E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on August 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Shows its wh40k-inspired roots

You know what’s rare these days? To be surprised by a game release. Not “pleasantly surprised,” that arrogantly derisive tone you take when something isn’t the shit you thought it would be, nor is it the mock surprise you use to elevate yourself by lauding a game that has “surprisingly” garnered little attention by the teeming massesI mean, really surprised. Surprised that a game 1) exists, 2) looks so cool, and 3) is being released, like, today (or a few days ago as of this writing). To say the least of 4) is actually good fun to play once you get it working. I really had no clue this title existed until Steam proudly announced it as released in the store’s “update news.” The name alone is enough to make me want to know what it’s about, much less the grim visage leering out from the image above, seemingly cobbled together from some Warhammer 40K fan project. And then I find out it’s a gothic, cyberpunk-themed, Bladerunner meets 40K inspired first-person, co-op shooter with deep role-playing elements?

Okay, time for a quick fact check. It’s made by Streum On Studios, a French developer that makes no effort to hide its love of sci-fi, 40K, Bladerunner, Alien, Deus Ex and so on. As far as that is concerned, this game is very endemic of French science fiction …or so I am told (if it’s all this kick ass, I’m really obligated to investigate via conspicuous media consumption). Now, they’re not native english speakers, so the game does suffer from some wonky translation choices, which can make navigating the game’s dozens of stats, derived attributes, weapons, implants and abilities something of a challenge (so yes, this is a game where the best way to find out what a cybernetic implant does might be to borg up, ship out and hope it works out). There is some charm in that too: instead of using the ubiquitous “nuyen” or some such fictional-yet-ostensibly-Japanese currency, you use “brouzoufs”; when starting a co-op game, your commander asks you if you are the “master of fate” or rather, the character with the save slot for matching progress.

The game uses the seven-years-a-veteran Source engine, debuted with 2004’s Counter-Strike: Source and Half-Life 2, and most recently with Portal 2, and you can really tell. From the squad-like movements of the enemy, to the physics applied to objects and explosions, to the loading screens between areas, all of this reminds us that this is a Source game, and it is actually dated for using it. While the game does look good, it benefits more from its art direction than its graphical prowess, and I’d be surprised if there were a PC in use today that couldn’t run it at max settings with only a few hitches. This doesn’t make it a bad game of course.

The scope and depth of the game is where you tend to forget that this is an Indie title. There’s a ton of lore going into this, and it is actually based off some kind of French pen-and-paper game, but the devs do give you access to quite a bit of that through the dialog with the characters as well as the archives in your HQ. The tone is set and firmly presented through everything, from how the weapons are modelled (lovely sawed-off double-barrel shotgun with a crosius iron sight), to the loading screen “tips” that cull from dozens of philosphers and movie quotes, to the towering, gothic pillars that evoke the cyclopean scale of 40K while being eerily reminiscent of the oppressive, monolithic structures in Bladerunner.

It’s a different sort of experience, jumping into this sort of game feet first, not being prepped by eighteen months of press or detailed write-ups of its systems and features. I bought this game on a whim, for the nice price of 17.99 on its new-release sale on Steam, largely because the title appealed to me. What I got for my money is a great co-op game to play with my brother (or up to the not-recommended 32 player Source-engine max), where he teleports around and summons demons in the flesh of Federal agents while I snipe from a perch I lept two stories up from standing to get to while cloaked. I use my character’s wireless connection to scan for entities to hack, and this includes just about every enemy with their “cyberbrain.” Then I go to the steam forums and see that Streum has been posting like some teenaged attention whore, talking to players about their experiences and discussing what to patch and adjust while dolling out advice. After that, I load back into my HQ — the game lets you load directly to your HQ, or into the campaign, or into a number of co-op “side” missions, each as a separate mode — and assign scientists to researching bizarre alien materials I discovered on my last mission while I optimize my loadout.

The game isn’t without its flaws, among which are its dated appearance, somewhat steep learning curve, poor translation and a punishing difficulty that can result in permanent stat damage, which can push a few weapons and abilities beyond your ability to use. And, suffice to say, when you do actually find out what’s actually going on and what these things mean, you’ll have a few hours worth of gameplay ready to flush down the toilet in favor of making a new character that’s a little less addled by your ignorance.

But it’s worth it.

  1. Looks pretty groovy, and being a french based thing allows me to summon a great rage to unleash upon my enemies. Who are, in fact, the french.
    But yeah, looks pretty cool. My only qualm is using the half-life engine, which I have never really enjoyed.

  2. While I’ve never been fond of Source and see it as a “budget” option even when alot of production values are dumped into it. Always seems blocky, they never use dynamic lightmaps and the physics, the one thing the engine was showcased to present, are actually hideously outdated at this point.

    But, Valve’s consideration for the little guy using their engine allows titles like this to exist. And the engine fits this game a bit better than it does other titles using it, with lovely vistas as this and this.

  3. You do make fine points. Gotta root for the little guy, and the game does look pretty.

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