When we first saw Atlas Fallen last year at Gamescom, the promise of a fantastic world and phenomenal cosmic powers to subdue the mighty creatures that plague it immediately caught my attention, but the trailer we saw then only promised a 2023 release and a story to experience alone or in co-op with cinematic cutscenes, and there was no sign of any real gameplay.
Since then (and it's been a few months now) the release date has crept closer and closer until just this week we got a short trailer with a brief (very brief) glimpse of three combat scenes and three scenes of movement, on top of exploration of the environment. This lack of a marketing campaign for a game that will be released in a couple of months didn't inspire much confidence. Still, I needed to try out Atlas Fallen and see what it has to offer, and I've seen some good and some not so good things, but none of them particularly original.
Atlas Fallen is set in the land of Atlas, where an evil force with the power to dominate the beasts has completely subdued the population. During the final battle, the last defenders harnessed the power of the Gauntlet, a mystical weapon that could turn the tide of battle. Unfortunately, that power was too strong to control, and the Gauntlet exploded into pieces, leaving the survivors at the mercy of evil. As fate would have it, this fragmented and unstable weapon has now fallen into your hands. The objective is to recover the parts (shards) of the Gauntlet in order to increase its power and defeat the bad guys. So we will have to traverse a vast world in search of the shards, and in the process help the population with their tasks and rid the areas of monsters.
Wow, a huge open world, full of strange creatures and with a newly acquired power that allows us to perform magic thanks to an accessory... I've seen this before. And not that long ago. Deck 13 had not dared until now to make an open world title like Atlas Fallen, but you can immediately see that it is a bet in which the studio - and creator of Lords of the Fallen and the soulslike-The Surge - wanted to explore this genre without getting too complicated and take advantage of the pull of exploration and combat systems that had already achieved success, as is the case of God of War (2018).
The problem comes when you feel the connection to a title even more recent than the other two and which has been poorly received by the community: Forspoken. The similarities between the title of the now defunct Luminous and Atlas Fallen go beyond the medieval aesthetics or the colour palette of the world. It's the fact that even the accompanying accessory itself talks. And it's just as irritating. At least here it materialises from time to time in the form of an entity called Nyaal who advises and guides us through the journey.
I've mentioned before that the combat system borrowed heavily from Santa Monica's title, but from what I've seen it abuses those systems and brings them to Atlas mercilessly and shamelessly. Combat with unlockable skills and charge bars with which to perform ultimate combos are here, as well as crafting items (Idols) with which to expand defence, attack or health recovery. I don't mind that they've taken notes from GoW, in fact I'm glad more games are taking notes from Kratos' new approach, but the mirage disappears when you're planted in the first battles during the tutorial and see that the combat here is quite different. Enemy strikes and movements are clunky, almost static, and with a parry system that visually doesn't make the opening moment clear, and introduces an aerial combat mechanic where it's easier to miss with the huge magic weapons at your disposal than it is to hit the monster.
And the technical side of the game hasn't caught my attention at all. The graphics are from the last generation, although here I'll throw a nod in favour of Atlas Fallen and say that its performance on PCs with somewhat dated or lower-mid-range components is still very good, and despite being a more modest title, its lighting and world-loading system is fluid. Even the movement of the character is better here than in Forspoken, which leaves me with a glimmer of hope that some of the problems I experienced on PC won't carry over to the console version, which I hope to review in a few weeks.
Atlas Fallen hasn't left me feeling very reassured at the moment. It may not be a ground-breaking title, but if its combat system wins you over and you get swept up in the rich story between combat encounters (which I've barely heard anything about), I may come back for more adventures.