The Eternal Cylinder is basically Pikmin with Q*berts, but with a serious dose of cosmic horror looming over them all. Even as the adorable little aliens are just trying to survive their dangerous world to boot.
The Eternal Cylinder is an adventure-survival open-world exploration game. The only thing I’d add to that is that it has doses of the aforementioned cosmic horror mixed in, as well as a bit of puzzle-solving and platforming at times. ACE Team developed this game, while Good Shepherd Entertainment published it.
The Eternal Cylinder launched on September 30, 2021. You can purchase the game on its official website. Said website will take you to either the Epic Games Store, PlayStation Store, or the Xbox Store. The normal retail price is $29.99, so it’s not exactly an expensive game even if purchase it at full price.
The Eternal Cylinder: Gameplay
In The Eternal Cylinder, you play as an alien being called a Trebhum who has to survive in an alien world, eating while avoiding being eaten by the various predators. As dangerous as the predators are, they pale however compared to the Cylinder: a massive eldritch thing that wants only to crush you and all Trebhum. You can’t fight the Cylinder. You can only run from it. Specifically, you have to run to special towers that temporarily stop the Cylinder. The tower generates a forcefield in a defined area, where you can freely explore and gather resources without fear of the Cylinder. As soon as you leave this area though, the Cylinder starts back up again, and you have to run to the next tower. This is the core gameplay loop.
Your Trebhum themselves can run, jump, and roll around to get to places more quickly. They can suck things up with their trunks, and store them for later eating like an elephantine hamster (which you can do in-game or from the menu). You can also spray water with your trunk, which comes in handy for a variety of things. Various foodstuffs can give you mutations, which may or may not come in handy for survival. Various mutations can affect your eyes, body, skin, trunk, and legs for different effects.
While exploring in The Eternal Cylinder, you can also run across Trebhum temples. These temples give you more of the story, while also offering challenging puzzles to solve for greater rewards. It’s also possible for the Cylinder itself to give you surprises while exploring, and not in a good way. Especially when it can take away your mutations with an evil light. What does that mean? Well, why not play the game to find out?
The Eternal Cylinder: Plot Summary
In The Eternal Cylinder, you start as a newborn Trebhum just running from the Cylinder, with all of your actions narrated by an omnipresent Narrator. You gather some fellow Trebhums by hatching them from eggs, but your only goal seems to be just to keep running. Eventually, though, you run into a shrine, where you learn that the Trebhum have been trying to do the same for eons, but now need a new plan.
The first plan is to try and float over the Cylinder. Doing this results in you discovering that the land behind the Cylinder has been turned into a stormy wasteland, ruled by biomechanical servants of the Cylinder like the titanic Mathematician. Said being sucks you in, and you learn that the Cylinder is an eldritch force that wants to consume all life to eliminate suffering. Human civilization suffered this fate in the past, and now it wants to do the same to the Trebhum.
Your journey then leads you to find a Trebhum flying palace, which would allow you to escape the Cylinder forever. You succeed in making one fly, only for the Mathematician to interrupt. You bring it down, but the palace flies out of reach. Furthermore, killing the Mathematician damages the Cylinder somehow, causing its dreams to bleed out into the world, and turning it into a nightmarish place.
A New Hope?
Fortunately, you get help in the form of the Celestial Trewhaala: massive serpents that stretch down from the sky. After you relearn to speak with them, you learn that they’re an alien race the Trebhum had once befriended in the past, only for both of them to suffer the wrath of the Cylinder. After helping the Trewhaala preserve their culture, they agree to lift you up to the floating palace. The Mathematician though, still not dead, jumps up to the palace and tries to kill you all. The Trewhaala intervene though and manage to bring down the Mathematician.
Heading into the Mathematician one last time, you learn that the Narrator for the entire story is actually a human trapped in the Mathematician’s mind. With the Cylinder’s influence weakened after this latest defeat, the Narrator takes control of the Mathematician. Using its immense strength, he strikes at the Cylinder and triggers a massive explosion. When the dust settles, the Mathematician is gone, and the Cylinder has a gaping wound in it and is apparently dead. With the Cylinder no more, the Trebhum resettle their world. They restore the old biomes and wildlife lost to the Cylinder, and live happily ever after. And so ends The Eternal Cylinder.
The Eternal Cylinder: The Good
The Eternal Cylinder features a fun gameplay experience with its mix of survival, exploration, and puzzle mechanics. Seriously, you can get lost for hours just roaming the landscape for things to find. Despite the gameplay loop with the forcefields, it never feels constraining. The area the forcefield encloses is usually so large that you almost never feel like you’re trapped in a linear game.
The landscape itself is wonderfully alien, with plants, animals, and even scenery reminiscent of the weirder worlds of Spore and No Man’s Sky. The music only adds to the scenery, with each biome having its own distinct theme music to it. The Cylinder and its servants have their own unique and terrifying theme music as well. Heck, even some predators have their own theme music too due to how ferocious they are.
Tying it all together is the story. The story is quite dramatic and rather poignant at times. The Trebhum themselves provide a bit of levity to the story through their actions and sounds though, along with the Narrator’s rather dry comments at times.
The Eternal Cylinder: The Bad
My only real complaint about The Eternal Cylinder is the inability to go back to previous biomes to collect things from those biomes. Certain mutations need specific foods to protect against the Cylinder’s servants’ light, but those specific foods only grow in specific biomes. The Infected biome is supposed to have all of them. However, a key few are actually missing. Thus, unless you’ve been very careful about having specific foods, you can’t protect all of your mutations.
Your Trebhum too can have really frustrating AI and pathfinding. Fortunately, the anti-frustration features really help. Your Trebhum teleport behind you after you go a certain distance from them. This will save your Trebhum from things like falling into poison gas pits, or getting hit by area-effect attacks. Most of the time.