Shooters aren’t something in my skill pool. Sure enough, I have played VALORANT for a long time and I was pretty good at Call of Duty back in the PS3 days, but I’ve never really “connected” with the genre the way others have. However, that is not to say that I don’t enjoy the gameplay.
I need to talk about my friend JSalcs here. Shooters are his jam, in particular, he plays Escape From Tarkov; a looter-shooter with doses of realism, and is probably one of the stand-out games in PvPvE setups. It certainly didn’t have much in the way of competition before The Cycle: Frontier dropped. Both got into the Closed Beta for it and played some games.
In The Cycle: Frontier, you play as a Prospector. You go down to the previously colonised planet Fortuna 3 to scavenge for resources at the request of different contractors. You’ll encounter hostile alien creatures, meteor showers, and the greatest evil of all…other players. Can you get in, get the loot, and extract before you’re gunned down?
The visuals in this game are great. The world around you has a gorgeous colour palette and the environments across the map have enough variety to keep things fresh when you drop in. The way nature has taken over the camps and bases is actually done really well.
The hub where you get contracts and buy supplies is really good. The fact there is an interactive “overworld” in a looter-shooter like this is impressive alone. You can interact with other players here and join squads alongside purchasing premium content. You also have access to your own base that you can upgrade and get a consistent stream of income.
The design of the weapons is quite nice. It’s not the most unique design ever, but they look good and fit with the theming of the prospectors.
The mechanics are simplified versions of Escape From Tarkov, but the premise of going in and acquiring different loot (you hope other players haven’t beaten you to it) is still there and is the basis of the game. The limited storage early on means you have to prioritise what to take and what would make the most money in the marketplace. The fact that it tells you the value of your backpack on extraction is also great. Giving the player “safe pockets” which you don’t drop upon death is a great addition to the game, and allows for more casual play. This makes the game a bit more accessible to the casual player base, which isn’t really catered to in this genre.
Disclaimer: This game is in Early Access, and the developers request feedback on logout every time, so these problems can be ironed out as the game progresses.
The movement in the game isn’t anything to write home about. Even when sprinting, it feels extremely sluggish, and the jumping is non-existent. I don’t expect moon-level gravity jumping but it still feels that you don’t jump high enough. When you have looter-shooter gameplay, mobility is extremely important. Also, the ability to not go prone is an odd choice.
The creatures, while well designed, spawn extremely close together. One of my most recent games saw me charged by at least 20 creatures made up of all except the boss monsters, and that was in a “Moderate Danger” zone. I get having environmental challenges, but that is a little much.
The gun balancing needs some work. The base pistol does more damage per shot than the base assault rifle, and that doesn’t feel right. There needs to be some base-level balancing, otherwise going solo with a pistol and a shotgun is the best option for dealing with players.
Speaking of, players in Squads or Duos are essentially unbeatable if they all bring a sniper rifle to the battlefield. I know the whole “power of teamwork” thing is important here, but it can be difficult for solo players. I don’t think there’s necessarily a way around it, but it can be frustrating. Also, when you initially drop-in, the whole map can see where you land, which means you could die and lose gear before you even get to loot anything - this seems really counter-productive.
Despite the flaws, the game is definitely still worth playing. It’s not going to satiate the hardcore players that Escape From Tarkov is host to, but it’s definitely entertaining and great fun.
The developers are really engaging with the community in their Discord server and appear to take all feedback on board. Don’t mistake me, there are still flaws here that should be ironed out once the game gets a full release, but I still enjoy it. The developers have built a great foundation and I hope the game only gets better when the next stage drops.
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