E.Y.E. is a game that is extremely polarizing, even among our own staff. It is simultaneously confused, ambitious, insane, creative, frustrating, intense and annoying. It is actually a little impressive how the game can go from interesting to boring in the span of seconds. The game has some brilliant concepts, but they are obscured by the fact that it tries to do too much. It wants to be Deus Ex, Half-Life, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Doom, Total Recall and even Aliens. It wants to be an RPG and an FPS. To an extent it even succeeds. However, the core question really is, is this game good?
To put it bluntly, no, E.Y.E. is not a good game. It really is unfortunate, because it is close to being one. The developers, Streum On Studio, are insane. Either that or taking hallucinogens is a normal activity in France. The ambition in this game is palpable. The RPG system is extremely deep, there are lots of different guns to use, including some very cool ones and the story has some potential to tell an interesting tale. Unfortunately, all of this gets lost in the mire of a game that basically feels unfinished.
E.Y.E. purports to let you play however you want, and with an incredibly deep tree of both psychological and technological powers, it becomes possible to see how this vision is not too unrealistic. Unfortunately, none of this ever pans out. These psychological and technological upgrades require research, which first requires you to kill enemies so they drop information briefcases, and then it costs money. The briefcases are easy enough to find, but E.Y.E. never really feels the need to explain exactly why I should research something instead of getting an upgrade or saving for a new gun. Even in spite of this indecision, there are a lot of cool abilities available. The cloaking works well and you at least begin with an awesome ability to spawn three clones of yourself who, while not great fighters, generally provide a good distraction.
After randomly rolling a character and hoping your generally unexplained stats are good, the game literally throws you into the world with very little help. There is a tutorial, but in some cases, it leads to more questions. The tutorial is shown through 23 short videos that explain the basic concepts but at the same time don’t tell you much. I know that I can repair myself by hitting the V key to perform “maintenance” on myself, but it isn’t always clear when that can help. It doesn’t help that the videos feel like a chore. The menus themselves are filled with text and information, but frankly, none of it really means anything. I know that getting a certain implant will affect a stat a certain way, and that it can only be a good thing, but the game has so many stats, that it is hard to tell if it actually matters. The wealth of information in the menus is just not very informative. It is a running problem with the game that nothing is well explained and nothing feels consequential.
None of this is helped by the inconsistent AI. Friendly AI characters are not very bright, and are also pretty terrible shots. This is especially frustrating on protect missions, where I watched a friendly character with a minigun stand there and be attacked by monsters while I had to reload.
The game lacks a quick-save feature, or really any kind of sensible checkpoint system. While this does actually add some nice challenge to the game, it was also incredibly frustrating to have to restart the entire chapter because the computer controlled teammate I was supposed to protect had AI on par with a cinder block. Of course one of the nice things is that if you do fail a part of a mission, you can continue playing, but your options are to either live with your failure or restart the entire chapter over again. This might be a great lesson for real life, but that isn’t why I play video games.
The enemy AI is not much better. There were times when the enemies just stood there as I shot them. More frustrating is that the enemies are generally very good shots, often shooting you before you can even see them. In spite of their Helghast like glowing eyes, or glowing parts in the case of most monsters, they aren’t very easy to see, as the levels are very, very dark. In some cases, the distance is obscured by fog, a not so great throwback to the N64 and PSX days. This is all compounded by the broken stealth system. When one enemy becomes alerted to your presence, stealth goes out the window as every enemy in the area seems to immediately flock to your location.
The level design is both cool and impressively frustrating at the same time. The actual aesthetics of the various stages are very creative. Neon signs glow and advertisements are bright, and there are usually plenty of interesting things to see. That said, they all feel empty and devoid of life. The levels feel very old school in that there is a lot to explore, and everything is a maze. You have no map to guide you either. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it does promote exploration. At the same time, the levels themselves are filled with random dead ends, and worse, a lot of frustrating backtracking. It is kind of amazing how the game seems so forward thinking with its deep (albeit confusing) RPG system and its reliance on old school video game tropes to extend gameplay. A lot of objectives just feel pointless as well, though this is largely the fault of the baffling story. Overall, the game looks fine, but the graphics are still dated, as it is based off of Valve’s Source engine.
The entirety of the story is told through text via speaking to characters. Aside from the tiny print, there is also a lot to read. Normally I don’t mind reading in game, after all, we all did it during the 8- and 16-bit eras, but when almost everything that everyone says is inane, uninteresting and droning, losing focus becomes very easy. Sometimes the dialogue would surprise with a nice bit of humor or an actual relevant story tidbit, but for the most part, it seemed like self-indulgent blathering. This would be more forgivable if the translation didn’t feel so rushed. There is a lot of broken English, which frankly appears unprofessional. I understand that the game is an indie game and that English was not the original language of the game, but it just adds to the appearance that the game was rushed out.
The world is built more through the dialogue then through the massive levels, and as such the universe of the game just never becomes as interesting as its aesthetics. The story, or at least what I could gather of it, is about a looming civil war between two sides of the same coin, the Jian and the Culters. At the same time as there is this civil war on the horizion, this pseudo-religious sect is also fighting a group of Federalists and the anarchist-esq Looters. And then inside the Culters themselves, which your character is in, there is also a struggle for power between your Mentor and the Commander. The story and the universe gets lost in itself very quickly, and the overall experience suffers for it. A Mass Effect-esq in-game codex would do wonders for this game. There is background information about the world, but you need to seek it out and it frankly is not very interesting.
While it seems like there are no redeeming factors in E.Y.E, there are. Some of the core mechanics are great, and while the shooting doesn’t feel too good, the hacking mini-game stands out. Essentially, you can hack just about anything. Sentries and turrets, bank machines, entire defensive networks or even enemies can be hacked and taken over. Hacking enemies was one of my favorite things to do in the game. The hacking mini-game is cool, because it is styled in the form of some classic JRPG combat. You have five or so different moves that effect your attack and defense, or the enemy’s. So you’re racing the enemy AI in who can bring the cyber HP of the other down the fastest. If you win, the door opens, the enemy comes over to your side or the ATM gives you money. If you lose, you run the risk of basically being hacked yourself, where you HUD Disappears and your actions are limited until you hack yourself back to normal.
The mission objectives, while rarely interesting, are at least generally varied. Also, you can usually choose from one of a few different objectives. Do you want to attempt to sneak past the guards and hack a turret, or would you rather assassinate a captain. In one of the few shining moments of the game, I hacked a soldier next to a character I had to kill, possessed the soldier, and made the soldier kill the target. It was a great example of what E.Y.E. could be, given time.
The multiplayer is one of the most creative parts of the game, and is the best way to show off the large levels. The game supports up to 32 players in a single co-operative level. It certainly helps, especially in those annoying protect missions, to have a few other players to help you hold off a huge horde of monsters. Even the multiplayer feels a little chaotic, as not everyone is on the same page and it can lead to some truly cool moments as you can hear large firefights happening across the map, and later, stumble across them. Still, the missions don’t really feel attuned to a large amount of people and to an extent, it can break the game. Of course, this does break it in a mostly fun way.
E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy is a game that is harmed by a combination of its own ambition and lack of any desire to really explain something to you. It contains some old-school challenge, but is mostly marred by poor AI and a broken stealth system. The shooting mechanics, while solid enough, are not very fun, but the hacking system is great. The multiplayer is fun but chaotic. Essentially, E.Y.E. is a game of extremes. Mostly this means that the game is extremely confused about what it wants to be, but there are moments where it shows it could be something more. A bit more explanation and back story, a lot more clarification in the menus and a retooling of the AI, and the game could be great. The developers have told us that there is a patch forthcoming. If it fixes the technical and translation issues, then the game could be much more playable. If the patch fixes the menus and clarifies the nuances, then it could be amazing. E.Y.E. is on the brink of being a good game, but as it stands now, it isn’t. Maybe this will change after the patch, but it is hard to recommend this game as it stands now.