The Eternal Cylinder Review
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Review Context: I really enjoy trying out new and unique game experiences with good narration. This also seems like a more fleshed out version of Spore.
Date of Playthrough: October 2021
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-9700F CPU @ 3.00GHz
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy provided for free.
The Eternal Cylinder, developed by ACE Team, is one of the most unique video game experiences I’ve had in recent years. Your goal is to outrun and survive the eternal cylinder, essentially a steamroller, that crushes everything in its path while you control creatures called Trebhums to avoid destruction. As you control the Trebhum creatures, you’ll be able to explore, adapt, plus evolve and mutate your creatures into what you want or need them to be in a specific scenario. The story of the Trebhum unfolds and is narrated when you’re not running for your Trebhum life trying to escape the eternal cylinder. All of these elements mixed together create a lot of moving parts that help make The Eternal Cylinder an interesting and somewhat player-defined experience.
In the very beginning, you control a single Trebhum to learn the basics of the game, like how to consume materials and creatures to gain new abilities. You quickly learn that once the eternal cylinder starts moving you better run or get crushed. Your constant goal is to always reach and activate a tower ahead that prevents the cylinder from moving. Although certain story events happen from time to time that I wont spoil here, generally, once the cylinder comes to a stop it’s up to the player to decide what to do next. In this alien world, many other Trebhum creatures are waiting to be rescued or hatched that you can add to your Trebhum family by turning in certain materials to random eggs or using special minerals to unlock in other locations. You can have many Trebhums, so long as you’re willing to invest the time in saving and keeping them alive.
Feel free to explore the areas in between towers as long as you want, just be careful not to cross a red line that triggers the cylinder to start moving again. Predators are also roaming the planet that you need to avoid, while you also have to manage food and water supply for your Trebhum family. Exploring can yield good results, as you can find shrines, caves, and a place to revive dead Trebhum or hold them in a cloud to save for later use. As you get further into the game, story events have to be completed before you can move to the next tower, otherwise you burn up and die. I had gotten used to moving to the next tower quickly and kept burning up and dying with a hot symbol over me without realizing a story event needed to be completed. In any other game this design would likely work. except there is a hot/cold weather system, so I kept thinking my deaths were weather-related and wasted time. A simple invisible wall is a better design choice here.
It took me a while to discover the upgrading shrines, but once I did, I started to like the game experience more. Trebhum shrines are used to upgrade health, stamina, water limit, stomach capacity (food), and maximum number of Trebhum you can control by spending special colorful minerals. This allows more customization to your experience. As you play the game, you’ll decide how to evolve your Trebhum family with the materials you find, but their basic abilities are constant. Each Trebhum has an elephant-like trunk that can vacuum items and other small creatures for storage and/or mutation, as well as the ability to spray water like a hose. There is sort of a Trine aspect to The Eternal Cylinder, because there are so many useful evolutions and mutations that you’ll be encouraged to have a large Trebhum family. One mutation might change your Trebhum into a cube, while another allows you to float and glide in the air. A mutation tree is introduced in the game to allow you to save them for use anytime without having to find the materials again. While useful, I think it’s introduced too late in the game and should be right at the beginning because some of the materials needed to save the mutations were no longer easy to find. It’s also hard to save materials in the inventory long term with limited space in Trebhums, as the basic Trebhum can only hold three items.
During your journey you’ll visit Elder Temples that not only add more lore to the story about the history of the Trebhum, but they are great puzzle zones. This was the most surprising aspect of The Eternal Cylinder for me. I did not expect so many great puzzles with creative approaches. They aren’t too difficult, but they add much more depth to the game experience. There will also be areas throughout the game where you wished you still had a certain mutation that you no longer have. This can come into play with a story event near the end of the game. After finishing the game it left me with a desire for more puzzles
Throughout the game I couldn’t help but marvel at the art direction and smoothness of the general gameplay experience. I think playing on a curved monitor helped make the experience much more immersive, along with the visual size disparities between the Trebhums and the large predators you have to avoid or defeat. The predator variety could be better, but it doesn’t really take too much of the experience away. Each Trebhum has a rolling ability that is used for movement, but it’s mostly used to run away from the cylinder. I spent most of my upgrade focus increasing my stamina meter so I can roll without interruption to the next tower, feeling like Sonic The Hedgehog. Amazingly, I never experienced any frame rate issues running away from the cylinder.
The controls, menus, and user interface in the game are generally very good, The game has a compendium with every item and creature encountered, which is very useful! I played with controller and switching between your Trebhums can be rough with the current system, Inventory management is decent but not perfect, as you can ‘t take a certain number of materials out of a stack size. This becomes an issue late in the game when Trebhum get the ability to mix items automatically, and if you want to save a few of the materials then you’re out of luck. This game might have the most generous save system I’ve ever experienced. If you die or load a game, you can choose between the last auto save, manual save, checkpoint, or previous checkpoint. Save scummers galore! I plead guilty to using my manual save as a game mechanic. I guess I would count this as controls, but generally the Trebhums you aren’t controlling always follow you, which breaks the immersive experience, especially when using a movement ability like floating that no other Trebhum has. This is forgivable because it would be too tedious without it this way. What isn’t forgivable is bad Trebhum AI! I had several occasions where a Trebhum was killed after I escaped safely from the cylinder. I also had an instance where a Trebhum was just standing in shallow poison water and not moving out of it.
The Eternal Cylinder is a great experience that can be a greater experience. By the end of the game the story felt like it was dragging and a bit tedious, but it was still very interesting and the voice narration added so much to it. The soundtrack adds a lot of spice to the game, especially during major story events. I would have preferred if all of the tutorial elements and upgrade systems were front-loaded and introduced in a more controlled manner earlier in the game. Despite my quibbles, ACE Team developed an amazing and unique experience that I recommend others to play at least once.
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