence and hp – as he does the same to you. Add in the ability to bolster your stats too, and it becomes almost compelling… until you see the interface itself. It’s like playing Top-Trumps by remote control – small text, and a frantic speed makes it more difficult than it should be. Yet again, I don’t know if this is by design or simply not thought through enough; either way it took me about 5 hours play to get vaguely competent, but it still isn’t exactly fun.

Despite all this, I like this game. Its the first game I have played in a long time that I enjoyed taking the less obvious route. Simply messing about with the variety of abilities and skills available, and using them to do as much damage as possible. Being able to summon half a dozen clones, hacking a sentry gun or commandeering an enemy’s brain… it makes every stage less a progressive challenge, and more a more convoluted puzzle to be solved in the most imaginative way you can think of. Finding a good spot to sit while hacking everything within range, then listening to the war-zone you just kicked off – its fantastic fun.

And, as if that’s not enough, the game is £14.99 on Steam. If it was full price, I would have some reservations, but down at the indie price-range, for 20 hours of story and countless more of just messing around… this is an excellent buy. Also included (sadly not tested by me due to time and an unseasonably problematic internet connection) is a persistent co-op mode – the game is great fun solo, with three mates it would become legendary. And all your character stats and abilities come with you, meaning you can level up as you play online too.

All it requires is patience, smarts and a willingness not to bounce your keyboard off a wall when it crashes. Give the developers six months, and I’ll be willing to bet all the major issues will be fixed.  Alternatively, there’s always Deus Ex…

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