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Atlas

Atlas is the ultimate survival MMO of unprecedented scale with 40,000+ simultaneous players in the same world. Join an endless adventure of piracy & sailing, exploration... read more

Atlas Preview

Author: Hrvoje Smoljic
16-Jan-2019

Category: Preview

The announcement trailer for Atlas tickled our imaginations but how does the game hold up when you actually play it in its current condition? Gather 'round, maties and read up on our experience in playing the ambitious pirate MMO from the creators of ARK.

Atlas Review

INTRODUCTION

I'm sure at this point the only gamers who don't know about Atlas are those living under a rock. The game made quite a splash at the 2018 Game Awards with its announcement trailer that made it seem like it was the pirate game we've all been waiting for. Pair that with ambitious talk of tech capable of supporting more than 40 000 players per server and it was understandable why many were hyped.

Unfortunately, the reality struck hard with this one and after numerous delays, the game was released to Steam early access with mostly negative reviews. We even tried to review the game two weeks ago but couldn't play it for longer than 20 minutes without being disconnected from the server. So what happened to make Atlas into such a mess, what does it bring to the table, and has the situation improved since launch? Read on to find out.

Atlas is available for purchase on Steam.

GAMEPLAY

First off - if you've watched the trailer above, know that the game is not anywhere near that level of polish. However, it's not a case of completely false advertising since you can actually recreate many of the moments seen in the trailer. It's only that they are locked behind an insane level of grind. And sure, you could argue that many MMO's are a grind fest but I would argue that grind isn't what makes them fun, but it's the payoff at the end of it. Alas, unfortunately, doesn't quite have that.

Starting the game you'll immediately notice how it plays, feels and looks the same as Ark: Survival Evolved. Developers reusing assets from their previous game is nothing new, but Atlas takes this to a completely new level - fully justifying the fact that many people call it an Ark DLC.

Atlas Pirate City
Not only that but the gameplay loop is exactly the same. You spawn in a selected area of the world and proceed to punch some trees, rocks, and grass to collect initial resources needed to craft basic equipment. This also increases your XP and grants you skill points which you invest in unlocking more crafting recipes. Upon leveling up, you proceed to once again gather increasingly rare resources to get better equipment or materials. But you see, I know all this because I played Ark extensively. New players, on the other hand, will find themselves immediately lost since the game features almost no tutorials, no explanations of its mechanics or what exactly you should be doing or why. The game poorly communicates the fact that the story of Atlas is what you make of it and that the general lack of direction should be taken as its strength rather than weakness.

My first couple of tries the game spawned me in the middle of the ocean which meant a quick death. Other times the game spawned me on an island without a source of fresh water so players would run around until inevitably dying of thirst. After that, I finally spawned near a city in a fairly diverse biome that had all the necessary resources needed to survive and level up. It's here that the grind and poor mechanics struck me the most.

Atlas AFK players
If you have your eyes set on playing PVP, know that it's an absolute nightmare. The only way you'll stand a chance of surviving is if you are a part of a huge tribe that will offer you protection, land, and resources. If you plan on playing solo or in a small group, know that you'll be doing it on borrowed time. The fact that you could lose all your hard work in an instant will make the grind even worse than it already is.

PVE is a bit more forgiving only due to the fact that players usually won't be looking for trouble. You'll actually be able to collect, craft and build without constantly looking over your shoulder. Still, PVE has one insane flaw where players can still destroy your buildings and kill your sleeping character when you are out of the game! How and why is this possible in PVE mode is completely beyond reason and is something the developers should fix as soon as possible.

Atlas At Sea
After playing solo, I got a couple of friends to join me and we set out building our first ship. It's here once again that the boring resource grind showed its ugly rear again. It took four of us a whopping 3 days of fairly regular play to build one ship - only to have it be destroyed 2 hours later. Sure, the sailing and ship combat was fun while it lasted - but the ultimate realization that we would have to go through all the boring, bug infested grind all over again is what ruined the experience.

VISUALS AND AUDIO

Atlas uses pretty much the same engine as Ark. This means that it's a visual mixed bag. The world itself is huge but most of it is comprised of same old Caribbean-like islands with not much in the way of diversity. The game will sometimes offer you some real eye candy scenes of god rays passing through the branches near a sandy beach overlooked by a mountain.

Atlas Pretty Visuals
Other times, it will show you flying goats being killed by players with disproportionately large arms behind a rock with missing textures. This inconsistent quality means you'll never quite sink into this pirate adventure and numerous bugs and graphical problems will constantly bring you out of the experience. They will, however, certainly make you laugh.

The user interface also leaves a lot to be desired. It is as if the developers didn't get the memo about how Ark's UI was terrible since they use the same one here. However, they somehow managed to make it even less visually appealing. As such, certain elements of its skill tree appear as if they were made in Microsoft Paint and the navigation through it is confusing to the point of using Google to find certain functions.

Atlas User Interface
Performance-wise, things are much improved since the rocky release. With that being said, the game is still quite a mess. Not only does it weigh heavy on your system specs, but it's also plagued by numerous bugs, glitches, slow texture loading, poor animations, frequent server disconnects and much more. It's definitely a game that should have been developed behind the scenes for at least another year before seeing the light of day.

CONCLUSION

Atlas pushes the boundary of what it means for a game to be "early access". What little fun you'll get out of it will purely depend on you and the people you'll be playing with. It doesn't favor solo players, it offers almost no gratification and is a mess from a technical standpoint.

Like Ark, Atlas features a premise that is both interesting and full of potential. Ark itself launched as a shell of a game that the developers eventually turned around and made into a great survival experience. I sincerely hope they can accomplish the same here and that after a year or two, a full review of Atlas can be made in a more positive light.



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