At the beginning of the year came a game we were all rather excited about called Forsaken. Forsaken came and went without much fanfare, and as such the action adventure genre was a little stunted (when offered Forsaken DLC to review, for example, our review team, normally hungry for all that code was point blank refused by everyone). It would seem there wasn’t much to come in the way of a genre which had already been mined for gold by Sony’s first parties with huge success.
It was with a fair amount of surprise then that The Surge developers Deck13 Interactive were the ones to step up to the plate and have a go with Atlas Fallen, an action adventure RPG-lite title that attempted to breathe some new life into a genre by shamelessly ripping from other games and creating a mishmash of good and evil, with neither side particularly succeeding.
Atlas Fallen, by that logic, lives or dies on its open world and the amount you can do within it. Whilst there’s a weighty campaign keeping you occupied there’s a plethora of side quests and the like to keep you on your toes. Unlike, say, Final Fantasy XVI, here it’s well worth exploring the side quests as the majority add to the lore and can offer up some beefy upgrades. Movement, traversal and combat are where you’ll be throwing most of your skill points towards – allowing you to jump across more significant gaps and increase your speed, with double jumps and air dashes ripped straight from the hollow pages of Monster Hunter.
And you’ve got plenty to do as your character discovers an all powerful Gauntlet that allows him to traverse freely and increase their power. Being able to glide across the sand as you traverse never really gets old, and it’s fun to combine that into air jumps when running into combat areas. The power the Gauntlet provides will allow you to take down most enemies you run into, and is of course upgradable throughout the course of the game – and hopefully so as you’ll be spending a disproportionate amount of time looking for upgrades.
And the power of the Gauntlet along with the traversal serves the game well. The combination – particularly in combat – allows you to feel fully in control, and pulling off combos is easy and satisfying. Whilst in combat you’re in the air for a healthy amount of time, allowing you to easily take down flying bastards and attack from above if necessary. Whilst the easier enemies certainly feels like button mashing at the beginning, you’ll soon be taking on gargantuan beasts that require limb hacking. Fortunately the game makes this fairly simple also, giving you an easy guide to follow on where to focus your attacks. The attention made to offensive attacks feels more refreshing and instant than say, The Surge, which is a welcome change. This certainly makes you feel like more of a badass, which is the whole point isn’t it, really?
And you’ll always be kicking the ass of another species through Atlas Fallen, as most of the humans that reside around you are either above you and simply couldn’t care less or the same level as you and essentially a slave to the hierarchy – which is to say the story in convoluted and is fairly easy to disregard.
Your enemies will come in all shapes and sizes and require a variety of alternative methods in which to take down. Known as the Wraiths, they take the form of all kinds of different beasties such as giant snakes, wolves, birds and big ass freakin’ crabs that have an awful lot of fun chasing you (and boy do they look angry). As mentioned above, the limb removal makes you feel a bit like Aloy – without the precision and satisfaction, mind – and larger enemies become methodical, of course whilst they’re trying to also tear you limb from limb. It’s a fun dance and it’s particularly rewarding when you pull off a big victory.
Upgrading your character is all part of the fun, with nine slots to take things in and out of as you progress. Known as Essence Stones, your attacks can become more powerful, your armour more sturdy and abilities – activated by filling up your brilliantly titled Momentum Gauge by successfully hitting your enemies – are either full time or temporary depending on which ones you find. Along with a cracking melee parry which temporarily freezes your enemies, the heavier attacks are hugely powerful on bigger foes so it’s not really worth wasting them on the smaller Wraiths who can be taken down with a fair few hits of your basic attacks, though your abilities can fill up again rather quickly (again, depending on how successful you’re being in combat), and with a helpful dodge mechanic which gets you right out of the way of the action (though I’m certain particular enemies can predict where you’re going to end up as I’ve been clattered a few times whilst dodging). Want to bring a hurricane to the party? Why not, summon a freakin’ hurricane whilst you’re going hell for leather in the faces with a hammer.
Customisation really is the name of the game in Atlas Fallen (‘no it isn’t, it’s Atlas Fallen’, I can hear Greg saying…) and there’s a multitude of different powers to play around with and finding the correct ones to suit your play style is paramount. Experimenting with a combination of a few is a lot of fun as you’ll find yourself trying out elements you perhaps wouldn’t normally try before just to see what you’ve unlocked next. You’ll need certain powers for certain locations and it seems Deck13 has really considered this, ensuring you’ll be aware of what you need before taking it head on. Unlocking new abilities even near the end of the game was a lovely surprise, and ensures you can mix up your gameplay even to the credits, which is a solid enough reason to keep powering through if you’re looking to unlock everything.
In terms of unlocking everything, you’re going to want to get your exploring shoes on as there’s a whole lot of ground to cover in Atlas Fallen. Most of it is an empty desert which is terrific fun to glide around on, but you’re not going to find an awful lot, save for some old ruins and the bones of an unfortunate beastie. It’s a typical complaint of certain open world games. Whilst the open world itself is easy to get around and looks lovely, there’s not an awful lot to really see or do, and it seems like certain NPC’s are just places in random areas so you’ve either got someone to talk to or have a quest to take on. It’s sparse, but it’s kind of supposed to be. Unless that’s just some narrative armour to explain the lack of, well, anything.
And whilst the aforementioned traversal is certainly a highlight of Atlas Fallen, it does begin to irk a bit when you’re going back and forth and back and forth to keep yourself occupied. The desert isn’t hugely exciting, so it does feel like a trek, particularly on side quests that whilst rewarding can be repetitive. It’s an issue throughout the games 12-15 hours, so if you’re done with a section and think it’s the last time you’ll have to tear it across the land, it probably isn’t. Thank goodness for fast travel, eh?
From a technical standpoint Atlas Fallen runs fairly smoothly with a max of 60fps at 1440p on PS5. I experienced no slowdown or framerate issues throughout my playthrough – though to be fair not an awful lot is ever really going on unless you’re in combat. Visually the game is fine, if not remarkable. There certainly are worlds far more exciting and interesting to explore than the one presented here, and it’s to the games detriment that the game doesn’t look more appealing. I think it’s fair to say that the voice acting is also pretty poor. It’s either terribly overdramatic or as dull as dishwater. It’s hard to really gauge what tone Deck13 was going for here but whatever it may be, the performances are way off the mark and really bring you out of the story at time, which is unfortunate.
So it’s all a bit of a mixed bag and it’s a real shame it’s not a simple recommendation. Traversal and combat really win the day here, but there’s very little else to keep you occupied in between those moments. Atlas Fallen is full of ideas from other games, executed here without the polish or precision you would likely expect from certain mechanics, and unfortunately that leaves Deck13’s latest on the ‘rent’ pile.
Atlas Fallen is at its best when you’re kicking seven shades out of enormous crabs and snakes, and unfortunately has little else that lives up to these moments. Whilst the traversal is solid, going back and forth through a treacherously dull wasteland doesn’t particularly inspire replayability, and when you’ve done it thirty times, you don’t want to do it again. Rent for the combat, then return it and there’s a chance you’ll probably never think about it again.
Atlas Fallen is available now on PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series S|X and PC
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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