Talking about why I love E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy
What is the elevator pitch for E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy? I found myself asking that question today. It’s a game I’m familiar with, having beaten it thoroughly a while back, and in which I’ve had a renewed interest lately. That question - about the elevator pitch - has brought to mind my inadequacy when it comes to really articulating what it is that draws me to E.Y.E. I’m writing this in hopes that I can put to “paper” my thoughts about what E.Y.E. is, and why it was one of my favorite games of 2011, perhaps even of this generation.
First, I’d better talk a little about what you do in the game. It’s a first person action rpg with obvious influence from the first Deus Ex. It might even be more faithful to that game than Human Revolution is, but to call it a game like Deus Ex is to fail utterly at describing it. E.Y.E. makes Deus Ex look like the model of intuitive design; the game systems are ruthlessly abstruse, and you have to engage with all of them to get the most out of your character. The very act of creating a character foists upon you a totally inscrutable menu where you see the rather long list of character stats, some numbers in green and others in red, and a separate window with 3 drop down boxes and some buttons. Your choices in the drop downs are all totally alien. Metastreum? Binah? What the hell? This screen is actually a bizarre dice rolling system that you can influence with the three drop down boxes fully of “genes”, neither totally like nor totally unlike D&D-style rolling for stats. Once you’re in game, things get no more comprehensible. The task of understanding what to do can seem sisyphean at first. What is a brozouf? Should I spend them hiring scientists? Perhaps I should be upgrading my “cyber arm”, or my circulatory system, or even my brain. Maybe I need those brozoufs to buy guns. The tutorials are mostly unhelpful bink video clips. Unless you’re patient, you will have a hard time making it through the phase of just learning to play the game, because on top of little being explained, the actual content you’re trying to grok is bizarre.
This is a game where you can attempt to hack an ATM, fail, be hacked yourself by said ATM, and then have to rehack your own brain to regain control of it(your brain, that is). This is a game where it can take the entire campaign just for you to figure out what side of the conflict you’re supposed to be on. This is a game that plunges you, at the very beginning, so far into the deep that no light can reach you. You must learn to adapt; you gradually learn to feed off the strange materials given to you like bacteria on the edge of a geothermal vent.
There’s a litany of features that can be described in totally standard game vocabulary. There’s full campaign coop, character customization(even down to a sort of open ended fighter/thief/mage paradigm), a branching story, and surprisingly fun fps combat. Aside from the game still being somewhat buggy, these features are all well done in the way you would want them to be, but they still aren’t the reason to play it.
So what is the reason to play E.Y.E? It’s a cyberpunk fever dream in video game form. You explore this world of caves, Martian deserts, military facilities, Bladerunner-esque city streets, and the HQ of a secret police style organization, all in the trappings of a techno-futuristic religion. You encounter bizarre creatures, and speak to people who communicate in something resembling but not quite equalling English. There’s a werewolf, and a cybernetic demon straight out of Doom. It’s all hazy, a bit familiar but not quite right, and much of the time, eerily beautiful. The first line of the game is, “Where am I? This weird dream again, déjà vu!” Though the player doesn’t know it, it’s the most apt thing anyone says in the entire game.
So what’s the elevator pitch for this game? In a perfect world, it would be popping open a laptop and letting someone play the first 180 seconds of the game. That first impression is so distinct and so memorable that I’m not sure you ever really get over it in the course of playing. The only thing you learn in the next hour or three is that, yes, your suspicions are correct: the game really isn’t going to make any more sense than it does at that first line of dialogue.