E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy is an ambitious independent game being released through Steam, with heavy inspiration from the original Deus Ex, while adding its own story and gameplay. It achieves its goal of re-creating Deus Ex with a cybermancy flavor — sometimes.
The story in E.Y.E. is one of its strongest points, though it makes a terrible first impression. You wake up in a strange dreamscape, with recollections that you have killed your mentor, and yet you are not his murderer. You’re greeted with an obtuse character building screen, with odd names for relatively simple stats, and then, after you leave the dreamscape, a 23-video long tutorial screen comes up. Even though E.Y.E. is pretty simple once you figure out, these opening moments are intimidating, obtuse, and clunky, which can put you off.
The beginning of the story doesn’t help either. Your character wakes up with amnesia, not knowing what’s going on, what has happened, or anything about the world around him. It turns out that you’re a member of E.Y.E., a branch of the Secreta which specializes in destroying monsters from an entity known as the Metastreumonic Force, but are currently fighting the Federation and are near civil war with the other part of E.Y.E. called the Jian, and your mentor and commander are in disagreement — it feels like a mess in the beginning, to say the least.
Again, once you figure everything out, the story is far more manageable, though it can still feel confusing and contradictory at times. However, the ending is one of the most surprising and exciting realizations in a story I’ve seen this year. Everything you’ve learned, everything that has occurred has a purpose, and to get the real ending, you need to play through at least four times. A lot of effort obviously went into the story, and it’s payed off. I cannot stress enough how incredible the endgame revelation is, but it’s one of the highest points in E.Y.E.
The gameplay itself cribs from Deus Ex quite a bit, with options for stealth, hacking, socializing, and straight up combat. In this manner, E.Y.E. is quite enjoyable, though in most of the ways that the original Deus Ex is not. For instance, the combat. In E.Y.E., the combat is satisfying, fast, and engaging. The guns all sound really great, and enemies go down in a few shots. Even melee weapons are effective, since you can block bullets and kill enemies with a couple of slashes. This makes going through the entire game guns blazing very tempting, however, blocking out other paths. This is a good thing, since the stealth is nearly impossible, unless you’ve spent many, many skill points and credits into making you character stealth oriented. The hacking isgood, though. It’s a strategic, faster paced take on turned based RPG combat, with you fighting against the target and trying to take down their “Cyber HP”. It’s fun, challenging, and complements the minute-to-minute gameplay well. It’s also great that you can hack almost anything, even enemies. So if you want to go all hack, it’s possible. The socializing is fine, though marred by the lack of voice acting. What’s cool is that it doesn’t require any skill points for you to be a persuasive smooth talker, you just need to logically pick the right dialogue options.
Where E.Y.E. suffers is the level design. From level to level, there’s a lot of variety, such as a tense standoff in an apartment block between the Federation and some criminals, and an Aliens-style atmospheric level, which ends in a survival against waves of monsters. While there’s variety, the levels themselves aren’t designed particularly well. It’s clear that Onstreum wants to create large environments that feel expansive and alive, but they fail in this task. Instead, they end up with environments that are too large with insufficient content to fill them up. Most of my time in E.Y.E. was spent sprinting towards objectives hundreds of meters away, with no opposition, or backtracking to turn in a mission. Some ventilation shafts are incredibly long, with the slow crouching speed making things even worse. There are also very few NPCs, making the environments feel large and lifeless. The worst case of this comes at a level near the end, where it’s an onslaught of enemies across thousands of meters of open, linear canyon terrain.
The other problems come in the form of the general polish. It’s an indie title, so I guess I shouldn’t expect the level of polish of say, Uncharted, but I do expect enough polish that whenever I use a specific PSI power, I don’t end up catapulting myself hundreds of meters in the air and killing myself on impact with the ground. Also, there was an instance when I stopped playing in the middle of a level, and when I reloaded the save, I ended up spawning in a completely new area that conveniently directed me to the end of the level. Quite strange. The UI is quite clunky, using a radial menu (in a PC game) for quick commands, and a menu that only mildly directs you as to how to research items, upgrade weapons, spend skill points, and assign inventory.
The graphics in E.Y.E. look great. There’s some nice lighting, large draw distances, and a cool aesthetic in the environments and character designs that hasn’t been seen before. The weapon models look really nice, as well. Again, though, problems with the graphics arise when it comes to polish, since live enemies glitch into the geometry from time to time. The sound design is generally good, with fine FX and a moody soundtrack. There is no voice acting, though, which stands out as an odd design decision for such a story driven game.
E.Y.E. is an ambitious indie game, which mostly reaches its goal, while stumbling in the process. When E.Y.E. gets good, it’s really good, and a testament to how good indie games can be. A lot of the time, however, E.Y.E. feels like it’s reaching farther than it can manage, and suffers as a result. If you enjoy stories in gaming, or want a good deal for $20, than E.Y.E. is good for a purchase. If you’re expecting E.Y.E. to be as good as its inspiration, you may be disappointed.