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Atlas Reactor (Episode 95)

THE GRINDSTONE TRIBUNAL:

While the Tribunal leans mostly to the negative (from those who had something to say) the split felt a lot more even, but not among those who make the most influence on this show. Dreskar, Karochi, Dobar,  Dabeer, and I all have words to offer up. I’ve made my piece in the video, but I’ll be doing the same here as well.

Dreskar:

Atlas Reactor is one of those games that tried so hard to do something different that they never stopped to ask themselves if they should. Sometimes a formula becomes standard for a reason and going outside the box, while sometimes laudable can lead to great failings if your forays out aren’t taken with measured steps. Atlas Reactor tries to be different, and yet fails to find its footing among the tide of other free to play mobas that are all over the market. It actually seems odd to call it a MOBA, but there really isn’t a better definition for the term, even if you don’t lane or kill minions or towers to push to a core, it is just a turn based fight with the baffling idea that everyone should go at the same time.
To put it simply the system doesn’t work, hell having played Divinity: Original Sin 2’s arena mode which does something similar to this I can’t even think of a reason why Atlas Reactor should exist. In DOS 2 you can plan your strategy, even choosing to end your turn early to build up a backlog of action points to do more complex maneuvers later, and since everyone takes their turn one after the other you can communicate effectively with your team to setup intricate strategy. Atlas Reactor chose to give a punishingly short 20 seconds for not only everyone to take their turn but to coordinate which just doesn’t happen unless you start during the final phases of the last turn. Individual characters requiring significant balancing instead of having a common skill pool that can be adjusted and while this gives variety to the Freelancers in AR it also means you can’t be sure of what one is capable of until you have played it.
The phasing system often ensures that nothing that happens feels like it is in my control, I mean sure I can choose the skill and aim it but will the person be there when the ‘reactions’ start to play or did I just waste what I did. Nothing in this seems like skill, and even using the Alt key to see what skills are on or off cooldown does little to alleviate the problem. There is no holding a corner or flank so the team can push, no objectives besides kill 5 enemy players to work towards, you just aim and pray you get lucky. This is a system that just isn’t appealing to me, I prefer to be in control of what I do and how I react and play around the abilities or playstyle of my opponent, not just sitting there rolling a dice and hoping I get a hit and they fail to dash out of the way. Don’t get me wrong RNG exists in every game but this one relies on it so much that even when I am doing well I just consider the fact I got lucky, when I die they got lucky, when we won we just got more lucky then the enemy team.
So why on earth would I ever recommend such a game? Well the short answer is I won’t, and the longer answer was the preceding bits of text and more that follows. The game lacks strategy and depth for flash in the pan gimmicks and little substance, not to mention Trion taking the epic piss to make this a buy to play title at first before converting to free to play when they realized no one gave two shits about Atlas Reactor. The conversion itself is a mixed bag and feels too stingy for free players though I am pleased to see they are rewarding those suckers, I mean players that bought the title before hand.
If you want to play a game in this similar style that does it right pick up Divinity: Original Sin 2 instead, and enjoy the long single player/co-op/competitive campaign that comes with it. If you want a more actiony title with similar theming to occupy your time give Battlerite a try instead.
Recommended?: NOPE, get Divinity Original Sin 2, or Battlerite instead.

 

Karochi:

Atlas Reactor; a game for the gaming connoisseur who doesn’t quite know what tactics are and is not sure what ‘fun’ is. This is a game where four people work at the same time towards their own goals that sometimes align with each other. It’s kinda like playing chess where after every two turns someone comes around knocks the board over forcing you to put ’em all back, having to guess where all the pieces were, inevitably putting some back in the wrong places and fucking up whatever plans you thought you had. Oh, and you barely get any time to figure it all back out again you just have to go or you lose your turn.
It feels like Trion was trying to take a MOBA and take a more strategical approach, but didn’t want to lose any of the MOBA market so they made sure it was still fast paced, thus making strategy a more annoying aspect than it needs to be and generally just fucking up the game. My experience playing this game was just frustrating. When I tried to communicate with my team and plan what to do we consistently ran out of time, and when I stopped giving a shit and just wanted to shoot shit the turns felt like they were taking forever. The fact that I was playing with friends only managed to make the game barely bearable.
Recommended?: NO

 

Dobar:

While I might have enjoyed playing this game a little bit with Grindstone, this game does not change how I feel about MOBAs and arena shooters.  The game has some interesting ideas about doing a turned based PvP game, but the short 20 second turn limit gives no time to come up with a strategy, especially when you are in a Discord chat and want to talk strategy with your teammates.  Most of the time, it becomes using a move you hope works.  If every player had their own turn for 20 seconds and it worked like a turn-based strategy game or if they extended the clock to 40 seconds or more, you could strategize with your teammates more and not just do random moves to get a move in.
There is also such a flood of MOBAs and similar games that what makes this game different is not enough compared to the flood of other similar games.  Even going full free-to-play does not help too much, especially with how hard it is to unlock new characters.  This game would have benefited so much from a story mode, especially after the tutorial and how some of the characters and the world seems interesting enough to where a story would help the game.
Overall, I feel this is not great, but not terrible.  If the combat was more turned for turn-based combat, I would like this more.  I like the Advanced Wars and Fire Emblem games and the Super Robot Wars series is one of my favorite series.  If this game had that kind of feel, even if it was nothing but PvP, I would like this game more. Otherwise, this game does not feel different enough to recommend.
Recommended?:  NO, not fun or different enough compared to so many other similar games.

 

Dabeer:

Oh man, my first time back in the Tribunal after some time off and I can already tell I’m gonna be the odd man out. Unlike the rest of the fuddy duddies here, I actually really enjoyed playing Atlas Reactor. To be honest, I actually think calling this game a MOBA is a bit of a disservice; as the only “MOBA” I actually have ever liked was Smite, and this game seems different enough to the standard LoL and DOTA2 to have its own classification. I think where this game really shines is in it’s quick decision making and the fact that you have to be able to react fast enough to plan out a decent strategy. Sure, while a lot of the planning feels like it is undone by randomness, as someone who is a big fan of TCG’s and is addicted to a certain “RNG” based mobile game at the moment, I actually kind of enjoy the hectic feel the game play presents. Sure, while it means that any sort of plan that you make can be undone by a single enemy making a move you didn’t predict; but honestly… isn’t that just a part of strategy? I mean, one of my favorite parts of any TCG is being forced to change up your approach depending on what cards your opponent plays, and which cards you happen to have in your hand to mount a counterattack. I will admit that, since all of the action takes place at the same time and not in a turn-based fashion that an opponent moving in the phase before you get to attack can be a little bit annoying, but it also helps the game to feel a lot more fluid.
Another thing I really like about this game is the diversity in its characters. Much like with Battleborn and Overwatch, I feel like each of the characters in this game are unique; both in design and play style. Sure, they may not have the same level of “lore” or characterization as those other two games, but unlike them, I didn’t have to pay full retail price to get to play Atlas Reactor, so that does kind of bias my opinion. I personally love playing as the rocket wielding Zuki; and all of the mods they have for me to choose from for her really make me feel like I can tweak her abilities to my specific play style.
Now, I’m not gonna pretend that this game is perfect, and while it does check a lot of boxes for me personally, it does have a few things that annoy me. The tutorial given in game is definitely weak, and in some cases (like for me), it will just freeze and you won’t be able to progress in it. Then again, that being said, I do feel like just jumping into a bot match with friends is a much better tutorial, and is probably the best way to get into the game. I will also agree with my peers that the 20 second turn limit does seem to be a little too short, and in my opinion it would be nice if they would add a separate time limit after choosing an action to let you then move your character after all actions have played out; as I often end up just standing around like a brick. Of course, on the other hand, if they were to increase the amount of time you have to make your decisions, then the game would lose a bit of its flow and I really do think that the game needs to keep up the pressure to help it maintain its fun.
All in all, I find that I really do enjoy Atlas Reactor, and if you have 3 friends to bring along, I would definitely suggest checking this title out. While it is in no way one of my favorite games, as a quick and hectic strategy game it fills in a niche I like; and it will definitely be a fun game to open up every now and then to play a few matches with friends and lament how the enemy moved just in time to dodge all of our damn attacks.

Recommended?: YES, even more so with friends.

 

ChaosD1:

Et tu, Dobar? Seriously thought you had my back on this one, granted you did have to bow out early due to PC woes, so… maybe you didn’t have time let the game infest your brain like it did mine.
This is seriously the most torn Dreskar and I have been on a title in ever, as seriously… I love this game. Not that I feel he doesn’t have a point, but I definitely wouldn’t go as far as calling it “Shit game” or saying “Swordsman was a better game”. Them’s fightin’ words, bro.
Yeah it sucks when your attack doesn’t go through, but I’d rather play a game that keeps me guessing, rather than looking at the obvious move in the meta. Things like setting a tripwire near the health pickup when an enemy player is low on HP are perfectly logical, but the fact you’ll never know if your opponent might dash to a further spot, use their self-heal catalyst or had coordinated with their teammates to receive a ton of heals and defense buffs for the turn, and set you up for a counter-trap. The fact you only have 20 seconds to consider all these possibilities just fires off all my instinctive neurons and it feels more rewarding when you guess correctly.
Like Dabeer mentioned, the game almost feels like a grind-based TCG. No one gives a shit when Hearthstone does the exact same thing with cards, so why it Atlas getting flak for it?
I think that’s part of the risk of genre blending, and reinventing the wheel. I’m pretty sure there were hundreds of people who scoffed at the notion of DotA, and felt it took away the true spirit of an RTS by forcing you only to consider the movements of one character, and not having to allocate resources to maintaining your base, but it took off, and now everyone is trying to put their spin on that… even if the MOBA bubble burst sometime in 2015.
Not sayin’ Atlas Reactor has a chance of being the next big thing. Don’t get ahead of me here. It’s still a very strange title that has more people trying to compare it to clone titles rather than see it as a completely unique game, and now that the game went Free-to-Play, like, legitimately, maybe it can build up an audience. Hopefully one just large enough to sustain an active playerbase, but not one so large where it’s crawling with insufferable people who bring torches and pitchforks to those who don’t accept faults.
I love the game’s lore, its characters, its music… track, and I can’t recommend enough that anyone willing to learn the game at least give it a shot.
And use my trial code: HXLQDXTHNCJNLGQHQNEL
Favorite Freelancers-
Firepower: Juno
Frontline: Garrison
Support: Quark
… cause people on Twitch kept asking me for some reason.
Recommended?: YES. It’s a strange wondrous thing and I’m pretty sure that song is programming my brain.

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Posted on January 31, 2017, in Episodes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I was really happy to see a game with a phase based gameplay where movement and attacks resolve simultaneously in a double blind manner. One of my favorite tabletop games, Battletech, does a similar thing where attacks resolve simultaneously, though attack declarations and movement don’t and alternate between teams unless you use optional rules to make it a double blind setup and you need a referee to do that.

    Doing a online game this way has some advantages as a video game can implement that easier and it solves some of the time issues an alternating turn structure can have. These kinds of systems are a bit more advanced concepts so it is refreshing to see something delve into it.

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