Publisher: Trion Worlds
Developer: Trion Worlds
I feel like Atlas Reactor is definitely one of those games you need to try for yourself, as opposed to trying to understand via written or even video format. It’s not that the basic concepts are hard to grasp, but understanding how it all works and comes together, and how it manages to do that quite well, is certainly easier to understand once you’re in control of the whole thing. And even then it can take some time to really get acquainted with the mechanics. While I found myself struggling to wrap my head around the gameplay after the first hour or two, Atlas Reactor has become something that I’ve had a hard time drawing myself away from over the past few days.
That’s gotta be a good thing, right? I think so at least. Doing this, writing about games, you end up playing a lot of different experiences that may grab you for a small window of time, but ultimately you need to move on to the next thing in order to manage your workflow. Atlas Reactor has become one of those few disrupting experiences when it comes to my workflow, in that I find myself wanting to play it when I should be doing other things. Ultimately, that’s a personal hallmark of a quality game in my mind, something that only rolls around once in awhile. But trying to explain to you, the reader, why this has happened is a little more…challenging.
So let’s just delve into the mechanics of Atlas Reactor. It’s a 4 vs. 4 online multiplayer strategy game. Think of something like XCOM, but with more colorful characters that feel akin to Overwatch, and generally a smaller playing field and unique abilities for each character. The game takes an isometric style view, and the stages are laid out in a grid format, with various pieces of cover to hide behind that deter ranged attacks.
Characters fall into one of three classes, tanks (Frontline), damage dealers (Firepower) and healers/buffs (Support). There’s a pretty hefty roster of characters to choose from, all with unique abilities that help to set them apart. You can modify abilities between games by unlocking mods using points earned from leveling up, which again helps to set the various characters apart from one another. There’s also equippable Catalysts, which are essentially abilities that can only be used once per game, and are generally universal across all characters and classes.
Each game is broken down into four stages. Rounds will start with the Prep phase, generally used to buff or heal, before moving into the Dash phase. This revolves around abilities that include some form of limited movement, usually short range rolls or teleports with some type of added effect like an attack or debuff. Then there’s the Blast phase, where enemies will dish out most of the damage dealing attacks. Then the round ends with player movement, allowing you to go a certain number of squares on the field before starting the whole process over again.
The trick is that you select all of your abilities/movements in one go. So at the beginning of a round you’ll pick what to do for each phase before the phases actually play out. So utilizing the Dash phase to roll out of incoming enemy attacks can be wise, as can using the Prep phase to build up shields or regenerate health. Also, paying attention to what abilities are on cooldown for opposing players can be key to not wasting your turns on an attack that won’t connect. There’s a lot of give and take for any given round, and teams that communicate are always going to more effective. This is done via in-game chat, or an optional Discord option for voice chat built into the game.
Most battles last somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes. A team wins by either having the most kills after 20 rounds, or by being the first to get 5 kills. Death isn’t game over for your character, you will regenerate next turn, and then spend a round restricted to movement only after that. To help matches move quickly, there’s a very small timer to select abilities at the beginning of a round, preventing player griefing via delays. And if players quit out of a game, they’ll be replaced by surprisingly capable bots.
Whether you win or lose, you’ll gain experience for both the character you’re controlling, and your overall account within Atlas Reactor. Leveling up allows you to unlock loot crates, which contain three items of varying rarity, generally providing emotes, taunts, and skins for characters. Again, this is very much in line with the Overwatch model, which works as well here as it does in the Blizzard shooter.
Currently, there are two different ways to play Atlas Reactor. One is a free to play model, which allows you to experience most of Atlas Reactor, but locks you out of ranked play. It also restricts the character roster to six, which the game will cycle through weekly. Alternatively, for $29.99, you can get access to everything, and all characters. I bring this up solely because I’d urge you to at least check out the free model to get your feet wet. Atlas Reactor is a really great game, and honestly playing it will do a better job of convincing you than this review is likely going to manage.
So yeah, I’m pretty impressed with this game, especially considering it wasn’t really on my radar until I was offered the review code. In a month that’s seen Gears of War 4, Mafia III, Dragon Quest Builders, and more, Atlas Reactor has actually managed to steal a remarkable amount of time from me, and I anticipate it will continue to do so in the months to come.