I’m not usually into competitive PvP games, but Atlas Reactor has had my interest since it was announced. Trion Worlds, publishers of MMOs Rift, Trove, and some game called ArchAge that you’ve probably never heard news or controversy about, was forward thinking enough to realize that trying to get into the oversaturated MOBA or FPS markets right now is a terrible idea (I’m looking at you, Blizzard), so they tried to come up with a game that no one else is really doing right now. Novel concept. I’ve always felt like multiplayer turn based tactics is an underdeveloped market in general. I guess people these days want more action and button mashing than strategy and planning in their games. It’s a risky move, and I hope it pays off for them.
For those not familiar with it, Atlas Reactor is a 4v4 deathmatch. First team to five kills wins. Players have 20 seconds to choose an action from their 5 slot skill bar that is unique to each character. It turns out that 20 seconds is a surprisingly short amount of time, and I’ve found myself missing a movement on more than one occasion because I was in a rush to lock in my move at the last second. After player lock in their actions and (optionally) a movement location, you sit back and watch the actions happen. Turns have four phases: Prep Phase, where buffs happen, Dash Phase, where movement abilities happen (meaning dashes allow players to dodge out of attacks before they happen), Blast Phase, where attacks happen, and finally Movement Phase, where characters run to a new location. When a player dies, the other team gets a point and they respawn after two turns. It sounds a little hard to follow on paper, but once you play a few rounds (I recommend starting with Solo Mode against AIs) it will all make sense.
The characters (freelancers, or ‘lancers) have a lot of personality. They’ve managed to hit that sweet spot where they’re all very unique, but still seem like they fit together in the same universe. I’m hoping they take a page out of Overwatch’s book and do out-of-game backstories on some of the fan favorites. It’s not necessary, but that kind of thing can make or break my attachment to a given character. So far, my early favorites have been Helio, a support character with lots of buffs and a bouncing attack that hits multiple targets, and Nix, a stealth/sniper type with a lot of powerful attacks with long cooldowns. Of course, it’s beta, and I’ve yet to even play a few of the characters, so those could easily change.
I really want this game to succeed, but I’m a little nervous about it. For one, people aren’t too keen on Trion lately. ArchAge has been a PR train wreck ever since it released, and changes to Rift’s free-to-play/subscription model didn’t help them out either. Personally, I didn’t think Rift’s changes were that bad (not the best execution, for sure, but I still think some people are overreacting), and it seems a bit much to dismiss the entire catalog of a company just because you didn’t like one import they published. Perhaps more worrying is Atlas Reactor’s late business model shift from free-to-play to buy-to-play. They claim it’s due to player feedback from people who would rather everyone have access to all of the character rather than the League of Legends model of having a rotating selection of characters available for free for a limited time, with microtrans to unlock them permanently. I’m not sure how smart this move is. Don’t get me wrong; I think this is the best move for the players, but not necessarily for the long term health of the game. It’s just so different from anything that’s out there right now that I’m afraid they won’t get enough of the people who were on the fence to jump in. Honestly, I probably would have waited for a sale if I didn’t know it was going up at launch, not to mention that those cool Rift sword skins and the Trove pet tempted me (not that I play either of those games very often… dangit, marketing wins again).
Shameless plug: If you want to try Atlas Reactor free for three days, click here to use my recruit-a-friend pass. If you buy the game, I also get free stuff! The game is currently $20, and will go up to $30 when it launches.