Having already put out the surprise package, The Surge, followed by the more impressive The Surge 2, Deck13 Interactive has certainly accrued plenty of experience in the action role-playing genre. It wouldn’t have been a stretch of the imagination to expect Atlas Fallen to build on the successes, and it does, for the most part, except for its subpar writing and less-than-eye-catching visuals.
The main plot follows the protagonist’s quest to bring down the villainous Sun God, Thelos, and all of its fanatical followers, with the conflict taking place against the backdrop of a brewing rebellion and the fortunate arrival of a magic gauntlet.
A fight against an omnipotent force is indeed a cool concept, as are the many Wraiths, sand creatures that make life hell for everyone, but everyone else fails to live up to the premise, relegating the narrative to nothing more than an unavoidable slog. Dialogue and voice acting in Atlas Fallen are uninspired; characters lack any proper personality, and the being that inhabits the magical gauntlet will undoubtedly start to grate on players with its inability to keep quiet. Thankfully, there is more enjoyable fare to look forward to.
At the core of this Focus Entertainment published title is its combat, where players and their co-op partners can challenge monsters of all sizes with an arsenal of useful weapons. Depending on the weapon of choice, players can chain basic attacks into longer combos and adopt different styles that are suited to the situation at hand.
Go for quick strikes and grapple to close the distance using the Sandwhip, achieve crowd control using the Dunecleaver, or prioritise concentrated damage using the Kunckledust. Switching weapons is as easy as tapping a button, and the various moves and even movement styles they confer can make for some interesting combat encounters.
Players are also free to dodge or, more importantly, parry enemy attacks, which can lead to the freezing of creatures that open them up for a world of hurt. Add to that finishing moves and an utterly satisfying slam attack, and there is always something exciting to look forward to when combat comes calling in Atlas Fallen.
Furthermore, the risk and reward system, called Momentum, serves as a nice balancing act for players to take note of. By landing successful attacks and parries, the Momentum gauge builds up, increasing the damage dealt by attacks as well as making it possible to unleash equipped abilities via Essence Stones. On the other hand, having high Momentum causes enemy attacks to be more dangerous, too, forcing players to be more measured when in combat, especially against multiple foes.
The creature designs in Atlas Fallen are a delight as well, throwing all manner of beasts at the player and forcing the need to be adept at all kinds of combat. Hardy and robust monsters can withstand plenty of damage, while agile beasts are constant hindrances that demand your attention, and several of the bosses that lie in wait bring spectacular battles that are invigorating and challenging, even if the final confrontation doesn’t quite match up.
There is plenty of opportunity to get into scraps in the world of Atlas Fallen, thanks to the world and the quests found within. Broken up into four major areas, players are free to explore each of the various maps in search of new things to discover. Battle elite monsters, find hidden treasures, and of course, obtain more powerful loot to aid in the quest to save the day.
While completing major story quests will help move things along, the journey between them oftentimes makes it possible for diverting paths to emerge. It never feels taxing or tiresome to engage in side quests, and more often than not, they feel organic and natural as part of the design of the areas, which is a great thing. And as players gain better equipment and abilities, each area expands even further as more paths reveal themselves.
By finding vital shards and upgrading the gauntlet, movement skills like air dashing and environmental abilities like Raise can often breathe new life into previously explored places. It’s not quite a Metroidvania per se, with players free to ignore all of it to see the story to the end, but the rewards are always worth hunting down.
This is where the depth of Atlas Fallen becomes apparent, with progression governed by several important components. Finding or purchasing armour will determine the overall level of a character, along with all the other useful stats of survivability and combat proficiency, while Essence Stones allows players to customise their playstyles through perks, skills, and buffs. In between, there are also plenty of crafting resources to uncover and Essence Dust to gain for upgrades.
While it makes sense for certain areas to contain more powerful opponents, these various systems of upgrades make it possible for fights to be continually fair, especially if the fundamentals of parrying and weapon synergy are solid. The sense of progression is always apparent, and even more so for willing adventurers that are seeking out every nook and cranny.
Between the exploration, platforming, and combat, Atlas Fallen feels and plays great, but visually, that is another matter. Even in Graphics mode, the presence of pop-in, grainy textures, and low-quality animations and models are disappointing sights. Having distinct biomes is great and all, but it can be hard to enjoy them when things just do not look right most of the time. The only saving grace is that framerates are consistently high, with smooth combat papering over the visual cracks when the game is in action.
For a game that is only for the current generation of consoles, the visual quality is a head scratcher, as is the decision to restrict co-op to online only, with no cross-platform support. Having an ally along for the ride only increases the fun in Atlas Fallen, particularly in combat and exploration, and it would have been nice to do so with someone next to you or on another platform online.
At the end of the day, Atlas Fallen is certainly a worthwhile open-world action RPG to consider for your next adventure. Its world and creatures are mostly a delight, and the co-op potential is there for friends to have a great time. Just don’t look closely at either the story or the visuals, and you will have a good time.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Come for the combat and exploration in Atlas Fallen, and enjoy bashing sand creatures into a pulp, just don’t expect a gripping narrative or pretty visuals to hold the attention.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 7.5/10