The first time I charged up my rocket launcher, unleashed a volley of nine missiles, and explodified a rampaging horde of alien crystal beasts, I knew I was hooked on Cygnus Enterprises.
The first offering from Shanghai-based Team Miaozi, Cygnus is an amalgamation of sorts. Part top-down run and gun, part base builder, part action rpg, it puts you in the shoes of a contractor working for the galaxy’s biggest megacorp. Sent to a distant planet to restore a wayward installation to profitability, you find yourself stuck after your ship is destroyed by mysterious forces.
Accompanied only by your mercilessly capitalist personal electronic assistant, PEA, you spend your days gathering resources, rebuilding your base, and going on missions to further the story and explore the planet. Eventually you run across some other characters—the disposable Max, galaxy class influencer Daniel, and altruistic Mei from the Free Trade Union.
At first, I thought we would be exploring some serious themes about capitalism in the future. Cygnus gets our contractor in way over his head, Mei spends time railing against megacorps, and the progression track literally has you rank up to Deputy Manager. However, it’s kept pretty light. Instead of lamenting his situation, our protagonist makes quips about how surely a corp the size of Cygnus could learn to aim the damn drop pods.
After one mission covering lots of terrain, he complains about his feet being sore only to have PEA remind him that he has accumulated <null> sick days. The best mission in this Early Access version of the game is one where the influencer, Daniel, has me test out a new beam weapon live on his stream. Shoutouts to the chat.
And speaking of beam weapons, let’s talk for a moment about guns. Sweet, sweet guns. Cygnus is at its best in the missions, where you take on swarms of monsters with lots of fun advanced technology. You can specialize in six different disciplines, each of which grants passive bonuses and unlocks skill trees as you progress. They each also have a couple of different weapon types associated with them, and armor that amplifies the spec’s themes. Pretty much every gun I tried out was great, from the basic laser pistol all the way up to the engineer’s swarming incendiary rocket launcher.
To get all these wonderful toys, you have to build up your base. Starting out with basic buildings and working up from there, the gameplay loop has you harvesting a few resources around town, queueing up stuff to build or research, and then going on a mission that puts you through to the next day. It keeps the pacing of the game tight—you won’t find yourself bogged down in hours of figuring out exactly where to put your next conveyor belt or power station.
You can spend some extra time fishing, chatting with visitors, or coming up with the menu in your canteen, but ultimately the game gets you back in the action quickly, which is great. I took a little more than the developer’s estimated 12 hours to finish off the Early Access content, but mostly because I took a few extra days to craft a legendary laser rifle, which was totally worth it.
Playing through Cygnus Enterprises left me wanting more. By the end, I was zipping around with multiple movement skills, an insane laser rifle, and a dropship ready to deploy drones or bombard my enemies, but all I had to use all this power on was the same few enemy types I’d fought dozens of times before. The base introduces a whole squad system where you recruit people to help you out, but despite the architecture being there to equip and specialize them, there’s no real reason to. I only interacted with the major story characters a couple times, and it all felt a little clipped.
There’s reason to be hopeful, though. Team Miaozi has said that they’re adding storylines, new monsters, a new continent, and new buildings for your base to the final release, which should be out in the next six months or so. I won’t spoil too much, but the final boss is a solid demonstration that they know how to design challenging encounters. I was breezing through the game, vaporizing everything in sight when it showed up with multiple phases, telegraphed one shot attacks, and all kinds of bullet hell nonsense. I just could have used some of that in the earlier missions.
With tight pacing, great gunplay, satisfying character progression, and a killer soundtrack, Cygnus Enterprises is definitely worth checking out. I just wish we had the whole game.