It’s only March, but I’m going to say that The Eternal Cylinder will be one the most innovative games of 2021. This action-adventure with survival elements puts the players in the shoes of cute and tiny creatures called Trebhums. Their objective is simple — save their world from the evil Cylinder. However, this basic premise is soon revealed to be a memorable odyssey.
Trebhums are defenseless — the only thing they can do is roll away from danger and squirt water from their trunks. The Cylinder is literally a giant tube that rolls over the terrain, crushing everything in its path. The player can stall the progress of the cylinder by activating special towers while searching for a more permanent solution, but there are greater meanings and messages behind this apparently-simple story.
The cylinder is made of metal and its minions are half human/half machine, so the symbolic nature of these creatures is subject to interpretation. They might represent modern humans and their industrialized destruction of wildlife through consumerism and its consequences, such as global warming. They might also represent political systems and their efforts to unite the world under one school of globalist thought at the cost of destroying diversity. On the other hand, the Trebhums are small but their power comes from unity and numbers — they stand up against the powerful cylinder and fight for change despite the odds.
Unlike most games, The Eternal Cylinder deliberately refuses to rely on heroism as its main theme. It’s an adventure, but also about celebrating the beauty of diversity and difference, and the devs put much emphasis on the fact that there are 50 different mutations with defensive, offensive and exploration capabilities, and the symbolism here is obvious.
Mechanically, Trebhums are bipedal and round creatures, so, players can explore the world by rolling around like a ball or by walking in third person perspective.
The AI of the Trebhum herd is well-designed, and they will easily follow the leading member of the group controlled by the player. These creatures need to eat and drink on a regular basis, so finding food while staying away from dangerous creatures is the core element of play.
It might feel a bit too long and too many of the tasks might feel fetchquesty, but I found the narrative side to be quite profound, and it easily kept my interest. In this regard, I found the survival mechanics to be easy to understand and deal with, The Eternal Cylinder also provides options to reduce the difficulty for those who want to have a story-driven experience.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most during my time in The Eternal Cylinder were the never-ending dangers of its world. There are unique hazards in each ecosystem, along with different tools to overcome those challenges. Each area is also host to unique diversity of flora and fauna, from tropical jungles to snowy plains.
The Eternal Cylinder is everything that I would want from an indie title — full of new ideas, coherent design, and an attempt to draw our attention to social and political phenomena around us — it’s art. This remarkable story, its living world and holistic mechanics all combine to make The Eternal Cylinder an unforgettable experience.
Look forward to The Eternal Cylinder‘s full release later this year on PC and consoles.
— Ali Arkani