Very rarely does a game come along that attempts to do something completely different; instead, most games simply attempt to improve upon existing concepts or genres. Atlas Reactor is that game. It’s difficult to really stick it into any single genre because there aren’t any other games out there exactly like it.
There are turn-based strategy elements similar to XCOM, or other ‘tactics’ style games, but every player’s action takes place simultaneously similar to Frozen Synapse. Add in a roster of diverse heroes on par with most MOBAs and you’ve got a truly unique game.
Chess for a New Generation
Growing up, I loved played board games like Chess and Checkers, but as I grew older I craved games that catered both to strategy and imagination. That’s when I turned to turn-based and real-time strategy videogames. However, very few games have managed to replicate that feeling of anticipating your opponent’s next move. Or their move three turns from now.
In Atlas Reactor, you can never be exactly sure what your opponent is going to do. Maybe he’s going to finish off your low-health ally with a blast attack. You can attempt to intercept that attack with a dash, but maybe they anticipate that and plan to perform a dash attack of their own. These types of mind games often don’t exist in typical turn-based strategy games because you have complete control on your turn, but in Atlas Reactor everyone plays at the same time.
In order to help keep tabs on your opponents, and allies, the game does provide information on what abilities are currently available. If your opponent is low on health and doesn’t display a dash ability available, there’s a good chance that you can finish them off. Now, their allies can also see this and try to heal them, shield, or block the attack. There are an immense amount of possibilities to consider and only 20 seconds to make a final decision.
One of the biggest draws for multiplayer games these days is progression. There has to be some sort of a progression system, whether it’s levels or achievements, in order to keep players interested. It’s rare to find players that stick around simply for that feeling of getting better; there needs to be something to work towards.
Even in the Open Beta, Atlas Reactor had tons of titles, achievements, skins, and other unlockables. However, there is also progression in the form of improving your characters, but that doesn’t necessarily mean higher level players are stronger than beginners. Instead of giving characters higher stats as they level, players are granted skill modification unlock tokens.
Each character has four standard abilities and one ultimate. Ability types include: Prep, Dash, and Blast, which take place in that order. If a character throws a trap during the Prep phase then if an enemy dashes into it they’ll take damage or get a debuff. Furthermore, characters can dash away before being hit by blast attacks, but all actions taken during the same phase will resolve simultaneously. This means that Lockwood’s Light ‘Em Up and Blackburn’s Equalizer will hit each other regardless, even if one of them appears to die first.
These core abilities won’t change as characters level up, but they can be augmented by unlocking different mods. Each mod consumes a certain amount of energy and players can’t go over a specific cap for that characters, which means that even the highest level player can’t equip all of the strongest mods in the game. It also doesn’t take very long to acquire mod tokens, and characters can be fully unlocked in no time at all.
In addition to mod tokens, players will also receive loot matrices upon leveling up that can grant experience boosters, skins, taunts, and banners. These are also the only things that can be purchased in the game, besides founder’s packs.
So far, Atlas Reactor has delivered a very enjoyable gaming experience, but it has a long way to go. Currently, there are only 21 different Freelancers, and although that’s good enough for release there definitely need to be more. Juno was recently added during the headstart phase, but there’s still a major gap between the amount of Firepower, Frontline and Support characters. There also seems to be some balancing that needs to be worked on, but overall things are starting to come together nicely.
Having played a lot of multiplayer games, it’s rare that I score any game high in this category. I’ve simply never played any other game exactly like Atlas Reactor and that earns it exceptionally high marks. Moreover, it actually delivers a good game on top of being unique.
During the Open Beta, the community in Atlas Reactor was hit or miss. There were definitely some matches where I had amazing teammates that communicated very well. However, there were also matches where no one said a word, and that’s not a good thing in a game that requires coordination. Furthermore, there were also some toxic individuals, and trolls, which shouldn’t be surprising given the competitive nature of the game.
The aesthetic nature of Atlas Reactor is that of a living comic book. The characters are very colorful in both their cel-shaded artwork and attitudes (complete with over-the-top taunts), and the battlegrounds look like they could have come from a superhero cartoon. It’s an art style that will likely appeal to a very specific crowd and not so much to others. Hopefully, the solid gameplay will be enough to make players look past the visuals alone.
Value for Money 9/10
It was expected that Atlas Reactor would follow the recent shift towards free-to-play, as most multiplayer only games use this form of monetization now, but we were pleasantly surprised that Trion decided to offer a buy-to-play model. As of writing this review, the full game only costs $20; that’s the cost of about 3 heroes in most other MOBA style games. This includes every Freelancer to ever be released for the game.
If you’re interested in fancy skins or taunts, the higher tier founder’s packs offer quite a lot in terms of fun additions, but they don’t include much that actually impacts the game (with the exception of experience boosts and mod tokens). Even the cheapest tier, however, also unlocks content for Trove, Rift, Defiance, and comes with a bunch of community rewards from the beta.
However, if you’re still not convinced to buy Atlas Reactor then you can try the Free Mode. It works in similar fashion to other free-to-play modes by offering a rotating pool of Freelancers that can be accessed, but you won’t be able to acquire currency to permanently unlock them. Free players can still earn loot matrices and unlock titles, but in order to permanently gain access to every Freelancer, they’ll have to purchase the game.
+ Unique, strategic depth
+ Fair business model
+ Each Freelancer feels distinctive
– Needs a larger hero pool
– Can be frustrating when teams don’t communicateRelated: Atlas Reactor, Review, Strategy, Trion Worlds