The Cycle Early Access First Impression
Let’s start this off right, The Cycle is NOT a battle royale game. This is not a game that will reward you for killing other players, even though they’re around and you can. Instead, The Cycle is described as a PvEvP game, that’s player vs environment vs player. Coming from developers YAGAR (known for Spec Ops: The Line), this is a questing looter shooter, like a fast paced Borderlands. Much like every other free-to-play multiplayer game out there, The Cycle features a “battle pass”, which they call the Fortuna Pass. You can pay for it with Aurum (their in-game, real money purchased currency) so you can have cool looking stuff to battle on Fortuna III. Fotruna III is a monster riddled planet with a very temperamental environment. You’re looking at storms that cause giant crystal shards and massive bolts of lightning to come from the sky. The good part of this, those crystals are worth money and you, well you’re contracted to collect all sorts of money making materials in your twenty minute bursts while on this planet.
Your character is what they call a “prospector”. Someone who is sent down to Fortuna III to complete contracts, most of which mean collecting things that your employer deems is worth money. Your challenges will change from game to game and new ones will pop up during your playthrough but you’ll be given a brief idea of what you’re aiming for during the preparation screen.
In terms of challenges, you’re almost always met with adversity, normally AI monsters who seem to not like machinery and burst out of the ground to stop you. You can collect crystals which provide different amounts, higher amounts take longer and spawn stronger monsters, while the lower ones only spawn a few creatures and finish pretty quick. Once you get the hang of the start of the round and start collecting more blueprints (we’ll come back to this), you’ll start to buy better guns sooner and be ready for higher level challenges earlier. Remember, you only have twenty minutes per game.
Through finishing contracts and leveling up your reputation with one of three companies, you pick who you want to work for at the start of each game and you’ll earn blueprints. Blueprints are used to craft new guns, gadgets, and other secondary items. You’ll feel like you’re at a disadvantage in the beginning, but it all adds up very quickly.
Crafted items are used in your loadout, which can be changed at any time while in the main screen or while in the preparation screen. To give you an idea, my current load out consists of an SMG, a bolt action rifle that is rarely used, a grenade launcher, and an LMG. For gadgets I use shock grenades, a stim boost that provides health and health regen, and a heavy turret, which if you intend to play alone, I highly suggest. Items in your loadout are purchased with credits you receive during the game. Credits are earned from completing contracts, killing monsters, killing players (although, not enough to be worth the hassle), and can be found in buildings and other man-made structures.
What I would argue is probably the smartest and most well implemented feature is the party up system that’s used in solo play. Whenever you see another player out doing their thing, you can offer to team up. Teaming up has its advantages, like having two people to shoot monsters and collect items for contracts, but there’s a catch. While normally you would have a shield, you no longer do in a team.
On top of that, you and your teammate only receive 70% of what you normally would from collection anything for a contract. For instance, if you collect the aforementioned crystals and you go for a low level easy one that is normally worth one hundred, you and your teammate only get seventy. This is a big deal because to win, your goal is to complete the most contracts. Contracts provide stars. The first star for collecting crystals is for collecting two hundred eighty of them. As a solo player, three easy crystals is a star, whereas teamed up it now takes four. This number gets higher with each contract complete, but also provides more stars.
As the game progresses and time ticks on, it becomes easier to find higher level jobs to complete, making it easier to get higher tier contracts completed. The issue is, stronger monsters also appear throughout the world, naturally. Stronger monsters hurt more and take a lot more bullets. There are also some new monsters as you get into the higher levels. At low levels, Squatters, a typical melee enemy, and Spitters, a typical ranged enemy, are normally what will be encountered.
Going into higher levels though, you’ll start to get stuff like Wardens, who shoot what is basically like a grenade, Brutes, a big, very strong, bullet sponge of a melee enemy, and Howlers, an enemy who health and powers up all the other monsters around it. The dynamics of the world also start to change, at the start of the game, the world is bright and sunny with blue skies and as time progresses the wind picks up, lightning bolts start to hit the ground around you, and the sky gets dark and ominous. This is probably the neatest feature that almost any game could implement, but none do to this level of detail.
Aside from those mentioned above, there are other dangers in the world. For instance, there are some contracts that require you to handle power generators around large buildings. Most man-made structures around Fortuna III are protected by Con-Bots, robots that wield guns and grenade launchers. They both protect the building and just roam around until you go pick a fight or are spawned in when you try to start activating power stations. The other enemies are ticks, big monstrous enemies with different abilities. Red ones that explode, green ones that also explode, but into gas that will hurt if you walk through it, and white ones that explode and the explosion spawns a bunch of the other two. Okay so maybe the abilities aren’t too different, but they are still varied in their own right.
The last subject to touch on is the map. The map itself, seems large and does genuinely take quite a while to get around. Yet, you will never fail to find other players. You will always feel as if there are other people around you, doing their own thing and hopefully, if you’re lucky, leaving you alone. You can buy a vehicle that is automatically included in your loadout to get around the world quicker, although typically there isn’t too much reason to until very close to the end of the game. To this point, I’ve only ever spawned in a vehicle once.
There are different sections to the map, nothing too drastic though. The bottom of the map is mostly mountainous and dirt, while the rest is more vegetated. Around the map are beaches as it appears you’re on an island, as per usual with these style of games. But the beaches aren’t just to deter you from venturing out of the map, there is stuff to do and things to kill all the way to the edge of the map.
To be quite honest with you, this is the most fun I’ve had playing a “battle royale” style game alone. While the game may still only be in early access, it’s easy to see that YAGAR are out to make something great, and they absolutely deserve to have this game explored by the masses. The only portion of the game I have yet to properly explore is the paid version of the Fortuna Pass because as of writing this, there’s only three days left in the season. I’m excited to see what comes with the new seasons and new big updates, so be sure to stick around to Way Too Many Games as we will continue to report on The Cycle’s progress.