I’ve been playing a fair whack of EYE:Divine Cybermancy. Which is a title from 200x PC-game-dom if ever there was one. And oh, it’s pretty much a game from 200x PC-game-dom so be careful what you wish for. Or rather, be very afraid of anyone who wants to send PC gaming back to this sort of thing. BUT! But but but but but…

There’s been a few comments along the lines of it’s the Boiling Point* to Deus Ex and you know, I think that’s hideously fucking unfair. Yes, both Boiling Point and EYE are games where the money/talent clearly outstripped the ambition and both of them are fairly expansive in their ambitions but there’s an implication that comes with being the Boiling Point of something which hints that it’s bugs first, game second and whilst there’s certainly a couple of interesting bugs, it’s more archaic design than actual bugs that drags EYE down.

I’m not interested in talking about the bugs or shit design though. No sir. Well, only in passing anyway. You see, here’s why…

I’ve just completed this mission where I was sent off to some guys by an armoured cybernetic militaristic psychic monk and one of them said I was going to be guarding a door and next thing you know I’m checking a ventilation shaft because the game’s told me that’s what I’m doing instead of guarding a door. On route to the ventilation shaft I meet a bloke who confesses that he’s on drugs and done some seriously bad things. I chop his head off after listening to his tale of woe.

He wasn’t going to hurt me or anything and looked like he was asking for help but I chopped his head off precisely because the game lets me chop his head off and given my pathological hatred for most non player characters in games, I figured it’s the start of something. THE WAR AGAINST THE SHIT NPC. If it’s any consolation to his family, he fessed up to some really nasty things and refused to listen to my incredibly good advice (I told him he just needed to sort his life out, it’s that simple, kids!) Anyway, he was a minor diversion as it seems there’s some monsters in the ventilation shaft so I kill one of them then go and poison some water to make half the encampment I’m in ill because a disembodied voice told me to, fiddle with some generators in a way I suspect might not entail fixing them and go back to another guy who’s hacking a door for some completely unknown reason but he seems rather enamoured with his work. All of this, actually, for some completely unknown reason.

This all goes wrong when I chop the poor door hacky guy’s head off too (he was standing too close as I was waving my dual swords around – I’m the worlds fuckupiest Highlander) and I end up with a rush of monsters trying to eat my face off and when one of them touches me my vision blurs and it’s like being in the trenches with explosives going off around me (not that I’ve been in trenches but I played the first level of Quake II once and I imagine it’s a similar noise). A message appears on the screen stating that I feel like I’m being watched.

Why? THE MONSTER IS A DRUG. Touching it is like licking a toad only more psychedelic. And deadly to the face.

I clear up the glut of monsters that appear to have taken a shine to me (this takes a while because there’s an awful lot of the buggers – werewolves, aliens, half man half dragon things – all the usual suspects) and go and meet a chap who’s been hiding in some broken down toilets making himself invisible. He uninvisibles** himself when I turn up and I go off and slaughter everybody else of even the slightest importance on his command (by chopping their heads off) before pegging it out the backdoor (chopping more folk’s heads off on the way). Of course I wonder what someone would be doing making themselves invisible in some toilets and then I think, ah yeah, of course! I suspect the only reason I didn’t chop his head off too was, well, he was making himself invisible in toilets. I probably don’t want to mess with someone who does that. What if he makes my thing invisible?

Or at least, I think that’s the order things happened in. I’m not quite sure. I’m a bit confuzzled, sorry. It gets you like that.

Why am I doing any of this? I dunno. I’d describe the plot to you right now but honestly, I don’t know it. I haven’t got a clue, even after 4 hours, what’s going on. There’s some stuff about cyberbrains and a secret order of battle monks and mutants and things but lord, it’s babble. Every piece of dialogue in the game either sounds like it’s dropped from the mouth of a 5 year old who’s swallowed the complete collection of INSERT SCI-FI AUTHOR OF CHOICE HERE or actually, really from the mouth of a 5 year old. Which is, naturally, a completely bonkers thing. Nothing seems to make sense but it carries on as if it really does have this epic story to tell and with an unshakeable belief in its own logic that means you can’t help but admire it. It’s bollocks but its fleshed out bollocks. With swords. And decapitations.

It’s hideously rough around the edges too. The dialogue is bollocks, the graphics at least 5 years out of date and of course, with it being a Source game, the load times can be monstrous. It’s stupendously hard at times thanks to crackshot AI and infinitely spawning enemies (weirdly, there’s an option to control the amount of respawning enemies but not to turn the bloody things off). Thanks to this, it took me around 15 minutes to walk from one end of a small corridor to the other. It was like Borderlands all over again except drastically less shit and with less fucking identikit rocks. And more monsters as drugs than any game ever.

Now, despite all this madness, I’m 4+ hours in and still not thinking “fuck this, I’m turning it off” – unlike Fallout 3 which beggared belief at just how abysmal a game could be. Because EYE is completely batshitting overreaching in every way it can. It might not be able to be DEUS EX:THE DEUS EXING 2000 but that’s not going to stop it trying. Even if it means diabolical dialogue, dodgy stealth, wonky stats and a whole world which makes even less sense than a conversation between Bill & Ben.

Shaving edges away in favour of the grand vision is fine. It’s a labour of love. It’s a broken labour of love but still, a labour of love all the same. You can’t escape that this is a game that someone, somewhere really wanted to make, finish and release. It’s crazed, insane, wrapped so deeply in its own world and lore that it forgot to introduce you at any point to it and really, who are you anyway and what are you doing in this game, eh eh eh? It makes some hideously archaic design decisions, the keyboard controls will make you weep as memories of 2003 bop into your bonce, the stats and inventory management will probably break your brain. Not because they’re difficult to sort or work out what things do, but y’know, they’ll break your brain. Yet you’ll still be able to tell that someone has put years of life into this.

And then there’s the tutorial videos baked into the game interface. I shouldn’t mention them but ‘know… there’s points early on where it’ll instruct you to watch a specific video and it’s pretty much guesswork as to what the right video may be as the descriptions don’t tally. You need to learn to find the right tutorial amongst the gibberish. This is probably wrongfaced but that’s EYE for you. NEVER EXPLAIN. You don’t need the tutorials anyway, luckily. This is gaming bat country and no amount of instruction will help you make sense of anything that the game does or wants you to do. Did I mention the bit where I had to go and collect someones brain in a suitcase before it was sold on the black market? No. See. It’s all like that. Bonkers. You can’t teach someone to be prepared for this stuff.

It’s fifteen quid and I don’t regret a penny of it so far. I’m not sure I could recommend it but I’d like to hope that you’d take a look at it all the same. Also, hopefully, if you’re one of those freaks who hankers for a return to PC gaming circa 200x, hey, it’s your lucky day! They made this just for you.

*also this.
**actual technical term!