The Cycle: Frontier feels like a game that’s been dropkicked through Google Trends, with its Fortnite aesthetic and Hunt: Showdown stakes. Survival, crafting, an evolving story that’s teased via environmental cues… You know the drill by now. But despite it all being more than a little derivative, its particular combination of influences works, and I can see it carving out its own dedicated audience among the battle royale and survival games elite.
Created by Yager – the developer behind Spec Ops: The Line and the canceled version of Dead Island 2 – The Cycle offers up a persistent world to drop into, loot, and escape from before you’re killed. Everything here wants to murder you: aliens, other players, your own grenades, and even fall damage. Knowing when to bank your spoils is key to victory.
Like Hunt: Showdown, the world is full of sound traps and AI enemies that are positioned to draw players together. Unlike Hunt: Showdown, this world is persistent and only resets after a certain number of hours have passed. That means other players will be in various states of play when you land. Some, like you, will have just dropped in. Some will be looking to extract. Some will be looting or fighting. Others might be hunting for players to fight. This persistence makes every drop feel unpredictable, which solves the issue you get in Hunt where high-rank players have an idea of spawn locations and player rotations. In The Cycle, you never know what to expect.
During one encounter, my squad gets caught at the bottom of a hill and there’s another squad of players at the top, taking potshots. As we’re about to push up, we’re set upon by a group of acid-spitting aliens. It’s not long before we’re all encased in hardened glue and ferried off-planet minus all our loot.
Rather than scavenging for guns when you land, you choose your loadout while aboard a space station orbiting the planet of Fortuna III. You strap on armor, choose your guns, and load up on ammo and meds. If you want an edge over your opponents, the best weaponry needs to be crafted, and crafting materials are found on each excursion. It creates an intoxicating loop of dropping down, looting, extracting, crafting, and doing it all again with a better loadout.
On top of this, you’ve got your own room aboard the space station. As you accrue more money and components, you can expand your living quarters to give it more capabilities and make it look nicer. It’s a nice little extra to work towards outside of the main gameplay loop.
There are also various Destiny-style missions you can take on. Some ask you to retrieve specific components, while others ask you to kill a certain amount of a specific alien type. Complete these missions and you can head to the quest giver about the station to get a reward. It’s a smart addition to the game, since it helps make it feel like you’re always progressing even when you’ve just been mugged by another squad.
The game still doesn’t have a release date, but that’s because Yager still has a way to go. Still, there’s a lot of potential here and the team could be onto a winner when it does finally launch.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.
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