Summary: Borderlands. Fallout 3. Deus Ex. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
What do these games have in common? They're all mish-mashes of two of the most popular genres in PC gaming -- the first-person shooter and the role-playing game. Their respective developers blurred the line between the two to varying degrees, but most people agree that Ion Storm did it best with Deus Ex. What if I told you that you don't have to wait until the end of the August to sink your teeth into a new cyberpunk FPS/RPG?
Well you don't. Allow me to introduce you to the recently-released E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy, an indie game from France made by Streum on Studio. Read all about it in today's review, you don't want to miss it!
French start-up Streum On Studio isnít a very large team -- it consists of less than a dozen individuals -- but here they are releasing one of the most ambitious indie games this year: E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy. In 1999, long before officially founding their company, the guys behind Streum put out a Half-Life mod called Syndicate Black Ops, which they say helped inspire their latest project. As it turns out, E.Y.E actually has more in common with the lore and mechanics of A.V.A., a role-playing board game they released in the late Ď90s. Work first began on E.Y.E in 2006, and after five years of self-funded development, itís finally been released on Steam.
E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy is an FPS/RPG set in a fantasy-cyberpunk universe featuring persistent character progression and fast-paced combat with up to four (or more) people playing cooperatively. Its gameplay is driven by the sort of twitch shooter/melee action youíve come to expect from Source titles, combined with an extensive and varied arsenal of cybernetic abilities and psychic powers. Indeed, Streum has made sure to put an emphasis on player skill rather than your characterís statistics, though theyíre still an important part of the puzzle, even if you choose not to micro-manage them. Other role-playing elements include a branching storyline that is influenced by player choices, NPC dialogues that deliver background information and mission objectives, a finite grid-based inventory for your entirely customizable load-out, and even the capacity for your character to be psychologically terrorized.
While you play, you gain experience points for actions including, but not limited to, killing enemies and completing objectives, which contribute to your character leveling up. At that time, youíre given 3 attribute points to spend as you see fit or, if you have autoleveling turned on, the game will choose which of your stats to increase based on what actions you perform most often. This is where the freedom of choice shines through, showing more than a few shades of Deus Ex: you can run around guns blazing, relying on your marksmanship and armor to keep you alive; brazenly wield a giant hammer or dual katanas and annihilate foes up close; silently snipe from afar and sneak around cloaked for those stealthy take-downs; hack into turrets, drones, or even people (!) and let them do your dirty work; exercise your psychic prowess by cloning some reinforcements and crushing the mind or body of the enemy with the wave of your hand; the possibilities are vast in E.Y.E.
Itís a good thing there are so many ways to play, too, as the entire game basically boils down to killing a lot of enemy AI in huge, open environments. There are some basic objectives for eliminating specific enemies, placing, finding, hacking, or destroying items, investigating areas, and the like, but theyíre really just excuses to explore the map and seek conflict. Whenever you leave the safety of the hub or home base within each map, you can basically fight a never-ending force of human, monster, and robot enemies, as they will continuously respawn all over the map in set intervals. This can make things rather hectic, especially if youíre going at it solo... I remember one mission in particular where it was a constant struggle to survive, let alone progress and complete objectives, even though I was using the .50-cal sniper rifle that usually kills in one shot. If you get caught out in the open by shock troopers with miniguns and/or a flying gunship with battle turrets, your only option is to run for cover because getting hit that much will prevent you from being able to return fire with any kind of accuracy.
Of course, there will be occasions where you're simply overwhelmed by the opposition and lose all of your health. That knocks you into a coma, which you will ressurect yourself from a limited number of times per mission. You still have to deal with the enemies in your vicinity though, and then when you finally get some time to rest and recover, theyíre probably about to spawn again, sometimes popping into existence right in plain view. It's times like those when you're in danger of losing your mind; or at least, your character is. When put under large amounts of combat stress, particularly being low on health, sustaining injuries to your legs or bleeding out, and coming under attack from especially nasty creatures, your "sanity meter," as it were, will start to deplete. If it reaches zero, you will fall victim to one or more mental afflictions, such as paranoia, hallucinations, or even paralyzing fear. To come back from that, you must engage a maintenance routine, a kind of slap in the face delivered by your cyber-brain that knocks the sense back into you and allows you to carry on.
This leads me to the other segments of character progression that are just as important as gaining experience and leveling up in making yourself stronger: cybernetic augmentations and scientific research. Every enemy you kill will reward you with some brouzoufs, the gameís currency. You can spend this money in exchange for new weapons, powers, and abilities at their respective vendors in the hub, but you can also pay to upgrade your implants and conduct research. The latter involves paying a lump sum up front and then waiting a specified amount of in-game time for a discovery to be made, many of which are required to unlock the more powerful abilities and higher levels of cybernetics. Some innovations require you to find a randomly-dropped item from an enemy before they can be researched. Whatís really cool is that you can adjust a slider in order to pay more or less, and the time it takes to complete will go down or up, accordingly.
Overall, your progress in E.Y.E is centered on your characterís attributes, abilities, implants, what research youíve completed, etc. You carry the same avatar through the campaign and side missions, whether playing by yourself or online with friends. All of the maps are endlessly replayable -- in fact, itís canon to do so! Though youíre not able to save the game manually, it works kind of like an MMO in that everything you do is frequently autosaved. If you quit the game in the middle of a campaign mission, you may have to start it again from the beginning, if you did not reach a major checkpoint. Iím not sure what the highest attainable level is (Iíve seen someone who was at 50), but if you ever hit the cap, you still have plenty of work to do in accruing enough brouzoufs to fully upgrade yourself. Of course, you can always create another character and try out a different build at any time.
Graphics and Sound
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