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Frostpunk 2 looks good, but a new brutal strategy game is out now

Frostpunk 2 and Manor Lords are some of the best-looking new strategy sims, but a new survivalistic builder, out now, is just as brutal.

New Cycle new Steam strategy game: A survivor from Steam strategy game New Cycle

Between Frostpunk 2, Manor Lords, and the return of the super Commandos series, it’s looking like an excellent near future for the smaller-scale RTS and strategy sims. Cities Skylines 2 and Civilization 6 are wonderful also, but in the midst of conquering nations and forging dynasties, something becomes lost. The connection to your people, the sense of purpose and consequence behind each and every decision. Grand strategy games sacrifice the tactile sense of guiding your people for more sweeping, historical visions. Personally, I prefer working with individual units and facing choices that feel everyday and real. Brutal, harsh, and with a wonderful focus on raw survival, if you’re looking forward to Frostpunk 2, there’s a new strategy sim out right now on Steam that you need to try.

Like Frostpunk, and its much-anticipated sequel, New Cycle takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and focuses on a small band of survivors trying to forge a new, primitive home. Solar flares have destroyed the planet. Humanity has been cast back to a pseudo Iron Age. We still have electricity (sometimes) but otherwise supplies are scarce and life is hard. This is a strategy game where you feel like you know each of your individual citizens. As their leader and chief, you can forget skyscrapers, mighty armies, and building world wonders – you need to make sure we have enough mushrooms to make everyone a bowl of soup.

This is what I love most about New Cycle. Particularly in its early stages, you serve less as a ruler or a monarch, and more like a community leader, or village elder. Everything is hard fought. Dynamic weather events slow down the building of shacks. Winter arrives and puts food gathering on hold, forcing you to dig into your stockpiles. If you’re really unlucky, you won’t get enough rain, and the trees, fauna, and other resources you’ve harvested won’t be replenished, putting your entire settlement on rations for the rest of the year.

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These are the hard choices in New Cycle. You have to decide who gets to sleep indoors and who stays outside. Likewise, you need to manage the food supply – do your workers get an extra meal this month to keep them motivated, or can you simply not spare the portions? You’ll be surprised how quickly you can turn into a despot.

Starving wanderers arrive in your camp begging for refuge and at first you’re happy to provide them a home. But then a few years go by, the water and crops dry up, and everyone who arrives is quickly chased away. Likewise, children, the elderly, and the sick aren’t able to work, but they still take up shack space and they still need feeding. When I go into the population overview screen and see we’ve had three new births this summer, my heart sinks.

New Cycle Steam strategy game: A small settlement from Steam strategy game New Cycle

And this is another area where New Cycle really shines. Yes, it’s complex. Yes, it’s deep. But it’s also accessible and intuitive. How often do you find a really great-looking strategy game, get it started, and feel immediately overwhelmed and put off by the sheer amount of things you need to do? New Cycle isn’t like that. The tutorial eases you in and the UI is very straightforward. It also has this wonderful pseudo steampunk aesthetic, where everything you build looks caught between pre industrial raggedness and mid 20th century rural splendor.

If you want to play New Cycle, it’s available on Steam right now. The debut game from Turkish studio Core Engage, if you’re looking forward to Frostpunk 2 and like smartly designed, smaller-scale strategy, this is definitely one to try.

Alternatively, mark your calendar for the Frostpunk 2 release date. You can also check out some of the best grand strategy games on PC.

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