This summer, we’ve seen several exciting entries in various genres. Exoprimal gave us a new game centered around PVP and hoards, Remnant 2 contains endless secrets to uncover, and Atlas Fallen is an open-world adventure game with online co-op. That alone is enough to turn heads, but you add in thrilling battles, and it has the potential to really be something. Given these high expectations, will it be the summer’s next big hit or lost to the sands of time?
After using the somewhat limited character creator, players are whisked away to a rather unusual fantasy world. Shortly after, you receive a gauntlet that allows you to communicate with a mysterious guide and use their magical powers. Not only does the initial setup remind me of Forspoken, the overall approach to narrative is very similar.
I often thought certain statements could be used interchangeably, assuming a couple of swears were added along the way. This honestly wouldn’t be too bad, but none of the other elements manage to come together. The most notable example of this is how characters talk.
Instead of having memorial characters like Goggles, Satchel, or Rag showcase a wide range of emotions as you attempt to kill a god, most things are said coldly and monotone. Their indifference removes some of the weight, which is furthered by a surprisingly predictable story. Not quite in the way Forspoken was, so it might subvert some expectations, though not in a way that makes for a satisfying conclusion.
While a lousy narrative isn’t the worst thing for an experience like this, I am unsure what type of experience Atlas Fallen was trying to achieve. Instead of being a triumphant experience where players are pitted against impossible bosses and endless secrets to uncover, everything is met with an unfortunate detractor.
Like many open-world adventures, the various locations can be summed up as a time sink. Most hidden objects are pointless trinkets that can be sold for varying amounts of cash. Occasionally, an optional objective will appear, though many of these exist to justify these massive maps.
Such a Long Jumping Puzzle
Perhaps the worst offender is Sealing Totems, which are a series of totems scattered throughout the map with a finite amount of time to activate each one in the sequence. It isn’t uncommon for these to be a 100km dash to various inconvenient locations that ends with a surprisingly modest reward. Forgotten Paths are slightly less annoying, just with a platform instead of vague directions.
Unfortunately, even the other optional activities are pretty bland. Heavenly Shrines have a couple of weak points you hit to break a statue. Wildlife Habitats’ involve waiting until an animal decides to dig up its treasure. Completed maps aren’t much better, either. They will give you a general location, a cryptic clue like “swamped,” and a drawing that makes the location somewhat more precise.
Outside of quests and activities, there are various Wraiths to defeat. They’re somewhat uncommon to find and generally unenjoyable to fight. Much of this stems from a wide variety of poor choices.
One of the biggest is how locked-on attacks work. Having played many games, I can’t say it ever felt right in Atlas Fallen. Flying enemies tended to be worse, though things rarely went as planned regardless. This is rather unfortunate since most enemies spawn adds and have to attack specific locations to defeat them.
To help combat these powerful foes, they’re given a universal parry signal. Seeing a red flash is your trigger to activate Sandskin and parry this attack. This would be a fantastic system, but it doesn’t seem to adapt to players.
Take the scorpion enemy, Spiker. To kill it, you generally need to break its head and tail. When attacking its tail, the timing to use Sandskin is slightly different from the one on the ground. As a result, waiting for that trigger will often result in taking damage. In addition to this, the camera angles needed for specific positions are just wrong. It’s a reasonable effort, though more often than not, you’ll need to memorize the actual timing.
All this being said, the actual combat system has potential. By performing better, players will generate momentum. As this increases, so will your attack, and you’ll gain access to stones (skills/magic) that aid you in combat. However, as momentum increases, so does the damage you take. It’s a high-risk/high-reward system, though the faint of heart can make a powerful Shatter attack to reset your momentum with a devastating attack. It’s an excellent idea that the other mechanics doesn’t entirely support.
First and foremost, there are only three weapons in Atlas Fallen. These include an axe, whip, and iron fists. Anyone familiar with the cover art might notice a sword. Unfortunately, that seems to be a variation of the whip and is not present in the final game.
Plenty of Build Options
There are honestly a surprising number of stones to refine any build. Most play into one play style or another, giving them a fair amount of variety. There are also presets allowing players to swap to different builds to overcome various different threats.
That being said, many skills are not what I’d considered equal. Initially, I built into parry thinking it would create more opportunities to damage enemies, though the best perks generally promoted an aggressive style of play. It was easy to dominate any foe when I could prevent their attack, slow their advance, and alternate between various stuns that prevented them from attacking in the first place.
Armor continues down this path with various limitations. Each set is given a unique trait and additional stats for using specific stone types. This can sometimes feel limiting in terms of build, one you’re best off just ignoring, though the more significant downside is the finite cap. After a certain point, using a specific set for a skill is highly detrimental.
Seems Like a Fair Trade
Atlas Fallen tries to combat this with a transmog system. Your current armor, or any previously collected set, can be worn instead. There are also a wide variety of color options to truly personalize your look. Where it falls short are cosmetic items. They look ridiculous on certain armor sets, and cosmetic armor can not be dyed.
How Different It Can Look
Like the rest of Atlas Fallen, co-op is a needlessly bumpy ride. Connecting with another player is relatively simple, as is the approach to multiplayer progression, though the experience isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. For the most part, we can do entirely different things and progress at twice the speed. Stuck on an annoying Sealing Totem? Send your buddy to the location to wait. Can’t find a collectible? Just split up. Even going across the map didn’t cause any issues.
Where it falls short is knowing where to draw the line. Either player can freely complete any optional quest without the other knowing what is going on. Anyone looking to hear all the dialogue or make specific choices might be put off by this. Conversely, story segments can not be tackled separately. It doesn’t matter how irrelevant; anything story-related requires both players to present. I get why this choice exists, and it just sucks when you need to do something simple like open two chests and can’t tackle both simultaneously like everything else.
Atlas Fallen Review Verdict
Atlas Fallen: I am not entirely sure what Deck13 was going for with Atlas Fallen. Each location has plenty of places to explore, except there isn't much to see. Combat has a lot of elements to it, though outside of stones, there isn't a lot of variety. Somehow larger enemies tend to be less dangerous than adds, especially if they're flying. Even things that should be a slam dunk, like co-op or transmog, have unfortunate negatives associated with them. Maybe a couple of patches will smooth out these edges, but in its current form, it's just not quite there. – Grant