I’ve never been a big player of strategy games throughout my gaming career, but this has certainly changed in the past year. So for a non-strategy enthusiast who happens to like the genre without being hardcore, Core Engage’s New Cycle is a welcome opportunity to become fully immersed in what makes a good strat game tick. While it won’t dazzle you with action-packed drama and fight scenes like the mainstream games out there, New Cycle manages to reel you in by putting the fate of a struggling community in your hands.
Set in a crumbling world hanging by a thread after an apocalyptic solar flare, it’s up to you as the leader of a community on the brink of its demise to ensure the people live to see many winters ahead. Using the surviving villagers and the land on which you stand, you’re tasked with overseeing the harvesting of vital resources while battling the ever-changing seasons, the health and morale of your people, and unexpected events that can turn the fate of your community on its head.
Straight off the bat, it was clear that New Cycle was ready, willing, and able to provide me with the ability to really customise my experience with the game. Not only am I able to select from the four different game modes, but I’ll also get to decide on the biome and map I’m dealing with. In regards to game modes, you’ve got Sandbox, which protects you from unexpected weather events and outside threats; Campaign, which is the game’s main story mode; Sanity, which throws you in the midst of an advanced settlement ravaged by disease; and Old Ways, which puts you in command of a mid-sized community that just lost its first settlement. On top of that, each of the four maps, Meadow, Tundra, Steppe, and Mountain, all have specific benefits and hindrances that’ll dictate certain survival factors, ranging from seasonal morale boosts to scarcity of certain resources. In a way, the map you choose will also have an impact on how challenging your session is, meaning game difficulty is not just determined by the standard difficulty settings.
The gameplay itself is pretty user-friendly and offers a level of complexity that isn’t completely off-putting. You’ll need to wrap your head around the skill tree and what each upgrade has to offer and how best to manage the health and morale of your people, but thankfully the Sandbox and Campaign modes offer you enough guidance to find your feet. The building mechanics are simple and there is a great “layer view” system that enables you to see what resources hide beneath you. What’s more, if you’re putting a building down to collect resources, the map will let you know the best place to put it with its pop-up icons. So if you’re planning to build a well to collect water, you’ll want to ensure there are water icons in the area of effect or the well won’t be doing you any good.
New Cycle is jam-packed with a plethora of different building types and a few villager types to invest your time, energy, and resources into. Each structure has a specific purpose and is necessary for the further growth of your community, ranging from Gathering Camps for the collection of wood and stone to Taverns to entertain your residents and more structures that promote technological advancements. Not all of them are available from the start, of course, which is where the development tree comes in. Collect enough resources and your villagers will learn new skills and open pathways for the production of new tech and the production of better resources. Your goal is to continue to grow and develop your village into a bustling city, running through all of the game cycles, ushering in a new age of growth for your people with every advancement. For fans of the game Frostpunk, New Cycle has a feel reminiscent of that, just with a piping-hot, world-ending solar flare element to it.
While it can be a cosy game at points, New Cycle also has more than its fair share of challenges. Much like what I’d imagine it would be like to manage a survival camp post-apocalypse, you’ll never be without some obstacles to overcome. If you’re not being smashed by a brutal winter or hit with an unexpected disease, then the villagers themselves will be coming to you with demands revolving around their needs. Just when you think you’ve got everyone fed, clothed, housed, and watered, the brutal reality of the situation you find yourself in comes back to humble you.
New Cycle has something for everyone, from first-time strategy gamers to true connoisseurs of game management, evident in the four different game modes you can experience. So whether you want a cosy city-building experience or to engross yourself in a realistic take on what you might expect from a struggle-to-survive type scenario, this strategy title has you covered.