Review | 8/18/2011 at 10:42 AM

E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy Co-Op Review

Our review on the indie RPG/FPS game E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy

E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy is an indie FPS which utilizes the Source engine. It can be played in both single-player and co-op with your character(s) being able to cross seamlessly between the two modes. The gameplay is largely the same in either mode.

Loading up E.Y.E. for the first time can be extremely overwhelming. Right from the get-go, players are asked to pick three mutation genes which will determine the starting stats of their characters. The number of combinations between these genes is alarming (there’s about 10 genes or so and if you wanted to, you could pick the same gene three times) and together they influence a dozen stats. Figuring I’d try the medic-with-a-sword route, I tried to arrange it so my medicine and strength stats were slightly higher than my other stats, but I also tried to give as many of the other stats a slight boost as well so I could be a well-rounded character. Potential crisis averted.

Apparently horrible fire demons and evil women with awful fashion tastes hang out together in this universe.

Upon loading up the campaign, however, I realized that my difficulties had only begun. Most of the games we play today have often painfully slow tutorials (press “space” to jump? Really?) to guide you through the general gameplay and UI. E.Y.E., on the other hand, does not take this approach. Its “tutorial” consists of a menu with 23 extremely short videos that only begin to scratch the surface of most of the topics listed there. Some of these are useful when first playing the game (like how to get to the menu, and even navigate it a little). Some of them fall woefully short (the “hacking” video told me how to get into the hacking interface, but not how the hacking minigame actually worked). E.Y.E. is very much a learn-as-you-go experience. Sometimes it can be extremely rewarding. Other times it can be extremely frustrating. Usually it’s frustrating for a period of time until you figure out whatever was stumping you, and then you feel a sense of accomplishment (or sometimes just annoyance). It certainly takes me back to a time about 10 years ago in PC games where things just weren’t explained a lot of the time. I realize I don’t really miss those days.

This isn’t to say that E.Y.E. is a bad game. I’m extremely impressed with its depth. As you’ve probably guessed, it has an RPG feel to it. You can customize your character pretty extensively. My current character favors guns, usually choosing a loadout including dual pistols and a sniper rifle. He wears medium armor and can heal a decent amount with his medkit; however, I could have gone for more melee, or magic, or favored different guns (like a shotgun or an SMG). Just like an RPG, you level up and get a few stat points to distribute if you’re feeling like you might want to go in a different direction than you originally planned.

No, really, I'm not RP'ing a junkie - that syringe is actually the medkit

As I mentioned before, players can play either campaign or mission mode in co-op. The campaign is basically a series of missions that follow a story. Sometimes your decisions during dialogue options with NPCs can change your mission objectives (would you rather completely wipe out an enemy force spread across an area, or simply assassinate their well-guarded leader?) or net you additional XP (threatening reluctant accomplices often seems to do this). Most missions have a long string of ever-changing objectives. In co-op, the first person who gets to them and performs them will make the objective indicator disappear, so staying close to each other is often desired so as to not lose one another in the large areas. When you die, you respawn after about 10 seconds in the same spot (provided you have the revival item - you get about 10 or so per mission/map). This works out fine in co-op where your partner(s) can likely dispatch what killed you before you even revive, but if you’re playing solo or no one’s close by, it can be tricky at times.

The campaign’s story is okay, but nothing spectacular. You’re a member of E.Y.E, a secret society with its own world agenda. You’ve lost most of your memory, so you have to slowly relearn things. As you progress through the game, you learn that there’s a civil war afoot within E.Y.E. as well as an unknown force on the loose. The story, however, is probably not the main draw here for most folks. The character customization, combat, and just generally feeling more than a little awesome will likely be the things that draw people in.

Despite the depth and breadth of the game, E.Y.E. falls short at times in the technical department. Aside from the lack of instruction and guidance I’ve already harped upon (it took me two days to figure out that I could cure my paranoia/insanity instead of just waiting for it to go away!), the game has some other very frustrating flaws. For one, the keybindings for weapons are broken. Instead of being able to press a number key to pull out a particular weapon, you have to cycle through everything with your mouse wheel. Now, I’m the type of person who often likes using the mouse wheel to cycle between weapons, and this is frustrating even to me. If I need that medkit NOW, I’d really like to press 6, or whatever, to get to it instead of having to cycle through 8 or so weapons/items. Too late, I’m dead. Another complaint I had was that many areas were just too damnably dark. I’m a fan of immersion, but in some areas even with my brightness cranked up and my flashlight turned on, I still couldn’t find that demon dog as it was shredding me to pieces. Very frustrating.

This is the kind of absolute darkness I'm talking about. I'm holding two pistols if you can tell.

My last major technical issue with that game is that I found enemy AI and collision to often be problematic. I abandoned my aspirations to be a futuristic swordsman after all the enemies on the map would begin shooting me before I could even see them. It didn’t matter if I was creeping around, the mobs apparently have freakishly good vision. After sprinting half a minute to get to them, using right-click to block a lot of their bullets, often one of two issues would occur: a) I would find my melee attack bugged so I couldn’t attack unless I switched to another weapon (via the mouse wheel!) and back again, letting them riddle me with bullets for a couple seconds or b) my melee swing would hit them awkwardly, kind of shoving them and not doing any perceptible damage. As soon as I switched to an overpowered sniper rifle that could one or two shot most of them across half the map, all of these issues were easily resolved, which was kind of disappointing in a way. I’m not sure why anyone would NOT take the sniper rifle unless they were just hellbent on a particular aesthetic.

All in all, E.Y.E. is an ambitious game despite its notable flaws. Some patches could likely clear up a lot of the technical issues, but I’m doubtful that much will be done to address the lack of guidance given to players. Some will likely find this lack of explanation to be exciting and a return to a more “hardcore” time in PC gaming. Others will probably become too frustrated with it to play beyond the first several minutes. If you think you fall in the former group, E.Y.E. may have a whole lot to offer you if you can overlook some of the hiccups.