What I love about the gaming industry is just how creative and outrageous some games turn out to be. It can sometimes be a complete flop or a best seller, yet I appreciate the leap of faith those developers take to make their visions come true. ACE Team & Good Shepherd Entertainment’s The Eternal Cylinder is such a unique amalgamation of genres and world building that I am pleased that they took the time to explore.
The Eternal Cylinder gives you a herd of adorably strange creatures called Trebhums to control on a surreal alien world where all life must face the threat of… the Cylinder, a gargantuan rolling structure of ancient origin which crushes everything in its path. This cylinder will destroy literally all that you see in its path if your Trebhum does not make it to the next temple checkpoint to stop its devastation. There is no way around this cylinder and no other way to survive. The story behind the cylinder’s origin is a mystery that your Trebhum will reveal as your progress further into this weird yet beautiful world that truly feels alive.
The Trebhums are small, very weak creatures compared to the massive, odd creatures that you see throughout your journey. It’s a massive world to explore full of unique flora and fauna. One creature that freaked me out looked almost like a walking Pac-Man with its massive mouth, and teeth, aimed at the ground so it can take a bite of you easily. Your Trebhums start at the bottom of the food chain but can eat a variety of flora and fauna to evolve with dozens of new attributes and abilities to overcome obstacles and escape danger, kind of like the game Spore developed by Maxis, only more simple, streamlined, and strategic. These mutations stack, allowing your herd to grow with a range of emergent skill combos and creature designs for different gameplay opportunities. For example, some creatures that have very long, strong legs can be eaten and have that Trebhum grow those same legs to jump much higher than before. Another creature may have fur that, if eaten, will give your Trebhum fur so you can traverse through the harsh snow environments you will likely run into. How many games require you to change into a square shape to solve a puzzle? Eternal Cylinder does.
Another style of gameplay you may be reminded of is Pikmin. You can gather a family of Trebhum to use and switch between whenever you’d like. Customize their names and evolve them individually however you may need. Since there is a limit to how many mutations one Trebhum may have, it will be wise to have a few friends at your side to choose from if a particular puzzle or challenge presents itself. Some barriers and interactions require more than one Trebhum so make sure they survive the trek through the harsh environments.
Managing each Trebhum is key to progression but there are also survival/resource management mechanics that are just as important to focus on. Food and water meters affect the health and skills of your Trebhum and if you’re not careful, they will expire. This kind of gameplay can be overwhelming if not balanced correctly but luckily, you only need to focus on the one creature you are currently controlling. The rest will take care of themselves mostly, and you don’t even have to wait on them to be behind you to continue. This was a welcomed feature since many hate the “escort-mission” style mechanics of many games in the past. It doesn’t mean you can neglect them either though. They still have their own health to worry about. The sense of the danger and the unknown that surrounds every area gives a good sense of fear and caution when exploring. Additionally, when that cylinder starts rolling close to you, try looking back. You will truly get the sense of fear and scale this monstrosity causes when you see the devastation coming your way. You either adapt or perish! There are some weird creature and environment designs that are, in my opinion the best part of immersing yourself in the game. The cylinder is not the only danger, and these creature designs can be fear inducing!
The world exploring aspect of The Eternal Cylinder left me a bit wanting. The game isn’t precisely open world. Players will find themselves jumping from one temple to another solving puzzles to progress. Each temple area will block you in a force field surrounding a fairly large area that will either restrict you from crossing or will start the cylinders rampage of destruction again, which will have you running for your life to make it to the next checkpoint, missing out on many exploration opportunities. Also, less exploration possibilities occur if you don’t have the right evolution traits to traverse through certain environments like the snow, desert, gas pockets or lakes. Jumping and aiming your water gun/nose can be a bit of a challenge as well. It isn’t precise and your Trebhum may end up stuck in the environment from time to time. So, the controls can be a bit wonky, but player can get used to it, much like a creature would when it first spouted frog legs to jump further. Aside from mutations, however, are stat upgrades that can give your family a boost in health, stamina, hunger, and thirst meter, amongst other things. One quick, final mention is that these creatures don’t speak but the narrator keeps the story interesting. It feels like someone reading a legendary tale brought to life by your actions and story progression.
For its price, this game can be a fun, quick pick up and play gem. If some controls were more precise and reliable, I wouldn’t mind it being a full priced game but its wonky-ness can sometimes ruin the immersion. This one-in-a-galaxy survival adventure game featuring a gargantuan rolling cylinder of death is available now on PC via the Epic Games Store, Xbox One, and PlayStation®4 for $29.99, but PC players can grab the game for 10% off now through October 18.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of The Eternal Cylinder for the PS4 provided by ACE Team.