ATOM RPG: Trudograd Review: A Modern Take On cRPGs

Two years after the events of the Fallout-inspired ATOM RPG, you are sent on a new secret mission to the decaying metropolis of Trudograd. Here you will have to track and recover a pre-war weapon capable to deal with a new impending threat to what's left of civilisation.

ATOM RPG: Trudograd Review: A Modern Take On cRPGs Cover

Developed by ATOM Team, a multinational game indie-development studio, ATOM RPG: Trudograd is the direct continuation of the studio’s earlier title ATOM RPG. The ATOM series is a love letter to classic RPGs such as the early Fallout, Baldur’s Gate and Wasteland games. 

ATOM RPG: Trudograd is technically a stand-alone sequel/expansion of the previous entry. It is not necessary to have played through ATOM RPG first, but as the two plots are closely intertwined I would still recommend to play through the first game.

If you do so, you can choose to carry over your character, along with all the choices you made throughout. If not, the game does a good job of reintroducing crucial plot points. This happens through with a dream sequence after character creation, where you can retroactively decide your actions over previous events. 

ATOM RPG: Trudograd is available on Steam for only $10.99. 

STORY – Apocalypse in the URSS

Two years ago as an agent of ATOM, a secret organisation tasked with maintaining the precarious order after nuclear annihilation, you discovered a threat to what remains of civilisation. In ATOM RPG: Trudograd, your character is sent to Trudograd, one of the last metropolis in what used to be the URSS. Here you will have to locate an experimental pre-war weapon to deal with the looming threat. 

The main story line which evolves from this premise is well done, if a little predictable. Nevertheless, it presents a good amount of possible branches and player agency. Only once during a quest I felt that something should not have happened or could have happened differently because of choices I made previously.

This said, the side content is where both games in the ATOM series shined for me, with some incredible dialogue and quest design which manages to be funny, poignant and to some degrees educational for those of us who know little about Soviet culture. 

The writing is one of the game's highlights

The writing is one of the game’s highlights

The world where all this action takes place is smaller than its predecessor’s, but it feels more focused because of it. The different areas of the city and its outskirts are well characterised and diverse enough to make up for the smaller surface area.

To switch the focus of post-nuclear war to the east worked well in ATOM RPG and so does this. It maintains the apocalypse atmosphere we all know and love but also gives it a fresh coat of paint by setting it in an unfamiliar environment. 

GAMEPLAY – Nothing new under the nuclear winter sun 

If you played classic RPGs, and in particular the first two instalments of Fallout, then almost nothing about the gameplay of ATOM RPG: Trudograd will be new to you. 

You start by either creating a new character from level 15, or importing your old one from ATOM RPG. You assign a number of points to both Characteristics, such as Strength and skills like Barter. Additionally, you can pick Abilities which give you different perks and bonuses on various activities.

The character creator is immediately familiar to cRPGs fans

The character creator is immediately familiar to cRPGs fans

As it is customary for cRPGs, character creation is fundamental. Gameplay revolves around stats that are directly influenced by the chosen Characteristics and Skills. As you gain experience and level up, you get to place more points into your Skills and Abilities.

COMBAT

In combat, your character has a number of action points that are spent performing most actions, including moving, shooting and reloading. The effectiveness of these actions is influenced by a number of factors such as Abilities and Skills. Combat is the least interesting aspect of this game, especially if your character, like mine, is not built for it.

Classic RPGs combat has aged poorly

Classic RPGs combat has aged poorly

Without a cover system, sophisticated AI or meaningful strategic elements aside from positioning, for my silver-tongued Taras, combat mostly devolved into repeatedly attacking (and missing) an enemy another until only one was left standing.

This is somewhat made better by unlocking higher level gear and companions through the game. However, the crux of the matter is that after playing other strategic games like XCOM or Divinity: Original Sin, the whole system feels antiquated

EXPLORATION

Thankfully, as if the game knew, you can easily avoid most combat in Trudograd. Your character stats will play a major role in dialogues too, impacting the options you have available and their effectiveness. By putting most of my stats into Speechcraft I intimidated, charmed and lied my way out of many a situation. These included preventing a terrorist attack, but alas not avoiding getting mauled by some rabid dogs.

Combat aside, the rest of game is smooth and polished and holds up to today’s standards. From helping a guilt-ridden mother holding a turnip as her baby, to freelancing for the police while also dabbing in the odd robbery, you can really appreciate the love for the genre that the developers poured into the game.

Note to self: you can't charm dogs

Note to self: you can’t charm dogs

GRAPHICS & SOUND – 90% hit chance

Comparing once again ATOM RPG: Trudograd to its inspirations makes you really appreciate how far computer graphics have come in the past 20 years. Here, in particular, the lighting compartment is really impressive while there isn’t anything exceedingly fancy, everything looks crisp and polished.

The developers redesigned the UI from the first game and overhauled the graphics as a whole. Some animations look a bit stiff, but for a small indie studio the polish of this game is still a massive achievement.

I am more conflicted about the sound. For the most part, the sound design is perfectly unobtrusive, doing exactly what it needs to be without going overboard. There is no voice-over for dialogue, but some of the set-pieces and more involved quests have narrated sections. The voice acting is not bad, but I felt that it did not entirely fit with the game world.

This is more evident given that the voice-over provided for the opening cinematic feels perfectly at home in post-apocalypse URSS.

ATOM RPG: Trudograd was reviewed on PC. A key was provided by Atent Games.

Summary
The follow-up to ATOM RPG has the same quality writing and polish, alongside improvements to the graphics and mechanics. Despite suffering from some of the same issues, this makes ATOM RPG: Trudograd a strict upgrade to its predecessor and a must play for lovers of cRPGs.
Good
  • Good writing and quest design
  • A modernised fix for cRPGs fans
  • Great price for the amount of content it offers
Bad
  • Classic RPGs combat aged poorly
  • Weirdly out of place voiceover
7.5
Good

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