Deck13 has made a name for itself as a small but reliable developer who has a profound understanding of the appeal of soulslike video games. Lords of the Fallen was their sophomore effort at trying to capture the lightning that FromSoftware has mastered in creating. While it has its fans, there is nobody who would prefer their first attempt over what Deck13 would produce next.
The Surge and its sequel showed how Deck13 learned its lessons from Lords of the Fallen. Especially in “The Surge 2,” they showcased their confidence in crafting a soulslike action RPG that could rival some of FromSoftware’s endeavors. Instead of solely building upon their gradual mastery, Deck13 has aimed for a new direction.
Their next game is set in a vast and sprawling Arabic-inspired world, where players assume the role of a powerful warrior capable of harnessing sand as a deadly weapon, engaging in battles with large monstrous beasts. Has the development of brutal “soulslikes” paid off in this swashbuckling adventure? Find out in this Atlas Fallen review!
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: August 9, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
The sprawling expanses within Atlas Fallen are where the tendrils of corrupted deities and ominous creatures ensnare the land. Humanity dangles upon the precipice of despair, in a world gripped by the shackles of oppressive dominion. This is a place where the once brilliant potential of mankind languishes, enveloped by a vast ocean of sand.
Gamers are thrust into a universe where names are distant memories, relegated to the grim title of “Unnamed.” Names are forsaken, replaced by job roles that define your existence – an enslavement of your identity. It reflects the entrenched divisions perpetuated by a despotic regime. Yet as the narrative progresses, this premise wanes.
Nyaal, an enigmatic figure, serves as the deuteragonist. The narrative is a quest to rekindle his lost memories, guided by a mystical gauntlet that houses Nyaal’s essence. The ultimate objective becomes traversing hazardous terrains and thwarting a reawakening of ancient evil.
Atlas Fallen is like most fantasy RPGs, where an iron-fisted ruler wields dominion over the realm’s populace. It is as old and tired as the genre itself.
The execution falters, unable to sustain the initial allure, bequeathing players a tale devoid of the profoundness and poignant resonance it once promised.
As the tale meanders forward, even the initial allure of being an Unnamed worker loses its potency. The central narrative eventually loses its grip, struggling to maintain engagement and emotional investment.
What should be a compelling journey to unlock Nyaal’s memories and confront the gods’ corruption instead becomes a tedious trek through a fantasy landscape that fails to resonate.
The sole concerns will be completing checklists, plot coupons, and objective markers. It always feels like you’re on autopilot and that nothing matters. Exploring the expansive, picturesque biomes and collecting items might be oddly satisfying, akin to tidying a room.
The unrefined narrative expands to the gameplay too. Upon the mighty shoulders of the PS5, the specter of game crashes haunt the experience, hurling gamers into an unexpected descent into darkness that shatters remnants of immersion.
The dance of combat left an unsettling emptiness. Like a relic from a prior generation, it lacks the grace and flow that contemporaries have mastered. The lack of audible feedback falters and is uncommunicated – unable to beckon players from unfair enemy blows.
Battles unfurl into a maelstrom of sand effects clouding the scene and mosh pits with tedious sucker punching.
The skill mechanics comes with its own setbacks that limit players. The most effective skills were locked behind the higher levels within the Momentum gauge, necessitating a continuous barrage of attacks to build up the meter and avoid incoming damage.
These attacks usually have drawn-out animations that take priority, adding to the sluggishness and unresponsiveness of the playability.
Atlas Fallen’s experience fares best when not in mortal combat with arcane monsters. Sprinting and sand-surfing across the glittering dunes at top speeds feels freeing. The speed and fluidity compounded with the gritty crunchiness of sand gliding under the feet of the Unnamed is visceral and addictive.
The vistas of the biomes are grand, and no matter what, anticipate always being under the watchful gaze of the Watchers. These god-like entities are ever-present and so massive that they resemble mountains.
The vivid color palette of the skies and the golden, mountainous landscapes contribute to creating arresting vistas that righteously clash with the dreadful presence of the Watcher.
Atlas Fallen‘s greatest strength lies in its feature of online co-op play, allowing gamers to explore the land with a friend. Together, they can evade combat, aiming to derive some enjoyment from this generic, excessively market-researched slog.
For being a ninth-generation exclusive, Atlas Fallen looks like a seventh-gen game. The texture resolution is fuzzy, and there are models with surprisingly low geometric detail. Facial animations are stiff, and the draw distance for shrubs is notably short.
If Atlas Fallen were a seventh-gen game, it would rank among the most impressive and expansive titles on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Deck13 team is evidently skilled in impressive software engineering, but they need better artists who can fully utilize the technology.
Unfortunately, Atlas Fallen is entirely forgettable. It lacks polish, featuring sloppy and tedious combat, along with a boilerplate story and characters that won’t resonate with anyone. While riding sand dunes with friends provides amusement and a sense of freedom, gamers are better off with Forspoken, where its annoying characteristics at least leave an impression.
Atlas Fallen was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by Focus Entertainment. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Atlas Fallen is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.