E.Y.E is a bizarre action RPG that is awful, yet great at the same time. Most of the game’s RPG mechanics feel out of place or cobbled together. The story is borderline incomprehensible and utilizes a few twists to pad out the game’s length. This sounds like a terrible game, and it is. But these horrible aspects are countered by moments of complete originality.
The most obvious example of originality in EYE is noticeable immediately after starting the game. You begin by creating your character, then being thrown into an unusual hellscape where a character named “Mentor” lies dead/dying. You then walk through a portal, beginning the tutorial. After completing it, you are sent to the main hub of EYE, where you will get all of your missions assigned. Upon arrival, you can speak to Mentor, who is seemingly fine. This type of contradictory storytelling is ever-present in EYE. Characters will die, reappear, and sometimes comment on their death, while other times acting like nothing is wrong. It gives the sense that the entire game is an unreliable narrator, which I enjoyed, even though it gets taken too far and becomes a mess by the end of the game. The shining moments of the game’s writing are in the side missions. These take the form of scattered objectives that you come across while you play through the main story. You might encounter a drug dealer that needs you to pick up a shipment for him, a man who wants to avenge his brother’s death, or maybe a suicidal man struggling with depression. None of these impact the story or even affect the game at all, but they are fun side plots where you can see that the game’s writers are completely capable of writing coherently, they just chose not to for the main storyline. It almost divides the game into 2 different story groups; a group of relatively coherent and straightforward side quests, and a group of cryptic, unexplained main quests. It’s bizarre, but that goes for almost everything in EYE.
EYE’s progression system is a bit different from your typical action RPG, but still follows the same basic structure. You gain experience and brouzouf (money), then spend both of them on upgrading your stats, cybernetics, research, or gear. The twist comes from the fact that EYE is an extremely short game for an RPG. If you know what you are doing, you can beat the game in one sitting. Your first playthrough will be your longest, mostly because of your character’s slow initial movement. The most important thing in EYE is speed. Being slow drags the game out when it’s meant to be played fast and loose. The weight system makes it even tougher to get your character up to a reasonable speed, but once you get there, the game world opens up. This goes for every aspect of EYE’s progression. Sure, you begin the game with some basic abilities, but they aren’t particularly interesting compared to some of the extremely powerful late game abilities. No matter what type of character you try to build, there is always a path to becoming an overpowered god. However, for better or worse, this takes a long time. When people talk about “late game” in EYE, they mean after beating the game 5+ times, maybe even more. This is perfect for people that enjoy gradual power curves in their RPGs, but it can be frustrating for anyone that wants to get right into the action. Due to the repetitive nature of EYE, it tends to feel more like a random series of missions you play in order to level up and make money, rather than a traditional RPG with a beginning, middle, and end.
While traversing the world in EYE is a chore for much of the game, the combat is a different story. The weapons might look basic, but most of them are enjoyable to use and fit into different playstyles well. The starting submachine gun in EYE has a fire mode toggle, but instead of the real world version that would switch between semiautomatic fire and fully automatic fire, it switches from full auto to fuller auto. The developers clearly focused on fun weapon designs over realistic ones. You can use a minigun, an armor piercing sniper rifle, even a katana; and these are just the weapons unlocked at the start of the game. As your character gets progressively stronger, the possibilities for combat open up. EYE’s combat system begins as a fairly basic, yet satisfying first-person shooter, but once you get past the first 10-20 levels, it becomes more akin to an immersive sim. While you never get the story depth that a game like Deus Ex has, you have access to a huge range of combat options. The game’s focus is still squarely on combat, but it plays like a sandbox shooter rather than Call of Duty.
Distinctive Art Design
The overall style of EYE’s visuals are unique for a cyberpunk game. While it retains many of the genre’s tropes, it also blends in plenty of unconventional aspects. Your character’s faction is reminiscent of Warhammer, utilizing oversized armor pieces, powerful firearms, but with plenty of religious imagery. The main base for this faction resembles an otherworldly cathedral, rather than a futuristic headquarters. In contrast, the other main faction in EYE has a decidedly East Asian aesthetic, complete with conical hats and buildings modeled after ancient Chinese architecture, specifically temples. It works well as a faction design because it stands out from your character’s faction, but also shows a common ground when it comes to both factions clearly being religious in nature. Disappointingly, this attention to detail falls apart for nearly every other faction or group in the game. Many enemies are clearly pulled from other games and don’t fit into the world of EYE at all. You encounter werewolves, xenomorphs from the Alien movies, and enemies that belong in a Doom game. The human enemies look better, but they have bland designs compared to the two main factions. Level design is also hit or miss, ranging from boring, wide open areas, to cramped cities that fit perfectly into EYE, both aesthetically and gameplay-wise.
Exceptional Sound Design
In EYE, the sound design does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating a consistent atmosphere. The soundtrack is nothing spectacular, but it does its job. Most songs are mood tracks that blend in and don’t draw attention to themselves. There is a good amount of music so it doesn’t become repetitive, even after playing for a while. Sound effects are more of a mixed bag, with a massive quality disparity between different sounds. Weapon sounds are usually terrific and wouldn’t be out of place in a AAA game. They make each weapon seem distinct and powerful without being overblown or grating. In contrast, there are some rather confusing choices, such as the earth shattering sound a small jump makes, that sound like placeholders. The star of the sound design is easily the voice acting. There is no English voice acting, instead, the game uses a fictional language created for the game. Most dialogue isn’t voiced, but when it is, it sounds fantastic. Some voice actors ham it up, while others play it seriously, but it works because it sounds like a real language that you can’t understand, rather than random sounds thrown together. It’s an impressive effort from such a small indie studio, even though their time would have been better spent on polishing up the core game, as opposed to working on this ultimately minor feature.
E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy is rough around the edges and desperately needed more development time and a larger budget. It’s a game with AAA ambitions on a shoestring budget. The story is a mess, countless game mechanics are obtuse and barely explained, and the graphics are mediocre at best; yet it’s still fun to play. Despite its flaws, getting a few friends together and fighting through hordes of enemies is a blast, especially once your character gets stronger. EYE isn’t a must play game and it certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind slow starts and an unrefined experience, it’s a solid co-op game.