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To truly recreate the E.Y.E. experience, an E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy review should just dump the reader into a mass of details without explaining anything, and let them piece together whatever scrap of sense they can from a torrent of information that only means what they think it might mean and doesn’t matter anyway. Much like this paragraph.
E.Y.E. is a First Person Shooter/ Role Playing Game blend wherein you are a cyborg warrior priest. It plays a lot like Deus Ex if Deus Ex was about surreal, futuristic violence only ever explained by garbled nonsense. There’s a big reliance on character stats and they affect a variety of features like hacking, which has its own click-frenzy, stat based mini-game, cybernetic implants to better augment your divine cybermancy and psychic powers for all the aspiring space wizards.
These elements come together nicely within a setting that we’ll call a tribute to its influences, using less accusatory terms. E.Y.E. is an elite sect within the Secreta Secretorum, an organisation of high tech zealots who treat technology as sacred artifacts and battle an inhuman force made of the psychic reflections of man’s emotions and drives, never mind the use of pseudo Latin and straight up appropriation of lawsuit invoking terms like “psykers". The Warhammer 40,000 influence isn’t subtle, but it’s also melded to elements like a fascistic oppressive federal government and cyber-punk flavour, bionic mohawk bearing bandits and the option to run around waving a katana, for starters. So there’s the Shadowrun references for anyone who was wondering.
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Like Deus Ex, some missions can be approached from different angles depending on the player. This isn’t a particularly big feature though, since half the time you won’t know what the objective is, let alone why you’re doing it. There are objective markers, which is useful, though there are no maps, which isn’t. Even when things are explained it doesn’t always clear things… or anything up.
There's a pervasive aura of confusion, partly because of this. Which is apt since you take the role of an amnesiac. It seems fitting that you’d simply be plunged into a world where you know but don’t understand things, or why you’re doing them. Again, much like this E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy review.
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Get Out of Here, P.E.R.S.O.N. F.O.L.L.O.W.I.N.G. M.E.
Most of these things you do, however, will be violent. E.Y.E. hosts a range of murder tools. Gun play is somewhat S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-esque though lacking the detail or realism. Each of the guns behaves distinctly, and also fulfills its own niche purpose too. When attempting stealth (in vain) you might want the wall penetrating sniper rifle, whereas when taking on one of the legions of angry mobs you'll wish for the death spewing mini-gun. Guns hit a nice balance between having defined characteristics that really affect how battles play out and quick fire action, which is useful, considering the waves upon waves of enemies the game throws at you. Body counts can spiral to the hundreds within the space of a single mission depending on player set difficulty levels.
Melee weapons also make a welcome appearance, perfectly in line with the science fiction fantasy of the setting. Especially since you can use ranged and melee weapons together, at once. It wouldn’t be truly cyber punk/40k inspired without the prospect of brandishing a power sword hi-tech medieval weaponry in every possible scenario.
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Insert Occular Pun and/or Videogame Reference
E.Y.E. almost defies description in a lot of ways. It’s a mishmash of influence and features, but it’s presented in such an unconventional way that works almost in spite of itself. In a lot of ways, E.Y.E. is the game many people have been waiting for, perhaps because not only does it mix up a wealth of ideas together, but ramps them up to ridiculous levels.
For example, psychic abilities range from converting items into health, to making psychic clones of the player character (A DIY squad), to absurd options like spawning explosive werewolves inside of enemies. Yes, really.
Similarly, not only can you hack into ATMs and steal cash but they can hack into YOU. Once you’ve gotten over that particularly indignity, targets extend to security systems, gunships and other people’s brains with varying results. There might have been some scope for an interesting role playing and dialogue device with this, but that’s not really E.Y.E.’s style. There’s a time for talk, and the majority of your time that involves ethnic cleansing of one particularly troublesome group. Man. In fact, E.Y.E. even features a karma system whose function happens to be a mystery to me at this point. One thing I can tell you is that karma increases per righteous kill, so in the E.Y.E. universe, the most sainted individual is apparently the most prolific butcher. Good to know.
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E.Y.E. of the Storm - Controls and Interface
E.Y.E. is a busy game, there’s a lot going on. It has a wealth of features which manifest themselves as menus and sub menus, but despite all this complexity the interface is quite intuitive and the weight of elements to tend to never feels overwhelming. It’s not slick, but it’s far from unwieldy and it works well enough. Like anything in E.Y.E. it takes some getting used to. That said, having to scroll through the psy-powers can be very inconvenient at times and that goes double for the weapons. Said scrolling represents the clunkiest aspects of E.Y.E.'s interface as after a while, dipping in and out of the myriad features and panels becomes second nature.
The grid based inventory is nothing new, but it’s meshed with weight (malus) which affects movement. It’s odd that both are present, usually it’s one or the other as they both adequately represent a set limit of what the player can carry. The system is designed to make you choose certain load outs that exclude others, so there’s some minor strategy at play at armory screens.
It’s a bit strange that armor is relegated to a tab that decides between the styles; light, medium or heavy, but they all will influence play style in their own way. Light armour is about as sturdy as tissue paper but lets you zoom about like a demented rabbit on roller-blades, whereas heavy will have you trudging around but able to emerge from fire fights with gunships and giant robo-demon Doom references unscathed. It might have been nice to have unique armour sets seeing how the shadowy organisation you work for reveres technology so, but I guess you can’t have everything.
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Cyber Punk Post Hardcore - Sound
E.Y.E.’s weakest link is its sound. There’s nothing overly terrible about it, although what little voice acting there is, is clearly the developers putting on an array of grating comedy tough guy accents, and many of the sounds aren't particularly mixed well in terms of geographic locations. The most prominent example is the wolf howls, which often sound as if they are coming from inside the protaganist's own head, regardless of proximity to anything wolf like. In some ways, this plays into the mounting strangeness of the setting, but it's disorienting in terms of logistics and actually playing the game. It's hard to tell whether this was a conscious decision as it's hard to tell if it's a good or bad thing.
Regardless, it’s something of a novelty to pick out the classic Half Life sound effects, like the squelchy ‘falling into body parts’ noise. The weapons are nicely ‘voiced’ as it were; though some of the monster sound effects are a bit ropey.
The music sends up some mixed feelings. Some of it is labored in its attempt to sound vaguely futuristic, and other times its subtle enough that it melds with the general ambience unless you are really paying attention. A lot of it is likeable in a quaint sort of way, but if anything it reminds of both John Carpenter’s more minimalist scores and a much less inspired Vangelis welded together, when it's not being Heavy Metal or Oriental influenced. That said, all of the dramatic music is solid and enhances the experience.
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I Can't Believe my E.Y.E.s - Graphics
The visuals are courtesy of the Source engine, which was developed by Valve and used in games like Half Life 2 and Portal. This is, undeniably, old technology and it shows. The real problem is not necessarily that it uses an outdated graphics engine, but that E.Y.E.'s dark environments don't use its capabilities well enough.
The best visual element of E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy is its design. Densely packed, neon population centers and grand temples, both ancient and technologically enriched are some of the notable locales. When coupled with the distinct knightly aspect of certain factions, or the stern, be-trenchcoated storm troopers of others, it makes for a very distinct and evocative flavour. It's unfortunate that the models don't quite capture all the character from the game's art concepts; they seem a little lifeless in comparison.
Strangest of all is that the only female characters to appear in the entire game are supposedly psychic representations of an event (and therefore a single, repeated character model), rather than actual, female characters. E.Y.E. hosts a decidedly masculine world.
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E.Y.E. of the Beholder - Gameplay & Conclusion
Finally we get to what is so special about E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy: Its unashamed, layered depth. E.Y.E. lays open a level of choice rarely offered. Not only are there manifold ways to play the game, but manifold ways to achieve the majority of objectives the game sets. Not to mention multiple ending chapters depending on certain choices along its confusing, labyrinthine story. The trade-off seems to be that next to nothing is overtly explained save a few tutorial videos, which can be frustrating, but it's a small price to pay in the long run.
E.Y.E. has this bizarre dream like quality to it. It's almost like being trapped in a David Lynch film. It doesn't behave like a simulated environment is expected to. It's as if only a few set things matter and everything else is illusory. This isn't due to there not being enough interactivity, you can knock over and toss around all manner of things. The endless waves of enemies that emerge as soon as your back turns from around corners or unseen avenues or even thin air is a big part of it. It very much makes it seem like you're in some purgatory for the violent. The biggest contributor however, is the bizarre used-to-be-French dialogue. Language notwithstanding, the story doesn't make much sense up until you complete the game for the first time. An atmosphere of something not quite right going on quickly takes hold and it only escalates. The truth is only revealed with multiple, differing playthroughs.
But that's part of E.Y.E.'s beauty. You'll want the story to make sense, because despite the bad translation, it does have a good and unique, even innovative story, that will literally make you exclaim "WHAT?" aloud. But it's not as simple as watching a cutscene or being told, you have to piece things together yourself.
More than that, E.Y.E is compelling if not addictive on several levels, in a way that goes beyond brouzouf (currency) fever and the compulsion to climb the game's many technological ladders. It's swift, deadly, and enduringly nonsensical to the point of surreality.
While it could benefit from much, much more polish, E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy is full of secrets, possibilities and unrealities and it's all the richer for it.
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