The Cycle brings a much needed refresh to Fortnite-style battle royales

At this point, you’ve probably made up your mind about battle royale games. Whether you regularly hit up Fortnite to see what’s new or you checked out in the PUBG days, it’s a similar story. You’ve probably seen a lot of what the genre has to offer, and each game has been pretty interchangeable. Yager, the team behind underappreciated Spec Ops: The Line and the ill-fated Dead Island 2, aim to change that. The team’s new battle royale, dubbed The Cycle, is about a lot more than just killing everything that moves. It’s about exploring a big world, prioritizing objectives, and trying to make it out alive. While there’s still plenty to polish as the game rolls towards open beta, there’s also plenty of potential in the final product.

In The Cycle, you play as a prospector mining the resources of Fortuna III. It’s a unique alien world that resets itself via violent weather patterns on a regular basis. Your job is to land in between bouts of the titular weather cycle and fulfill contracts. You can mine crystals, activate research drones, collect mushrooms, and plenty more. Just watch out for rival prospectors who aim to do the same thing. They’ve got no qualms with shooting you on site, taking your guns, and forging ahead on their own. Of course, you could team with these random strangers, but they’re just as likely to help as they are to stab you in the back, especially once the dropship is preparing for takeoff.

The Cycle Preview | Landing on solid ground

The Cycle Fortuna III

This all probably sounds more complicated than it is, but there is a learning curve once you jump in. You’ll need to play a few rounds of The Cycle before you understand what’s going on, and you’ll want to do it with a team. Whether that means playing with friends or matchmaking with strangers, having a buddy or two is paramount to learning the ropes. While there is a rather loud video that plays whenever you load up the current alpha build, it doesn’t do the best job of getting you in the game. Unless you follow someone around for a while, you’re going to spend a lot of time wandering into strangers who have no qualms with scoring a free kill.

It’s a shame how much focus there is on PvP combat. The other objectives, a seemingly randomized set that spawns in every round, are way more interesting than dealing with The Cycle‘s fiddly shooting. Granted, I was mostly playing on a controller and support for which doesn’t seem finalized in slightest. However, Yager’s past shooters weren’t famous because of tight controls, and that carries over here. There’s not a lot of weight to the proceedings, and it felt like luck whenever I scored a takedown. Some token down but not out mechanics carry over from other battle royales, but that’s not where The Cycle‘s strengths lie.

The Cycle Preview | For the unearthly hordes

The Cycle Gun Wildlife

Instead, most of the fun here fending off against the game’s vicious wildlife. Explosive pillbugs and stilted beasts guard every mineral deposit and collectible mushroom. Some beasts even hang back and shoot lightning mortars your way. The bigger the score, the more vicious the response by Fortuna III, and the more fun the game gets. It’s easy and exciting when wild forces overwhelm you. They punish loners, but they never posed more threat that a pair of like-minded teammates could handle. The looming threat of aggressive players noticing the commotion and the looming storms only added to the tense battles.

Speaking of, the weather effects are secretly the most impressive part of playing The Cycle. The whole game is about a planet constantly reshaping itself through intense storms, and you get to see that firsthand in the late-game. A sunny blue sky turns overcast, trees rustle in the breeze and debris seems to erupt from every field. As your time grows short, the storm comes into full effect and really pushes you towards your escape. Do you have time for one more objective, or should you book it for the incoming dropship? It’s like a ramped up version of Titanfall‘s post-match rush, only with the threat of actually losing it all always looming.

The Cycle Preview | A varied and illusive arsenal

The Cycle Laser Gun

Another big positive comes in what you’ll be using to hold Fortuna’s forces at bay. The arsenal of available weapons on the planet is already pretty varied. The standard assortment of assault rifles and long-range options stand alongside more unique tools of destruction. There’s a devastating burst rifle that shoots lasers instead of bullets and a teleportation device that is perfect for avoiding enemy prospectors. Weapon drops are rare unless you kill their former owners, and you can purchase a set number of unlocked guns with credits you get for completing objectives and killing beasts. You can unlock more guns for quick purchase between rounds using the game’s somewhat worrying crafting system.

It seems that Yager has designed a lot of weapons so that you have a lot to build to as you play the game. That’s fine until you remember that The Cycle is free-to-play. With such rare opportunities to improve your character for free during a match, players will rely on their crafted guns to stay competitive as the numbers start to dwindle. Players who invest more time are going to have way more options than players just starting out, doubly so if they invest some coinage. Unless there’s some pretty controlled matchmaking to keep veterans away from new prospectors, it’s going to be hard to get into this game at all as a free player.

Thankfully, there’s not a lot about The Cycle that seems finalized as of yet. While the developers promise an open beta “soon,” there’s no date set in stone. The gameplay at the core of the experience is both unique and solid. The PvP is just probably too much of a focus, especially in the solo modes. If Yager can place a little more attention to what makes the game unique and map out a way for free players to enjoy themselves, The Cycle should make an impact. It seems like the next logical step for graduating Fortnite players looking for an obsession with a bit more substance and a bit less Thanos.