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Aug 09, 2023

Atlas Fallen Review

Lights Off
3 Okay
Retails for: $49.99
We Recommend: $29.99
  • Developer: Deck13
  • Publisher: Focus Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
  • Released: Aug 10, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed: Windows

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but you’ve got a talking gauntlet on your arm after being chosen save a world that desperately needs a hero. Atlas Fallen from Deck13 is a game that’s on the cusp of being great or special, but doesn’t quite reach those heights. This is a gorgeous, well-made game that is a lot of fun to play, thought it doesn’t offer more than the sum of its parts. Atlas Fallen is great for turning off your brain for some hack ‘n’ slash action, but not much else.

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The world of Atlas sees the waters receded and is fully covered in sand, all thanks to work from the malevolent sun god. You are an “Unnamed”, and as such you’re able to create an avatar of your own design that’s a woman or man, alongside customizing your duds. After establishing your looks, it won’t be long before you meet the gauntlet, a powerful artifact thought to be lost to time, is the key to Atlas’ salvation. You’ll soon meet Nyall, a ghost from the past who will help you along your journey, and in a lot of ways, this relationship reminded me of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor over something like the talking cuff in Forspoken. This is to say that he’s not annoying or invasive as a side character. There’s co-op for two players basically right out of the box, at least it’s unlocked very early in the game for minimal friction for playing with a friend. From here you’re off on a journey of discovery.

There are main quests which are given a gold icon, side quests are in blue, and errands are marked with a green icon. These are easy to track and follow, though some quests are gated by certain progression or other quest completion before you’re able to take it on. This is far and few between, but there are some restrictions. The developers cite 15-20 hours for the main story completion, but i finished the game in just under 11 hours. It’s a bit of a slog to get to the final boss that could’ve been smoother, but you’ll be quite prepared for it if you spend time completing other quests and investing in upgrades. The game does roll back your save prior to the final boss so that you can do all the collectibles and clean-up activities to keep playing.

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Weapons are handled in an interesting way in Atlas Fallen , it’s all melee-focused, but there’s only three weapons in the entire game: the dunecleaver, the sand whip, and the knuckledust. Each of them sound exactly like what you think they are. But in this game, it’s not the weapon that matters, it’s the essence stones that enhance combat. Essence stones are unlocked by completing quests and errands, or by completing side activities. Even once the stones are unlocked, they must be fused and can be upgraded twice to make the most of their power. They provide all styles of combat that either focus on offense, defense, debuffs, or support buffs like heals. It’s a game that caters to all kinds of play styles, and in co-op could be a devastating combo. When this is all combined, you do have to have some skill, and with only three weapons to choose from, you do learn their nuances to use to great effect.

There’s a momentum gauge that builds with successive attacks, giving you access to tiered abilities to utilize. As a result, high momentum means you are at risk of taking a lot of damage from a single strike from an enemy until you use it up. It encourages the use of momentum big and small. The first enemies seem overwhelming or daunting, but it isn’t long before you become more powerful. Your momentum gauge makes it easy to dispatch large foes with ease, or at least break off armor faster. I did find that the bosses are wildly difficult on the “Normal” difficulty, though the developers promise to have this fixed for launch. When the battle is over, there will be a bounty of resources to collect, such as essence dust, which serves as upgrade material. There’s a limited number of enemies, so after several hours, feels like you’re fighting the same things over and over again.

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There are ten different armors to collect, each with their own stats and upgrade powers, with some definitely better than others. You’re able to transmogrify any armor to match an existing set you already own, especially if it has lesser stats to avoid deviating from your favorite look. Each armor can be customized from its fabric to its plates using dyes, and then there are accouterments that can be slotted on based on things you’ve found or been given throughout the campaign. Some armor sets can be acquired, others must be purchased from a vendor. Vendors are a great way to make money, or tributes as it is called in-game. Vendors will have all the game’s resources for fusing and upgrading essence stones. Along the way you’ll find artifacts from the old world, and can sell them for big profits. There’s even a traveling vendor that’s looking for specialty items that you’re probably carrying for a bonus. If you’re short on materials, you can go out into the world to pick them up or visit the different vendors to buy what you need to upgrade your abilities, or unlock that new one you’ve been meaning to try out.

The focus on sand is an area not often explored in games. And Atlas Fallen offers one of the most satisfying traversal methods that isn’t flying, and that’s sand-gliding. Your unnamed character is able to effortlessly surf the sand (using only their feet) to navigate the world. While gliding, you can pick-up materials from the ground without having to stop. There’s perks you can unlock, and one of them makes it so anything you pick-up gives you a speed boost, encouraging you to route your path towards materials even more than before. There are places in the world where your gauntlet will detect anvils, these are workstations that allow you to heal, upgrade your armor and abilities, but also fast travel from anvil site to anvil site. This is not an open-world game, but the segmented open areas you visit are interesting. The Forbidden Lands a decently sized are that just feels like a tutorial. Then you’ll delve into the Underground, which is moderately sized, but the game really opens up with the Wildlands, which is where the last half of the game takes place. There’s a final area, but it’s rather small and part of the endgame. While there aren’t many areas to visit, each is varied from the last, and is fun to explore.

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If traditional navigation is not letting you get to certain areas, then your gauntlet will need upgrades to get you to where you’re going. You’ll eventually upgrade into having a double-jump, and even a triple dash, which lets you get to the hardest to reach places. Then, the gauntlet will be able to raise fallen objects, and need upgrade shards to increases its power to lift things like bridges and bigger structures that have been buried for hundreds of years of sand drift. The last power you receive is crush, objects you see pretty early on into the game that are easily dispatched, and too require and upgrade for larger items. Being able to manipulate the environment feels powerful.

It wouldn’t be a semi-open world game without some form of collectibles. There’s altars to break, hidden pathways to traverse, and treasure chests to uncover. Some of these activities are rather janky, and are not very fun to participate in. Even as you’re exploring, some areas of the game are not suited for it. There’s lots of invisible walls and areas that will respawn you, despite you having the ability to navigate it. Oddly, there’s this “watcher’s gaze”, an ominous structure in the distance will rarely spot you, and suck you up into a shield bubble and populate the space with enemies. You can stay and fight, or actually run out of this bubble to avoid the engagement altogether. It’s a system that’s not really explained, and it only happened to me a few times, and I’m not sure how often it can or should occur – but it’s odd all the same.

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The game runs incredibly well, often around 100fps without DLSS turned on. There’s a bit of texture pop-in, but the developers have already acknowledged this and intend to fix it for launch. I did notice some typos, or rather spelling inconsistencies (mostly regional spelling differences). Other than that, the game never crashed or stuttered while playing. It runs flawlessly on an ultrawide monitor, and is a sight to behold. Atlas Fallen looks absolutely gorgeous, the environments, sand, and particle effects just look immaculate.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Atlas Fallen is a fun and exciting journey over the sand and under the sun with a combat system defined by enhancements and not the weapons themselves. The story is forgettable, but the experience isn’t. It’s a game that has a bevy of systems, yet it all feels artificially restrained for unknown reasons. I found the gameplay loop to be enjoyable from start to finish, and the game ended right when it needed to. Atlas Fallen is a little flat in its presentation, but it’s a good way to spend a dozen or so hours sand-gliding and fighting as the Summer winds down.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes