The Eternal Cylinder Review

Over the years, I’ve met Ace Team’s output with mixed emotions. Zeno Clash is a great first-person brawler, with a unique art style. Then there is SolSeraph, a bold attempt at ActRaiser, that fell short of its goals. It feels like either the Chile-based developer is on the verge of something really special, or something interestingly bad and you can’t tell which until you’ve sat down and played a few hours.

The Eternal Cylinder is set on a planet in which a full-blown extinction event is occurring. A giant cylinder is rolling over the surface and crushing all life as it goes. The only thing that can temporarily stop it are these large towers. The player takes control of a tribe of creatures called the Trebhum who have a mysterious connection with the towers and even the cylinder itself.

The game is a 3D platformer/exploration game. The Trebhums need to feed and drink, and they do that by sucking up items through their trunks and either eating them or storing them in their inventory. Each of the creatures can evolve from their basic form by picking up certain items – a stentorian plant can be absorbed so that the Trebhum can turn their trunk into a horn; a small burrowing creature can be consumed so that food is automatically converted to water.

These items are needed to navigate the traitorous terrain. Giant carnivorous beasts wander around happy to snap up wayward Trebhums, pockets in the ground are overflowing with poisonous clouds and then there is the cylinder itself. After exploring an area and completing the tasks that might be therein, the player must breach a barrier which weakens the towers and causes the cylinder to start rolling. The Trebhums must then move as quickly as possible to the next tower to make sure that don’t get squashed.

The Eternal Cylinder’s gameplay is solid, the way there is a steady stream of new things to do and consider makes reaching each new point compelling. Early on I just ran away from all creatures, but quickly the game introduced elements that required me to get close to them, either to scan them, or to help them. There is a simple levelling system that increases the water and food meter, the size of the party and so on. This encourages players to spend more time searching for minerals and discover other things along the way.

This is great because the world is a rich one to explore. Ace Team do yet another great job of building a believable alien world, one that feels unrecognisable from our own. Trees, plants, and creatures are twisted and mutated in ways that make them unique, and everything is coloured with a richness of hue that gives the game a distinct look.

The story is also elegantly delivered, it is about Trebhums trying to find their place in this frightening environment, and this could have been trite, but the writing holds it together by telling the tale in third person. It helps that the voiced narrator takes the lines seriously and seems to have an affection for the tale he is delivering. Also, rather than an invading coloniser exploring a verdant world, the The Eternal Cylinder is focused on preservation in the face of mechanical indifference. I don’t want to say too much but the explanation for the cylinder is terrifying and effective.

I said that it feels like Ace Team is on the verge of something special, The Eternal Cylinder is that something.

Conclusion

Ace Team have released their best game yet, a fusion of survival, exploration, and platforming. The world is stunning and begs to be explored.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Amazing world
  • The Trebhums are adorable
  • Great Spin on an extinction event story
  • Game grows with each step taken
Bad
  • The jump detection next to walls can be irritating
  • I hate that flying beast that instant kills my little fellas
8.6
Great
Gameplay - 8
Graphics - 9
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 9
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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