It took me at least three hours before I realized how to fully enjoy Atlas Fallen, the new action/rpg from Deck13 Interactive – the creators of Lords of the Fallen and The Surge – and published by Focus Entertainment. At first, I struggled and not a little on my journey through Atlas, a land full of monsters to hunt, peoples and cities to save: I am the only one able to wield a glove of immense powers, and yet, my atypical artifact-which turns into an axe or whip when needed-does not seem to rival the beasts trying to beat me to a pulp and their “henchmen.” However, after running into several game-overs, I decided to change my strategy and focus on mastering the title’s most important gameplay mechanic to the best of my ability: needless to say, my experience with Atlas Fallen has improved considerably since then.
I thus became, thanks to my glove, an unstoppable God (and credit goes mainly to Atlas Fallen’s combat system) because only by elevating myself above the rest of the humans could I rival the hostile Gods,to whom my presence certainly did not go down well. I learned from my mistakes by becoming the greatest slayer of monstrous creatures that the history of Atlas remembers.
Becoming a God in Atlas Fallen
Treccani defines impetus as a “violent motion of a thing or person thrusting forward or against an object with full force.” Here, the main gameplay element around which the entire combat system of Atlas Fallen revolves is the Impetus, signaled on the screen by a bar that is divided into three segments of increasing power: the more energy you can accumulate by attacking the enemy, the stronger your weapons become. In contrast, opponent damage is increased. To defend ourselves, we can resort to the dodge or, even better, the parry executed at the right moment: by chaining together three perfect parries, the unfortunate person on duty will freeze, remaining at our mercy for a few seconds. Finally, whenever you manage to fill a segment of the above indicator, you can unleash a devastating final attack that annihilates anything. Imagine what can happen if you can fill the third segment.
At first, my approach to combat was of the most classic: three – or four strike combos alternating between the two weapons provided – if another one is also unlocked – with the sole purpose of activating the first special attack of the three available. And so on throughout the meeting. Then, instead, I realized that I didn’t so much have to think about weakening the boss or mob by lunging but rather waiting for the right moment, balancing defensive and offensive approach, and then unleashing the full power of my virtual alter ego. More intelligent combat, which prefers the pursuit of perfection rather than chaos.
I also studied the statistics of my axe and whip, which I had read at the beginning of the game but with an unobservant eye, only to realize that I was completely mistaking modus operandi: the secondary weapon, the whip, is the one with the best range and also allows for greater accumulation of Impetus, although inflicting less damage than the main one. As a result, the initial phase of any combat must begin with the whip and then move to the axe, a not inconsiderable gameplay nuance that should not be underestimated in any way.
Further enriching the combat system and giving it a boost to the creation of the right build that best suits our style of play, we are taken care by the many Essence Stones, which grant different powers and abilities in game, both active and passive: one can, for example, unleash a hurricane that chases and overwhelms everything in its vicinity. Also divided into three degrees, they are activated parallel to the accumulation of the Impetus bar. It goes without saying that in order to take advantage of the effects of the devastating Grade 3 Essence Stones, we must be good at reaching our strongest and most violent form. The deliriums of omnipotence I had by combining parry, Impetus and whiplash were, at least at first, really remarkable. Too bad in the long run, I crashed on some critical issues I found in the boss fights, the heart of Atlas Fallen.
Too many bugs to crush around the Boss
As much as the number of total enemies that can be faced in Atlas Fallen is not particularly high (and this, as you will find out in a moment, is a small limitation to take into account), what really gave me pause were the boss encounters. We have just described all the elements that make the combat system interesting, however, I cannot help but feel that perhaps, something more could have been done to enhance its peculiarities.
Let me explain: each boss spaw with some mobs in tow – which reappear indefinitely even if you eliminate them – that are only there to disturb you while the behemoth tries to make a dent in you. We proceed, then, focusing first on the basic enemies to clean up the arena and thus face the main target, free from distractions for a few minutes. To this first aspect, one must add a not particularly complex boss moveset consisting of three or four attacks – plus one that is added in the advanced stages of the encounter – that you easily memorize already on the second attempt, in case of failure in the previous one. In this way you fail to take full advantage of Atlas Fallen’s combat system.
Instead of making the boss fight contrived by periodically inserting mob to destroy until the monster is knocked out, it would have been more satisfying to create a more varied final opponent’s move set, which would have made the battle naturally more difficult. I liked the combat system so much that once I got to the end credits, I really wished I could have found compelling challenges that allowed me to use all the arrows in my bow, as well as engineering myself on how to best combine stones (some are more effective in specific combat dynamics).
In short, if there were no enemies close to a giant crab ready to crush you between its claws, the practice would close quickly and painlessly because the attacks are easy to guess, not to mention that many of the end chapter bosses are also encountered as optional mini bosses exploring Atlas (a limitation stemming from the small variety of enemies that can be faced): inevitable, eventually knowing its every weakness..
A kingdom full of pitfalls
Between main and side quests, Atlas Fallen is packed with things to do and exploring by skiing the realm of Atlas is quite rewarding (some areas, initially inaccessible, will be unlocked as the story continues thanks to the powers of the glove). Several times, as I moved from A to B to complete a primary assignment, I deviated from my path because something on the screen caught my attention: upon arriving at the location, I beat myself up with gusto and came out a winner. Here, the game world, as well as the cities where I stopped over between quests, I found it, no offense, more alive and interactive than that of Final Fantasy XVI (by the way, you can find the review of Final Fantasy XVI here).
Venturing into the unknown, facing wild monsters and getting lost in the caves of Atlas also rewards the player with new Essence Stones and experience with which to upgrade armor. In this regard, I must say that the role-playing component is very easy to manage: as the level of armor increases (which can be purchased or obtained through special drops at specific moments in the plot), our vital parameters will also grow. In general, it is noticeable that Deck13 has placed much more emphasis on Stone management than on the protagonist’s armor and statistics, a choice I personally liked.
The Impetus bar along with the management of Essence Stones, are the flagship of Atlas Fallen: two mechanics that work decidedly well once understood to the fullest and manage to deliver strong adrenaline rushes. It’s too bad that the combat system can’t always get laid with the boss fights, partly because of boss offensive patterns that are not particularly complex. Beyond these clarifications, Deck13’s new production is still a guilty pleasure worth playing. Long live the almighty glove!