EYE Divine Cybermancy is an unpolished game which manages to flesh out a wildly interesting universe.
EYE Divine Cybermancy is an obscure indie FPS with RPG elements that few have heard of and even fewer can deeply appreciate. Produced in 2011 by Streum On Studio using Valve’s Source engine, EYE Divine Cybermancy could almost be mistaken for an overgrown Source mod if not for its fascinating universe and unique aesthetic. Where else can you find constant Illuminati symbolism mixed with garb of ancient samurai and cyberpunk power armor?
A Bewilderingly Complex and Poorly Explained Plot Can Make a Game More Interesting … Right?
The first thing that a player will notice about EYE Divine Cybermancy is a lack of explanation about basic game concepts and plot. This lack of explanation spirals out of control very quickly, leaving far more questions than answers about exactly what is going on around the player. From character creation onward, the player is expected to make sense of ambiguous tooltips to guide their decisions, resulting in a uniquely foreign and alien sensation that is well-suited to the game’s setting in the far future.
The tradition of keeping the player in the dark continues throughout the game, although it is clearly intentional: a wealth of information about the game’s universe and characters exists in various data terminals and through conversations with NPCs. At character creation, the player is prompted to splice their character’s DNA with various traits. Splicing is a semi-random process which ends up dictating the player’s stats, which are used to calculate health and damage rolls during gameplay. Priming the player for one of the game’s main plot themes, the player is expected to make serious and irreversible decisions with a minimum amount of information and practically zero context.
Following stat selection, the game begins with the player awakening and gaining control of their character in a deeply frightening land of limbo. Limbo exists as a small field surrounded by gargantuan crystal spikes, impregnable save for a 20-foot-high portal, framed in stone. Walking through the portal sends the player back to where they last saved the game, or, in the case of the first play through, the first actual level of the game. It’s ambiguous whether limbo is meant to be part of the game’s plotline or whether it is merely a technical artifact to give the player a chance to get situated before dropping them into wherever they saved last.
The setting of EYE Divine Cybermancy takes place in the far future. Humans have been genetically and mechanically altered to the point of being barely recognizable. All humans are now connected to the internet via implants in their bodies. Monstrous genetic engineering experiments gone-wrong now roam Earth, occupying sewers and overrun cities. An ill-defined force of nature called the “metastreumonic” force has been mastered by human technology, and is used ubiquitously for many banal and spectacular purposes, ranging from turning dust into lunch to spawning ten story tall demons. In many of the game’s side missions, demons spawned from metastreumonic rituals are discussed as though they are a petty inconvenience despite their massive destructive potential.
In the Divine Cybermancy, There’s More Than Meets the EYE
Governments, corporations, religions, and nations have melted away, leaving only a few powerful factions which each have organs approximating the old world’s organizations. The player begins the game as a member of EYE, a religious cult (the titular Divine Cybermancy) endowed by their corporate owner with advanced cybernetic implantation, gene splicing, and metastreumonic technology. EYE itself is subservient to the Secreta Secretorum corporate conglomerate, for which it conducts military operations and assassinations against rival factions and, sometimes, aliens. Naturally, we’re dropped far more hints than facts about EYE’s contact with aliens.
EYE itself is notable for being the descendants of the Bavarian Illuminati which, in the game’s plotline, have controlled Earth and the other human worlds for millennia. All of EYE’s bases are adorned with statues, tapestries, and braziers in the shape of the Illuminati’s Eye of Providence symbol, as seen on the dollar bill. This illuminati aesthetic makes for a very confusing sight when paired with EYE’s ubiquitous powered armor, which looks very similar to ancient samurai. Visuals of Christianity are also quite common, with many suits of ornate powered armor adorned with halos and crucifixes. EYE views itself as an order of religious monks whose purpose is to maintain an account of the “real” human history — the story of the Illuminati guiding mankind through the ages– and to continue to shepherd the human race toward prosperity.
It’s frequently unclear whether EYE is merely an organ of the Secreta Secretorum or vice versa, with members of EYE worriedly discussing Secretorum approval while simultaneously being derisive toward their understanding of EYE. Much of the game focuses on the power struggle inside of EYE between two separate orders of illuminates: the Culter Dei and the Jian Shang Di. Predictably, the player is caught in the middle of this ever-escalating struggle. Perhaps the biggest failing of EYE’s plot is that it’s unclear what the ideological differences between the two factions are. The game’s plot sees their quarrel spiral from disgruntlement to violent civil war over the protestation of a few who try to keep the peace.
Crazy Setting, Not So Crazy Shooting
EYE Divine Cybermancy’s gameplay mixes typical FPS gunplay with RPG style spellcasting (couched as metastreumonics) and resource management. Aside from health, the player must also keep careful track of their energy and “mental balance” during combat. Health can be hard to come by, but gradually the player gains abilities to help restore health. Energy is used to sprint or cast metastreumonic spells, and regenerates slowly without outside aid. Mental balance is partially consumed by casting spells, but regenerates quickly. Mental balance is also sapped by taking damage, participating in disturbing conversations where the integrity of EYE is impugned or prestigious members of EYE are shown to be frauds, or by staying at low health for too long. When mental balance is low, the player loses the ability to cast metastreumonic spells and operate complex weapons and machinery.
Equipment and gene mods are a major part of EYE. Purchasable at the EYE temple that serves as the player’s base, suits of armor and sets of weapons can be purchased with the game’s currency, Brouzouf. Gene mods are unlocked as the player gains levels, and are often found in the wild during missions. Aside from finding and purchasing items, players can assign scientists to research new technologies while they are out on missions. Scientific research occurs in realtime, meaning that certain unlocks can take hours of gameplay before they are ready.
The gunplay in EYE is forgettable, with AI enemies mostly challenging for their high damage. Ammunition is frequently in short supply, despite the player being given as much as their inventory can hold at the start of each level. Metastreumonic spells don’t add much to spice up the combat, and much of EYE is a slow slog of combat through cyberpunk cityscapes and Illuminati temples. The gameplay of EYE is not what makes EYE memorable, so much as the universe itself.
In my experience, no other game has been able to unite so many disparate concepts and aesthetics into one package. Admittedly, EYE Divine Cybermancy itself was released despite being unfinished, according to the developers. Despite this, I don’t regret the couple of dollars that it cost to buy the game on Steam. If you’re looking for a bizarre adventure that will expand your imagination, definitely give EYE a try.
Featured Images: Streum On Studio