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The Eternal Cylinder

In the path of the Eternal Cylinder, a lone Trebhum hatches and barely avoids being crushed. After encountering a deceased elder of its kind, the Trebhum activates a nearby set of towers that temporarily halt the advance of the Cylinder. Assembling a small tribe, the Trebhum then find a living elder, who informs them of their race's path and offers encouragement heading forward. They later encounter a second elder, who suggests a plan for escape: going overtop of the cylinder and searching the land behind for a new home. Reaching the edge of a frozen tundra, the Trebhum manage to scale and traverse the cylinder, only to find a lifeless wasteland behind it. The exposed trebhum are soon captured by the Cylinder's greatest servant, the Mathematician, and are transported to the Cylinder's mind, where a voice tries to talk to them. Unable to comprehend the voice or their surroundings, the Trebhum manage to discover an exit and escape from the Cylinder's mindscape.

the eternal cylinder

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Returning once more to the physical world, the Trebhum traverse a desert to acquire the components needed to activate a flying palace, overcoming extreme aggression by the cylinder in the process. At the moment of the palace's activation, however, the Mathematician attacks, and while the titanic servant is felled, the palace launches before the Trebhum can board it. Returning to the Cylinder's mind via the Mathematician's corpse, the Trebhum are confronted by the Cylinder's mind, where its motives are finally revealed - it seeks to absorb all existence into itself and, in doing so, end all suffering. The Narrator manages to break through the Cylinder's presence and encourages the Trebhum to keep going. When they exit the Cylinder, the Trebhum discover the world has been ravaged by the contents of the Cylinder, which spilled out from the Mathematician's corpse.

The truth is that The Eternal Cylinder is less about its primary and titular antagonist, the giant cylinder which is crushing a colourful alien world beneath its red hot immensity, than it is about its protagonists, the trunk-snouted trebhum: a bipedal not-people who are the emotional and gameplay heart of this lovely, remarkably approachable game.

The Eternal Cylinder has snorted up various aspects of the survival genre to make this conceit work. Unlike most survival games, however, the experience is a more linear one, because to survive you must continue to move forward to avoid being crushed, and so that linearity is a sort wide and packaged corridor: the cylinder is halted at various junctures, and you get to explore a strip of land in front of it, filling your stomachs and doing what you can to make the most of the resources at your disposal.

We experimented a lot with how large the Cylinder should be and how fast it should move. It was clear that if the unstoppable Cylinder moved too fast it was extremely stressful to be constantly running away from it. However we also noticed that no matter how much we slowed it down, players would rarely stop to look at something interesting or try to interact with creatures. Knowing that the cylinder is ceaselessly moving to crush you creates a constant psychological pressure to move on.

To stop players who would move away from the cylinder too fast and leave it behind, we created the Zooshgarg. This creature would fly patrolling over the landscape ahead of the Cylinder, vacuuming and eating every little creature that ventured too far ahead. We experimented with how large the distance between the Zooshgarg and the Cylinder should be, managing the level of tension the player would suffer sandwiched between these two dangers.

We decided to use something which could also create a clear distinction, something which could temporarily stop the cylinder: anchor towers. These were built by earlier generations of Trebhum and can pause the ever advancing danger that the Cylinder represents. If we wanted to add more slow-paced puzzle or objective driven areas, these could be placed near the towers, so players can take their time wandering and experimenting as much as they like. After leaving the area protected by the tower, the tower itself would then be destroyed by the Cylinder. To really make the threat be felt, the music changes whenever the Cylinder is moving and it also glows fiery red when it is going faster. If you see a fiery color lighting the surrounding area, then you know the Cylinder is close!

The Eternal Cylinder is without doubt without a doubt the weirdest game I've played this year. It's a game in which you play a sentient trunk which is hunted by giant mouths and hybrid car people, all while being relentless pursued by an enormous planet-crushing cylinder. It's a fascinating experience, simultaneously charming and terrifying, blending incredible art with themes of living among ecological disaster. It isn't quite a brilliant game, but even in its weakest moment, it's never less than captivating.

That sentient trunk I mentioned is actually called a trebhum, a squat little alien born into a world that slowly being crushed into dust by an unstoppable cylinder that stretches all the way across the horizon. I'm not quite sure how this works geometrically, although this is quite far down the line of logical hurdles that The Eternal Cylinder leaps over with gay abandon.

Your broad goal is to survive, but The Eternal Cylinder isn't structured like other survival games. The cylinder's omnipresence across a whole axis of the world forces the game into a more linear mode than most survive 'em ups, with you constantly pushing forward as the cylinder chases you, crushing trees and structures and the ground itself beneath its immense bulk.

Well, not quite constantly. Small bubbles of sanctuary can be found in Towers, which halt the cylinder's progress so long as you remain within their blue-tinted sphere of influence. Not only do these towers offer respite for the trebhum, they also provide opportunities to explore and evolve. Using their trunks, the trebhum can suck up different kinds of edible objects, storing them in their stomachs. Some provide health, while others provide energy used to flee from the cylinder. But a few of these objects will cause the trebhum to mutate, giving them longer legs for bigger jumps, or fur to keep them warm in cold areas of the world. There's even a mutation that turns trebhums into a cube, which as well as helping them solve certain puzzles, is also extremely funny.

Yet while mechanically underwhelming, The Eternal Cylinder is rescued from tedium by its structure and storytelling. The broad story of the trebhum's journey is lent context by some brilliant narration, which gradually unveils the complex and surprisingly emotive history of this resilient and adaptable alien race. Meanwhile, progression the next tower usually triggers a unique event that keeps the game feeling fresh, such as a giant serpent descending from the sky, or something emerging from behind the cylinder.

It's a game by Chilean developer Ace Team, which burst onto the scene with the strikingly surreal Zeno Clash in 2009 (and then Rock of Ages after). Remember that? The Eternal Cylinder is so similar! It's a kaleidoscopically colourful and bizarre world full of huge creatures a bit like snails and insects, and some I just have no idea what they're supposed to be. But here they are, in a world of big stone towers and beams of light, and strange planets in the background. And dominating everything: a terrifyingly massive metal cylinder that moves.

This is how you wake up in the game. You are a small two-legged creature with a trunk and a grand purpose, you're told, and the very second you come to life, you have to run from the cataclysmic cylinder rumbling behind you. We're talking about a horizon-spanning thing here, which destroys absolutely anything in its path. You, a relative flea to its massiveness, do not stand a chance. Eventually, however, it stops, and when it does, you can begin nosing around.

Reviving your species is part of the reason you're exploring the world, I think, as well as to find out what why there's a massive cylinder rolling around. You find your friends lying around, withered, and revive them using a kind of gem dust, and then they follow you. When they do, you can name them and individually control them, sucking some materials with one follower, and other materials with another follower, and you can vary their mutations to give you a nice, diverse spread. They'll automatically follow you around, join you in spraying enemies with water, and seemingly stand where they're told during puzzle moments, which is handy.

What it's all building to, I don't know, but there are ancient monuments you will find as you explore that are intune with your species, and that you can activate. The most important of these are the towers, which can halt the cylinder as long as you stay nearby. You won't want to stay there forever, though, so there will always be a frantic dash - or, rather, a balled-up roll (achieved with a button press) - to the next one.

The Eternal Cylinder is a fun romp through a weird and wonderful world and I would consider it to be a must-play indie game for 2021. While its survival mechanics are typical of the genre, the transformative abilities of the Trebhum allow the player to get creative with their choices on how to survive and outrun the colossal cylinder bearing down on them.

The Eternal Cylinder revolves around the intimate story of the Trebhums; docile, yet complex, creatures that are simply trying to survive the world that has been wrought upon them. Wonderfully narrated throughout, The Eternal Cylinder presents its story as one of hope in the shadow of an otherworldly cylinder that rolls through the world crushing everything in its path. Playing as the Trebhum, the player must race to various waypoints that serve as temporary blockers to stop the cylinder in its path. Along the way, securing various resources and growing your party is the Trebhums key to survival. 041b061a72

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