The genre of action games with RPG elements in an open world is a heavily exploited theme, in which we do not often find interesting and original solutions. Most productions are based on a checklist with repetitive activities and simple main tasks that slowly push the plot forward. Atlas Fallen, discussed today, shows quite a lot of character and, above all, has an idea for itself. Courtesy of the publisher, I was given the opportunity to check out the PC version, which I also fired up on Steam Deck – in the following text I will talk about how the game laughs on the portable device from Valve.
Video Review of Atlas Fallen on PC and Steam Deck – english subtitles are available
Atlas Fallen is developed by a studio that has to its credit, among others, two parts of the successful The Surge, as well as the solid Lords of The Fallen created together with Poland’s City Interactive. The aforementioned titles aimed very strongly at the soulslike genre using mostly the most popular mechanics for which FromSoftware games are famous. This time, however, the focus was on much more dynamic clashes, a huge verticality of exploration and an open world.
At the medium difficulty level, the production can sometimes give you a bumpy ride, but fortunately, this time we can both lower and further raise the level of challenge. In Atlas Fallen we have a choice of three difficulty levels, which can be changed at any time. And here’s a mega cool feature – the game can be played from start to finish in co-op mode with another player, and each person has the ability to individually adjust the complexity of the gameplay to suit themselves. To the combat, which plays an absolutely key role here, I will return in a moment, but now I will tell you a few words about what to expect from the game.
A few words about the plot in Atlas Fallen….
After a short prologue showing the nucleus of the world and features of the plot, we move to the actual game and start it by creating your character. The wizard is very simple and allows only cosmetic editing of the face, choice of gender, skin color or hair type. The models are not the most beautiful, but rather here it’s a secondary issue – you can always put on a helmet later 🙂 . My character looks a bit like an unknown daughter of Micheal Jackson.
Initially, the game gives hope for a rather dark and intriguing story. We start as an employee of a camp run by a tyrant – you can be cut down by the head for minor offenses here, plus we have a vision of a post-apocalyptic sandstorm and bloodthirsty monsters in the background. Like the rest of the team here, we are nameless – people of such low social status that they don’t even deserve to carry their own name – unlike the guards or the aforementioned steward. You can feel a fraction of Gothic here, especially with the great and very dignified music reminiscent of it floating in the background. The character animations and the way the dialogues are carried out also have a bit of a hint of that German RPG.
Sent on a risky chase after a thief, we very quickly come across a magical gauntlet that will be the driving force behind the story. Interestingly, the artifact has a voice of its own, and like in the infamous Forspoken, it will be a guide through the game world, and in a sense an instrument of destruction. We quickly learn that our new acquisition once played a huge role in the history of the created world and will also this time be the key to saving humanity. As you can easily guess, the gauntlet initially has only a fraction of its capabilities, and as the story develops it will become more powerful and useful.
The story is conducted in a heavily linear fashion, although there are almost always several dialogue tracks to choose from. These are not captivating, and in addition, the voices provided are sometimes rather mediocre. Fortunately, they do not irritate, which is already a certain achievement. The spell of the dark story quickly descends, and in the end we get little original and predictable fantasy, forming more of a background role for the real meat, which here are numerous skirmishes and dynamic exploration of the world.
Maintain your Momentum
The centerpiece of the combat system is the aforementioned Glove, which is the character’s primary source of power and equipment. Atlas Fallen focuses on aggressive and risky clashes. There is a Momentum stat in the game, which increases with each successive hit. By filling up its successive bars we unlock more and more powerful attacks, but at the same time our hero becomes much more vulnerable to damage. This forces you a bit to find the right balance and actively adjust your approach to combat, although in most cases I tried to use the accumulated Momentum at the first better opportunity.
The game offers a two-player online co-op mode, letting you go through the entire campaign in twos, and what’s more, players have the ability to combine character abilities to trigger spectacular team attacks.
In Atlas Fallen we have access to only three weapons, of which we will use only two at a time. It’s not a mind-blowing amount, but the developers have taken care of quite a few possibilities to modify the gameplay. As we progress, we discover new abilities and encounter numerous Essence Stones, which offer special effects and attacks, both offensive and defensive. Throughout the game we find more than 150 of them, so the possibilities for combinations are vast. These are not simple tweaks to stats, but often truly spectacular blows.
The system of fighting, dodging and countering has to be adjusted to the opponents, because each type has unique strengths and weaknesses. One we will glaze quickly by jumping away from his attacks, another has a series of strong blows that need to be deflected, and to another, for example, you need to jump and whip in the air.
Larger enemies have bodies divided into individual parts – those marked in red have to be destroyed to defeat them, but if you damage the optional parts beforehand then you get a better chance of a better reward. This works quite nicely, but the system of locking the camera on individual enemies or the aforementioned body parts doesn’t always work perfectly and, combined with the dynamic camera, creates a bit of chaos.
Atlas Fallen is not exactly a classic open world
Definitely more than the small number of weapons, what bothers here is the very small variety of enemies. I have the impression that there are maybe 6 types of enemies scrolling in the background, once in stronger and once in weaker versions. The biggest disappointment for me, however, turned out to be the bosses – there aren’t many of them, and practically every one you encounter is a stronger version of a standard enemy, well, maybe with additional attacks.
Here it is also worth mentioning that Atlas Fallen is not a colossus. The map is not gigantic and traverses it very quickly and pleasantly. Our hero can literally surf the sand and jump over considerable distances. The world is also very vertical – to many places you need to climb. And there is a lot to climb to, because we will find a lot of secrets and finds, including, of course, the Essence Stones. The game also has a simple crafting system, where with the help of found herbs, mushrooms or other dupe we will improve the stats of the equipment.
On our way we’ll also come across better and better armor, which can also be further upgraded. In addition to the story missions, there are a lot of side quests waiting for us, but they lack flair and usually don’t go beyond the bring, carry, sweep scheme.
Overall, there is plenty to do, but without overdoing it. I think most people will finish the game in 12-14 hours or so, focusing on the main plot, and lovers of map clearing will be lost for about 20. Such a condensed formula, altogether rare in open-world productions, in this case passes the test. Even in spite of the obvious shortcomings, a small variety of enemies and a not entirely thrilling storyline, it does not tire or bore.
Performance and quality of visuals in Atlas Fallen
In terms of technical issues, it’s really not bad. Aside from the somewhat drab character animations during dialogues, the visuals make a very good impression. The sandstorm is fantastic, with excellent special effects and lighting in general. It may not be a game that pulls off hats off in terms of graphics, but it looks really nice and aesthetically pleasing.
Despite the fact that the action takes place in the desert, the developers have taken pains to make the world sufficiently diverse and colorful. Performance is solid, and even despite fast surfing on the sand, there are virtually no clipping. In the pre-release version, I observed minor problems with the textures of individual objects, especially the crates encountered. I was also a little bothered by the range of drawing vegetation – according to the information I got, the developers are already working on improving this element.
I still have to mention two things – first, the game doesn’t like the dynamic refresh rate of the screen, and only after getting the full 30, 60 or 120 FPS does it generate a smooth image. Second – here we have resolution scaling support with the help of AMD FSR 2, but for reasons unknown to me it cannot be modified manually, and only dynamically scaled resolution is applied, which does not work perfectly.
Is Atlas Fallen worth playing on Steam Deck?
I played Atlas Fallen mostly on PC, but I also spent a few hours on Steam Deck. I checked all available settings and, after extended testing, locked the fluidity in SteamOS to 30 frames. In less crowded areas, you can aim for 40, but even after setting the absolute minimum, performance during dynamic clashes and in town can drop below 30 FPS. However, these are incidental enough situations that, in my opinion, they do not disqualify the title on Steam Deck, especially since the control lag is not high and I had no major problems slaughtering more difficult beasts.
We won’t go wild with the details – the post-process effects can be adjusted to suit you, as they have almost no effect on smoothness, and besides, I recommend setting the medium texture quality and everything else to minimum. I also turned on aggressive resolution scaling with AMD FSR 2, but I didn’t notice a big increase in frame rate, and the sharpness of the image was very similar to the native one. I’m not sure if this feature works fully properly, especially since I’m using the pre-release version.
If you block the frame rate according to my advice then you should get about 2. hours of gameplay on a single charge. Importantly, before turning on the game we are asked whether to run Atlas Fallen or choose DirectX 12 mode – on Steam Deck only the former option works and hides the Vulkan overlay.
The subtitles and interface are legible, if a bit small, and unfortunately I couldn’t find the option to change the font size in the options. The game, of course, has full controller support and, fortunately, cloud saves – so I conveniently jumped between PC gameplay and Steam Deck.
Atlas Fallen is a very fun, though not outstanding, action game. The combat in general is great, and the weapon customization options are a lot of fun, as is the fast sliding across sandy terrain. The game world is not overblown and rewards exploration. The plot, though disappointing, doesn’t get in the way, but one has to complain a bit about the average dialogues, repetitive enemies, somewhat frantic camera work and not entirely accurate controls. I had a really good time here, and if you guys are looking for an interesting slasher, which can additionally be played with another person through network co-op, then Atlas Fallen is highly recommended.