The Ceph (short for Cephalopods) also known as the Charybdis, are a mysterious race of technologically-advanced aliens on Earth for unknown reasons and they are the main antagonists in the Crysis first-person shooter videogame series. The Ceph arrived on Earth in the form of the Tunguska Event in Siberia, Russia and sought about taking over the world after being awakened by Jack Hangreave and Ri Chan Kyong. In Crysis 3, it is revealed that the true brains behind the Ceph invasion on Earth is the Alpha Ceph.
During Crysis, the Ceph (though not referred in name) were first "officially" discovered in the Lingshan Islands by a CIA-tracked archaeological expedition led by Dr. Rosenthal, who had unearthed fragments of their technology in other parts of the world. Subsequently, the North Korean government became aware of the alien technology and dispatched the Korean People's Army to secure the Lingshan Islands in an attempt to appropriate it. In turn, the United States, after being urgently contacted by Dr. Rosenthal, also sent American military forces backed by the USS Constitution carrier group in for a rescue mission and to prevent the KPA from acquiring the artifacts. Inevitably, the Koreans under General Kyong succeeded in activating the structure (which Kyong called a "temple") inadvertently awakening the Ceph, who shortly thereafter deployed an "ice sphere" which flash froze most of the island and killed everything that was within range.
Robotic Ceph forces overwhelmed US and NK forces remaining in Lingshan, forcing them to evacuate; the US sanctioned a limited nuclear strike against the ice sphere, but instead of dispersing, the sphere absorbed the nuclear explosion and expanded, prompting the Ceph to send a massive counterattack that sank the entire US fleet.
This particular army was composed almost entirely of robotic units or heavily armored weaponized "exosuits". Weapons seemed to follow a pattern of ambient energy absorption: practically all units had the ability to drain nearby electrical sources, and more direct weapons came in the form of freeze rays and high-powered icicle launchers, as well as energy-based explosives and more "traditional" energy beams.
During the Crysis Comic, the bipedal Ceph exoskeletons used in the New York Incursion 2 years later seem to be available on Lingshan as well. However, the tentacles are black and the armor seems be slightly different than what's seen in New York. Other variants are also seen, such as a small drone-like walker and a giant bipedal exoskeleton. There are also living tentacles inside the alien ship, which no longer has an anti-gravitational field. The ice sphere is notably absent in the comic, though it is possible for it to be simply out of view.
The Ceph in Crysis 2, which still relate to the aliens from the original games, appear to employ different strategies and technologies than the group at Lingshan, as well as having a different morphology. They seem to have gone so far as to actually mimic human combatants, relying of more "conventional" forces such as dedicated infantry, armor and air units. They have replaced their hovering trooper automatons with cybernetic soldiers composed of what appears to be an alien being encased in a suit of armor that grants it mobility, agility, great strength as well as a diversity of weapons. These weapons appear to function via some kind of projected energy; however they might as well be a sort of projectile, since they are referred to as "shells" in Crysis: Legion.
These soldiers come in Grunt, Stalker, and Heavy classifications, as well as some Command variants. Their Hunters and Scouts have been replaced with huge, heavily-armed tripod tanks known as Pingers, and gunships armed with missiles and rapid-fire weapons that mimic human military helicopters. Troop deployment is done via the use of specialized Ceph dropships, to transport and deploy troops via drop-pods.
The Ceph that emerged from underneath New York City also deployed what appeared to be a weaponized plague against the inhabitants. This "spore" was invariably fatal upon even the most limited contact, and was generally deployed via massive mechanical "spears" that emerged from underground, disseminating a thick cloud of nanite-viruses into the air. Crysis: Legion, however, reveals that the "Manhattan Virus" functioned as far more than a bioweapon for the aliens. Most of their technology was covered in receptor proteins for the spore; it is described as an "antibody system" that makes a desired area of the Earth suitable for alien habitation by eliminating hazardous macrofauna (humans), and the Nanosuit 2 was eventually modified to re-program the spore to attack the alien biology.
Their purpose is also expanded upon in the novel. Hargreave speculates that, since the Ceph have such advanced technology that can create practically anything they can think of, their sole interest is in the things they can't think of, namely surprising proteins and organisms that evolution gives rise to over millions of years of adaptation. If this is the case, then the Ceph stationed on Earth are only an automated system programmed to wake up every once in while to scout the planet for scientific data that might be useful.
After the events in Crysis 2, Cephs from the various hideouts across the globe attacked on humanity, but mostly beaten back by the modified nanites. With the Alpha Ceph caged and harvested for energy by C.E.L.L., Cephs in general lost the guidance of the central hivemind, their activities were largely reduced and some, like the Stalker units, revert to animalistic behaviour. Such inactivity led to humanity at large believed the Ceph threat is over.
However, further research by C.E.L.L., plus events unfolded in Crysis 3, the true nature of the Ceph's activities finally revealed.
Ceph's colonization process take place in three stages:
Stage One would be like those who were found on Lingshan Island, generic identical to their homeworld in M33 galaxy, units largely reliant to the mothership for energy, meanwhile units fan out to harvest energy - any and all kind - to give birth/create/awake an central intelligence, the "Alpha Ceph". With the nuclear strike at in Crysis, the Alpha Ceph came to being, and the Ceph proceed into Stage Two.
Stage Two Cephs, as seen in Crysis 2 and Crysis 3, are no longer as reliant on the mothership for energy supplies, with their units largely adapted to deal with local environment and native species' resistance. Such learning and adpotations goes beyond exoskeleton and platform designs, but devices that's analogue to those use by the local species, like auto turrets and "smart" landmines.
If local resistance proved too resilient for Stage Two Cephs to deal with, Stage Three with commence - the Alpha Ceph, with its immense energy supplies, opens and maintains a wormhole in the planet's orbit. This wormhole is connected to the Ceph's homeworld in the M33 galaxy, and from there comes forth their warrior caste - Cephs dedicated purely to warfare - to completely annihilate any and all species that stands in the Ceph's way.
In the course of Crysis 3, Prophet would unwittingly released the Alpha Ceph from its confinement, but ultimately killed it in battle inside its underground lair; then in orbit, Prophet commandeered an Archangel defense satellite, used its energy beam to take down the massive Ceph warship coming through the wormhole. The warship's subsequent detonation closed the wormhole, and supposedly ended the Ceph invasion.
- It is revealed in Crysis: Legion that the official designation humans have given the species is "Charybdis". "Ceph" is a moniker given to them due to their resemblance to earthly cephalopods.
- The feet, specifically the talons, of the exo suits and Pingers used by the Ceph in Crysis 2 bear a resemblance to those of General Grievous, a character in the Star Wars franchise.