AtomTeam's successful Kickstarter project ATOM RPG, bringing in $33,521 US dollars from genre hopefuls, is now available for all CRPG fans to enjoy. As many other CRPGs, Atom RPG is set in a post-apocalyptic, barren wasteland and the player is tasked with building their character, finding a mysterious individual and take down mutated beasts and corrupt, evil humans on the way to finding said individual. For those of us who played and loved titles such as Wasteland 2 and the classic original Fallout games, it's clear that these titles inspired Atom RPG. If one has a quick look at the Kickstarter page for the project, even the devs are really upfront with their inspirations, and this is certainly not a bad thing, considering the CRPG genre is a wilting one release-wise but still sports a huge, dedicated fanbase and Atom RPG seems to be a love letter to all the older titles that fanbase knew, loved and want to see again, us included.
Atom greets the player with a quick cutscene, explaining the predicament we as survivors are in. The third World War, we're told, was a nuclear one, with the Soviets seeming to be the catalyst with its acquisition of nuclear weapons. We're told the bombs dropped in 1986, so we're going to assume the Cold War was the beginning of our world's end in this alternate timeline. What's unique to Atom RPG is this timeline, as the game is set in 2005. No-one's been in a vault behind blast doors for hundreds of years and civilisation is still made up out of pre-war survivors and then added to with younglings roaming the wasteland as if the landscapes of Earth was always dirt and radioactive sludge. This makes for a potential dialogue goldmine, matching post-war babies with pre-war veterans, and the game most certainly takes this opportunity and shines on that front.
After a quick debriefing, the player gets to choose and customise his or her character and it's a classic CRPG recipe even here. Instead of getting to customise your avatar in the game, you pick one based from photographs in a huge stack of what looks like classified, government documents. After picking the one that the player feels best suits them look and statistics wise, they get to level their chosen one by putting the points given in two categories: characteristics and skills. Characteristics are your core stats such as strength and intellect, meanwhile, skills hold the specific weapon traits such as weapon category knowledge (Martial arts, Pistols & SMGs, Automatic Firearms etc.) as well as action and action specific skills (First Aid, Speechcraft and Barter etc.). One can also pick a distinction which is a drawback/positive trait category, sometimes giving the player a boost in one area while putting another area of expertise down.
The game also holds a skill tree to put points into when the player levels up and we have to say that finding this out came as a surprise about seven hours in. We either missed a critical text tutorial somewhere or there simply was no information given regarding the fact that this skill tree existed. Said skill tree is pretty straight-forward however and gives the player the option to build his or her character as he or she sees fit. What's more is that it's a pretty substantial menu (once you've found it) with plenty of strategic point placements to be made to get that skill at one end of the tree that you really want.
Speaking of not realising major mechanics in the game exists, Atom RPG is, like many other CRPGs, very vague in some of its dialogue. There's a lot of reading to do and a lot of details one has to pay attention to in said dialogues in order to know what comes next in a mission strand, side quests and main missions alike. Some of these mission strands are hard to catch up on because of broken translations and odd sentence structure on the developer's part, making some of the mission objectives a guessing game. This being said, the dialogue is, for the most part, well written and speaking to random strangers in the wasteland is a joy. Characters are funny, they tell interesting stories, and in no part of the game did we feel like reading was a chore. If you're not a fan of heavy text-based dialogue, however, Atom RPG is most definitely not the game for you.