A lot can be said for the Soulslike genre, with its emphasis on high difficulty, role-playing systems, and mastering enemies and bosses to be able to progress. We have had many good to excellent entries in the genre, but every once in a while, one comes along that is so brutally middling that as you are playing it, your brain starts purging it from your memory. That is Atlas Fallen to a T.
The story of Atlas Fallen sees us as a champion who, due to fate, possesses a gauntlet. This gauntlet is lauded because of its magical abilities and is the weapon that can stop the corrupt gods that rule the land. This added to the fact that once you equip this gauntlet, you can converse with the previous wearer, who was also trying to build it up enough to destroy the gods. This means we are given some lore tidbits whenever we interact with him.
My most significant gripe with the story is that everyone is written incredibly blandly. I never once felt motivated enough to search for more background stories on the world or supplementary stories told through side quests. This is true for the main draw of the story as well. It just feels incredibly drawn out and predictable.
Even without a stellar story, a game can shine if enough fine-tuning and well-implemented gameplay is involved. That is not the case here with Atlas Fallen.
“My most significant gripe with the story is that everyone is written incredibly blandly.”
In combat, you will eventually have several options for your primary and secondary weapons, each focusing on either speed or power, as well as the ability to find and craft these trinkets that will enhance certain abilities, such as how effective your skills are. Speaking of abilities, you can find Ability Stones in treasure chests around the world that you can equip to give certain weapons abilities that you can use in battle. It’s an interesting system, but one that gets bogged down in finding the right set to complement which weapon. Some sets feel better to use, but that locks you into a certain way of playing.
Combat in Atlus Fallen is a standard action RPG affair. You have a primary and secondary attack with skills attached to your trigger buttons. The only exciting thing about combat in Atlas Fallen is the combat speed bar. This blue bar fills up as you land hits on your enemy; as it fills, you deal more damage and take more damage. It’s a cool compromise, but given that the actual moment-to-moment combat feels clunky and flighty, it does not work well.
Traversal in Atlas Fallen is twofold. One is you will be sand surfing around the world, which feels cool and gives you a sense of speed that you don’t feel anywhere else. This helps as most of the world is pocketed with small interactive objects, but none were really clicking with me, adding deeper lore to the world I was not connecting with. So at a certain time, I used this sand slide ability to zoom across the map from one quest point to another.
The other is its platforming, which for the most part, was a buggy mess. I would be scaling what I thought was a proper way up a cliff, only to be met with invisible walls or flats that my character would slide off of. Other times I would have to use the world’s weird geometry to get to the top of pillars to get items. It really feels like Atlas Fallen tried to fight with me in every aspect of trying to enjoy it.
Another central aspect of Atlas Fallen is making things rise from the ground to bring them back to our world. This includes platforms for jumping or, more importantly, anvils that you can rest at and level up. There were so many times when I was walking around that the gauntlet would proclaim that there was an anvil. I would stop and look around for about 5 minutes, only to give up and move on. Even though the dialogue was there, no other marker pointed me in the right direction. It became really frustrating.
“It’s tough to suggest Atlas Fallen to anyone…”
While you are at these anvils, you can upgrade your armour, and doing so will give you a perk point to spend. Again, my issue is that there was not a single interesting perk to look forward to in this perk tree. This made wanting to search out the materials needed not a priority at all. And this worked. While I was getting my butt handed to me in the late game, I could work my way through upgrading when I already had the materials on hand and not spending any perk points.
It’s tough to suggest Atlas Fallen to anyone between its rough combat system, mediocre story, and otherwise dull half-broken gameplay loop. This is a shame because I enjoyed Lord of the Fallen and The Surge, also developed by Deck13.