This Is One Of The Most Brutal City Builders I’ve Ever Played

From developer Core Engage, upcoming early access city builder New Cycle – launching on Steam in January 2024 – draws from games like Frostpunk, Banished, and Anno. You take control of a burgeoning society on a harsh coastline, following a wide-scale climate disaster and other unknown calamities that befell the old world. New Cycle is brutal. Whether it’s a harsh winter hindering your supplies and freezing your citizens to death, or a warship arriving at the nearby coast demanding workforce and vegetables, which currently aren’t growing because of the harsh winter, New Cycle does not pull its punches.



Managing your small settlement is a constant balancing act – one that I haven’t gotten my head around just yet. All three of my runs have pretty much wiped out due to constant sickness killing off the workforce, which in turn destroys my food input and clothing input, which makes everyone else die. When you get stuck in a rut like that, the game feels completely bleak. I’ve tried to come back from the brink of disaster on all three runs, but just given up. Surely I did something wrong? So I just restarted. This run, I’ll take my time. Micromanage every bit of my settlement. Of course, it didn’t go to plan. I’m yet to build a properly successful city.

I’ve had fun, but it’s been a testing learning curve. The influx of new citizens to your city is very slow, which means you’re always trying to balance the workforce. Citizens die because of sickness all the time, because the late-game techs of medicine and healthcare are miles down the tech tree, locked behind new types of ore and production buildings. I can’t get to those ores and production buildings because I need more food, but I can’t get more food because I need tools, but I can’t get any tools because my workforce morale is low and efficiency is ruined. Just as all this is happening, there’s a sandstorm and the power goes down, followed by a harsh winter…and damn. My town is ruined and everyone is dying again.

New Cycle town (1)

The challenge is oppressive. I’ve built enormous cities in Frostpunk, and a sprawling metropolis so large in Banished that it caused my computer to crash. This isn’t my first city-building rodeo, but New Cycle is ferocious. It gives you no break. No chance to remedy your problems, and it moves so fast between cycles and disasters that everything is destroyed before you even realize what’s going on. The challenge is intoxicating – you just have to keep pushing, and when everything falls apart, try and try again. I can’t imagine how hard this game is on more difficult settings.

Some general tips I learned while playing:

  • Take your time. It’s always tempting to blast through on the highest speed, but New Cycle is the type of game to punish you for that. Even a small deficit in food or tools can spell disaster.
  • Rapid expansion isn’t always the way – stages of the game, including cycles, are triggered by population growth. Sometimes it makes sense to stay at a lower pop to continue stockpiling goods before the game throws more challenges at you.
  • Upgrade your production chain when you get a chance – going from wells to water pumps, for example, is essential. The same can be said for Forges to Metalworkers.

On my fourth run, everything went much better. I really, really took my time. Slowed the game down to a snail’s pace and micromanaged each building. I didn’t expand too fast and built a massive stockpile of resources: food, tools, and clothes, mainly. I was proactive. If I noticed a resource begin to dwindle, I found new ways to source it, usually by upgrading different parts of the production chain. I finally reached trains, and region expansion, and defense. I think New Cycle has a lot of potential, especially if the developers are reactive to community feedback once the game comes out in early access.

I’m in a difficult position where either I just suck at the game, or it’s unbalanced. I can’t tell, because I’m one of the few that have played the preview. I don’t have anyone to judge my successes and failures against. No YouTube playthroughs, no tutorials, no guides. Just suffering. Endless suffering. I want to get to the endgame because there are weapon systems and trains and massive, smoke-belching factories, but so far I’ve barely managed to scrape my meagre people out of the dirt.

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