Thoughts on E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy

He's a bit sarcastic, that one.
UPDATE: The game is now out on Steam.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been playing indie cyberpunk RPG/FPS hybrid E.Y.E, whose team we interviewed yesterday. It’s an unusual thing, to say the least. Streum are a team of just ten but have set out with the ambition to make something enormously complex, with a story, a level and stats structure, multiplayer, huge levels, multifarious gunplay, insanity, stealth, and melee combat. I feel like I’m just grazing the surface so far, and these are just initial impressions. I suspect we’ll get around to something more in-depth in the coming weeks.

E.Y.E. is a game based on the Source engine. This means it is capable of some decent atmospherics, and some of the environments are very pretty, but it nevertheless feels like old tech. The game has a slightly floaty feel to it that I’ve detected in Source total conversions from time to time, and this game feels like a Source mod gone insane. There’s no lack of talent here, Streum have done some amazing stuff, but there does feel like a lack of cash and, perhaps, a lack of focus.

Just give you an overview of that’s contained in here, let’s try to quickly run through its features. It’s a shooter, but it’s linked together by missions, which are obtained by talking to characters in classic RPG fashion. There’s a stat system underlying your character, with a whole bunch of attributes to be levelled up. Which of course means a level system: you level up as you play and spend your points accordingly. Of course there’s also character creation preceding all of this, where you combine a number of different “genes” to come up with your character’s starting traits. Whatever you choose you’ll be able to engage in a bunch of different things that the characters can do, from flat out ranged combat (pistols, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, heavy weapons) through using various types of armour, engaging in stealth, hacking, and a bunch of augmentations you can play with for further specialisation. There are even “several madnesses” and you must take care of your character’s mental health as things get more difficult.

The game world is a sort of amalgam of Warhammer 40k’s mythic pseudo-magical theology and more familiar Deus Ex-like cyberpunk. You are a super-assassin working for some kind of monster-slaying brotherhood who are struggling for control of various locations against other cyberpunkian factions of men in dark glasses and long coats. All this is backed up with a library of written back matter, which I couldn’t really be bothered to read. It’s nonetheless impressive that the team have put so much work into their world, even if they couldn’t quite afford to flesh it out. More immediately, there’s some kind of immediate sub-plot where your mentor might be a baddy and people are suggesting you betray him, but I’ve not really uncovered how deeply the RPG elements run just yet. I simply haven’t played enough. No matter how these conversation trees impact on your experience, I suspect it’s going to be tricky for anyone to invest too deeply in this baroque world of largely-silent blank-faced nightmare soldiers.

The scope, then, is impressive, but you have to remember that we are dealing with indie production values. The levels are enormous, and often swathed in atmospherics, but the game does feel a little wobbly in places. Menus don’t feel intuitive, and while there’s a huge bank of tutorial videos provided to explain the game to you, principles of how to play aren’t really expanded upon beyond a basic tutorial corridor. While the NPCs do have a few animations and a few speak weird-language nonsense vocals, most of what we get is text boxes, with the NPCs remaining static. The game world is huge and detailed, but it doesn’t quite manage to feel authentic in the way that higher budget games do. I think this is down to the way the team have had to limit their ambitions. While there are bits and pieces of incidental detail, such as little beasts crawling about on the floor, there isn’t much in the way of scripted events or little details that might otherwise bring a game to life. Some areas are seriously impressive, while others are simply fogged and gloomy boxes.

Of course we can forgive all that when the game is so ambitious, and when it tries to deliver so much of what we ask for in terms of depth and complexity in games. It’s just the kind of game project that large studios would no longer risk, and so it’s down to brave, dedicated souls like the Streum team to try and make it happen.

The whole thing is four-player co-op, so you can play through it multiplayer as you see fit. I suspect this is the optimal way to get through it, because the combat does feel more like you are playing basic multiplayer bots than well scripted enemies. I say this partly because I haven’t really figured stealth out, and therefore have fought my way through most of the levels, but ultimately baddies aggro you from far away, and then run to get into line of sight. Snipers pick you up almost immediately, which can be a little annoying. Ultimately enemy activity is a bit simplistic and doesn’t compare well with other, similar FPS behaviours, or the diverse range of options that the rest of E.Y.E. wants you take advantage of. Also modern games have really pushed the audio-visual feedback of being shot at, and here it feels very lightweight, which makes dying (and then being peculiarly instantly resurrected) all seem a little weightless. As a consequence I’m not finding the combat particularly satisfying, but I also haven’t quite figured out how to adapt my character to stealth. It might involve starting over.

All that said, the combat has some positive aspects: It’s fast-paced, especially in how quickly enemies go down. No bullet sponges here. In fact it all speaks of hardcore multiplayer influences. Once again there’s that tinge of Source mod to it. You get the feeling that mods like NeoTokyo might have had some influence here. Streum clearly want their combat to be respected, and ignore the slow, challenge-free cover-systems that contemporary gaming tells us we want. The result of this is a game that feels old fashioned and at the same time bold and independent.

I’m looking forward to trying the game with another player, and also exploring a bit more of the world. The maps are huge, but I’ve been in the same one for a while now. Having seen some serious mapping talent displayed so far, I wonder what else this oddity contains. I’m amused by the starting area for the game being a dream that your character is having. I still feel a little groggy from my explorations in this world. I wonder at what point things come back to reality with a bump. I remain intrigued, but not entirely convinced.


  1. Ham Solo says:

    A bit weird in the beginning, but I really like that the weapons feel strong. As to say I don’t need to pump an entire assault rifle magazine into one enemy, and 1-3 shots will suffice. I haven’t played that far, are weapons customizable? And how do I unlock cloak? I’m not fully aware of everything it has to offer I think. But the steam vid with the cloaked sniper who took his shot and disappeared again sold me on it.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      At least some FPS games still get this right by default. I don’t care if it’s the past, the present or the future, guns don’t cause minor aches and pains, they kill people. Having to hope for hardcore modes in everything is damn wearing.

  2. Lagwolf says:

    “I think some people who bought this expecting something along the lines of Deus Ex might be disappointed though.”

    Exactly, and yes it plays like a multiplayer game with solo tacked on. It was touted as a Deus Ex alike game and it so clearly isn’t. I mean DE: IW was better than this.

    Its obvious the company were desperate for some cash so released the game before it was ready. I spent just under $20 on a finished game and that is not what I got. There is something called honesty in advertising and product description, the devs of this game seem to unfamiliar with this concept. Or to put it more simply: does not do what it says on the tin.

    Is it too much to ask for game companies large or small to be honest about the product they are flogging?

    • DMANG says:

      we get it dude…go picket in front of steam HQ or something, its only 17.99….

  3. Reefpirate says:

    Relax, people… Apparently expectations were way out of whack for this game. I went ahead and bought the game, even after listening to all the whining on these boards. And guess what… I THINK IT WAS WORTH IT. Because it’s not Deus Ex, and it’s not trying to be. It’s kind of like a Left 4 Dead goes cyberpunk type deal. It’s not a real strong RPG, but it is a pretty good shooter with dynamic missions and character progression. For $20 I probably already got my money’s worth of fun out of it, and I plan on going back tonight to see what some of the other weapons/implants do.

    EDIT: Holy entitlement issues, Batman! Just because the game isn’t what you want it to be, doesn’t mean everyone automatically cares about your opinion.

  4. standardman says:

    I have a soft spot for ambitious games from devs that reach beyond their grasp (or budget). Will wait on Jim’s further impressions but I think I may have to pick this up.

  5. DMANG says:

    I bought it, played for a few hours this weekend. I’m on the fence:
    1. The systems in the game seem overly complex, I turned on “auto level-up” and I doubt’s I will turn it off as the stats seem completely useless. Stealth seems as useless as it was in Crysis, you can use it to get away, but to actually make it through a level totally undetected, Metal Gear Solid style, is impossible.
    2. The lack of a map/radar makes it difficult to navigate, I’m all for emersion, so i hate games that just give you everything, but I’m already having objectives placed in my view, and their isn’t enough “landmark” worthy scenery to navigate mapless (like in deus ex).
    3. Speaking of levels, for as big as they feel, they seem to have very little exploration to them and are very corridor like (thinking Mass Effect 2).
    4. With such a complex backstory, to have no intro is annoying. I don’t mind reading, but the library is overwhelming, and I’m not going to sit and read the entire story. I like when gaves give you bits and pieces as you make your way through via scenery/news-clips/torn book pages/etc (thinking Dragon Age, and Deus Ex)
    5. While I like the dream explanation when you die, why did they have to make it a different level? it’s a single room, pretty sure every map could accommodate it. it’s silly to have to load the level, die, load the dream level, and then 10 seconds later load the level you were just playing at again.
    6. Translation is awful…just terrible, I also hate talking to NPCs because all your responses make you sound like a total jerk…ROLE PLAYING GAMES are supposed to have generic responses (yes, no, maybe, etc) so you can feel like the character, its your imagination on how you want to deliver the responses or (in the case of games like Mass Effect) Have a nice and mean choice. I don’t feel like im playing a role, I’m being forced into acting a certain way.
    7. Too dark, as other have said.
    8. I wish you could put your gun away.
    9. The snipers see you instantly, and use these super annoying beam weapons .
    That said, I love the art direction, the sound design, and the music. I actually find the combat to be quite satisfying, I like how its hard to tell where shots are coming from (you have to pay attention to the ricochets and such to figure out the source), and the player accuracy is actually real refreshing (I think most modren games make you too inaccurate with iron/reflex sight guns). There are some glaring flaws in the game, but at a low price, under 20 bucks, I’m 3 hours into it, and promises already from the devs to fix a few oh the more problematic bugs, im happy with my purchase though i might get bored and drop it at the 5 or 6 hour mark like i did with Singularity. I haven’t even touched the co-op yet though, so we will see what happens.

    • abandonhope says:

      While I’m obviously not happy with my purchase, I think you’ve nailed the game with your analysis. There is fun to be had if you pare the game down to just the shooter elements, as you might expect from a Source-based game. For the most part, it also has a beautifully realized dystopian/cyberpunk atmosphere. Now I’m off to play Borderlands. ;)

  6. RegisteredUser says:

    So will this game get ongoing support and patching?

    So far I am not seeing Magicka-like efforts, but similiar proportioned bug reports.

    It looks like something that in version 2 or 3 might become a really powerful/intriguing game eventually.

    Also I wish we could go back to games being made for single player enjoyment, and not plopping people into crap like Borderlands which 99.9% of the time feels like a run-through-it, multiplayer only oriented game that you, as a single player, are only allowed pointless(without your teammates) and undersized (huge areas with a couple of eventually respawning enemies) practice runs in.

  7. spelvin spugg says:

    Tried this out.
    You know, for a mod this is totally amazing, and it’s actually kind of cool, but I would be furious if I paid money for it. This needs MAJOR work.
    That said, I hope they make major dough to expand on this. It’s sort of a cool concept and it’s sort of fun but the main problem here is the opportunity cost and not so much the financial cost– I wouldn’t be playing this if I was paid $5 an hour. For $10 an hour I would play it.

    I hope they get noticed and get funding because they are obviously very talented.

  8. 3ay says:

    divine cyber is a perfect game you can play it ┼čahinnparadisegelenekselramazanco┼čkusu