If you follow Main Menu Games on Twitter then you probably saw the rise and fall of my hype for the latest creation from the developers of Ark.
I never played Ark, other than some free weekend trials, but I admired its ambition and scale.
Atlas promised a huge open world, 1,200 times the size of Ark, that would host up to 40,000 players. Everyone would be able to set sail across the seas building boats and forts to either take down other players or some of the massive world bosses.
I came into the Atlas expecting some issues just like any other Steam Early Access open world survival title usually would have, but I didn’t expect the dumpster fire that I got.
The worst release period in existence
Atlas’s launch was extremely frustrating. The game was delayed 3 times AFTER the time it was supposed to be release. Not only this, but it was still released the day after the final release date.
It was a PR nightmare to which the head spokesperson of the game literally said “Fuck the ETAs.”
That’s probably not the right thing to say after your game failed (and continues to fail) to meet every single deadline you set for it.
After waiting for hours to log in, I got into a laggy, rubber-banding, low FPS game that was completely unplayable. Servers were full of sleeping players filling the city streets with snores, and there wasn’t any leaving the city because you would just rubber band back in.
We’ll fast forward another full day to the point where I could actually play.
After a million log in issues I was finally in to a somewhat playable game.
When joining a server you can pick from a selection of regions to spawn into. There’s the regions with built in ports, and there’s the Lawless regions that the developers added into the game as a knee-jerk reaction to players not being able to join.
Be careful though, because joining a Lawless region is completely useless.
To build a raft to get off the island you’ll need to talk to a ship builder, and Lawless islands don’t have towns on them so there is no ship builder. I wasted multiple hours grinding resources just to find out I couldn’t do anything with my progress. So I restarted in a region with a port from scratch.
Starting off is exactly like Ark.
You go off and punch some trees and gather bushes until you have the resources required for your basic tools.
It’s basic survival game formula.
Where the game differs is in some of its systems.
Atlas introduces multiple new mechanics and systems including multiple skill trees, a dietary system, and a sailing system. The sailing system is actually pretty cool, and it’s where I see the game’s potential shine brightest.
I had some issues with rubber-banding while sailing my raft, even after multiple server updates and restarts that fixed most of the on-foot lag issues, but my time at sea made me feel accomplished.
Sure, the UI isn’t the prettiest, but I’m willing to forgive a little lack-of-polish in an Early Access game that’s been out for less than a week.
Sailing my boat made me feel like I had broken free from the land that so many others were stuck on, and I looked forward to my pirate adventures.
But of course Atlas wouldn’t let me have too much fun now would it.
After sailing for a good 15-20 minutes I spotted my first glimpse of a new island.
I slowly shifted my sails to catch the wind to lead me to the shore.
Then I started dying, but not because I didn’t have enough food. I didn’t have enough different food groups.
For some reason Atlas incorporates a strange diet system where not only do players need to fill their stomachs, but they also need to regulate 4 food groups; fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish.
The entire system is broken because you have to eat more than a professional strongman to survive a single day, and you have to somehow eat this much without going over your vitamin limit.
This feels impossible to do as a low-level players due to the fact that food and water is already hard to come by.
When eating the food you need to fill your stomach, you’ll end up going over your vitamin limit. If you don’t do this then you’ll level out your vitamin limit, but you’ll starve to death.
There’s no winning.
Skills and levels
The “skill tree” that Atlas implements is painful to look at.
It’s hard to even call it a tree because it looks more like headphones after being in your pocket all day.
It’s jumbled, confusing, and doesn’t make much sense.
On top of the weird skill tree is a large number of strange leveling decisions.
Players on the starting island are only allowed to level up to level 8 before having to leave to level up more. What makes this a big deal is that fact that some islands have crazy dangerous predators at over level 200.
On one of the ports I spawned at multiple people, including me, where being attacked by a level 220+ giant snake.
There was no way we were killing it, so it just became a giant pain.
More issues await
Here’s some more issues that you could encounter in the game:
Getting off the island with plenty of resources and being able to eat healthily at sea are one thing, but getting to another island is another.
Islands are so far apart that once you’ve gotten past the thrill of escaping the island by boat once, it becomes a giant bore.
Your initial raft is so slow that it will take you at least 20-25 minutes to find another island outside of the starter zone.
The islands outside of the starter zones are also unforgivably difficult. They are filled to the brim with predators, so if you somehow make it without starving or ruining your diet you will most likely die when you land.
Food spoils extremely quickly so dieting at sea is a huge hassle. If you save some of each food group, chances are it will all go bad before you get the chance to eat it.
Many players have reported that large ships can instantly break when crafted in a shipyard due to the shipyard’s water being too shallow.
Animals rubber-band and glitch from here to there. Half the time they end up 50 feet in the air for no reason at all.
Starter areas have horrible FPS still. This is strictly due to server-side performance.
There’s a chance you’ll spawn in the middle of the ocean. If that happens there’s a good chance you aren’t going to make it to land before dying.
The devs are constantly “fixing” the servers, causing tons of setbacks and connection drops.
I want to say that Atlas has tons of potential, because it does. But due to the horrible communication from the development team, the awful server performance, the horrible design decisions, and the countless bugs my hope for this game has been drained already.
It seems that the developers didn’t even play-test this game with how bad it is in certain areas.
I’ll keep playing Atlas because I’m a sucker for pirate games, and because I want it to be great. If the game gets better during its Early Access period, I’ll continue to update the review.
For now though, this game is an abomination and should be avoided at all costs.