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Atlas Fallen Review: A Grandiose Action RPG Worth Sand Surfing Into

EDITORS' RATING : 8 / 10
Pros
  • Versatile combat system, with intricate dual-weapon combos, unique weapon abilities
  • Breathtaking sandscapes, mirages, and remnants of past civilizations are complemented by a hauntingly beautiful musical score
  • Deep combat experience, but the game remains more approachable than other titles in the genre
Cons
  • Character models feel a bit dated
  • Unfortunate release window limits its potential audience

A PS5 code was provided to ZaaZ for this review. "Atlas Fallen" will be released on August 10, 2023, for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Amid the vast dunes, you sand-surf your way down an enormous slope, the gritty breeze rushing past and shimmering particles of sand trailing behind. As the sand shifts beneath you, it's like divinely gliding on water. But this tranquil experience is short-lived. As the base of the dune approaches, you spot an ominous silhouette — a colossal enemy, its eyes glowing a fierce hue, standing in your path. As you speed towards it, you draw your weapons, and double jump high into the air, using the momentum from your descent to launch into the battle.

"Atlas Fallen" feels like the desert winds whispering tales of old, sweeping you into its grand narrative, and letting you wander its expansive sands. There's a haunting eeriness to a world drained of its vitality, subjugated by a sun god who seems relentless in his quest to turn everything to dust. It's a premise ripe with potential, evoking images and combat experiences reminiscent of "Forspoken." However, "Atlas Fallen" reaches for the stars and manages to stand on its own in a crowded genre with its ambitious story scenes and gripping combat.

World setting & lore

Venturing into Atlas's vast deserts, you're immediately struck by the game's ambition. While the story of an almighty god and the devastated world is not entirely new, the way "Atlas Fallen" approaches this lore brings in a unique flavor. A treacherous land, devoid of hope, holds a single beacon for players: a divine artifact that gives them power over the very sands that threaten to consume them. The rich backstory and the urgent quest for humanity's survival feed seamlessly into the gameplay mechanics, ensuring you're never just mindlessly slashing through enemies — there's always a purpose.

However, there's a bit of a slight disconnect when you look closer at the characters populating this world. Their models seem somewhat dated, feeling as though they've been ported from a last-gen console. The facial animations and body language feel surprisingly clunky — certainly not up to par with the PS5's technical prowess — making it difficult to be fully immersed in the characters' plights.

In stark contrast, the environments are breathtaking. The vast dunes, the shimmering mirages, and the dilapidated remnants of a once-thriving civilization are all rendered in stunning detail. And, complementing this visual spectacle is a hauntingly beautiful musical score that underscores the world's dichotomous nature — its deathly stillness and its underlying vibrancy.

Combat and strategy in the sand

"Atlas Fallen" prides itself on its combat system, and rightly so. The gauntlet – your primary tool and weapon – allows for versatile and engaging combat scenarios. Dual-weapon combat leads to some intricate and rewarding combos, and each weapon, be it the sand whip or the knuckle dust, brings its unique flair to battles. The introduction of the momentum mechanic elevates the combat experience, creating a push-pull dynamic that keeps you on your toes. The higher your momentum, the more devastating your attacks, but it also leaves you more vulnerable, forcing you to think strategically rather than button-mash mindlessly.

Enemies in "Atlas Fallen" truly elevate the gameplay experience. Across the sandy terrains, players face off against formidable creatures, but it's the aerial-based wraiths that stand out, offering a distinct and refreshing combat challenge. Encounters demand not just agility but a keen sense of strategy, instead of being purely hack-and-slash action. Taking a page from the Soulslike playbook, many of the game's confrontations require players to master the delicate dance of melee combat, watching and waiting for that perfect window to strike. This intricate balance of offense and defense becomes even more challenging with the presence of lesser mobs, relentlessly swarming and distracting players from the main enemy or boss. The combination of ground and aerial threats, paired with the need for patience and precise timing, ensures that every battle feels like a grand, pulse-pounding event.

Speed, progression, and storytelling

In terms of gameplay mechanics, "Atlas Fallen" shines brightest with its Essence Stones. With over 150 to choose from, players are given a canvas to paint their unique combat style, further deepening the combat experience. And while that may seem like a lot, the overall complexity of the RPG element in "Atlas Fallen" is more accessible and less intimidating than "Forspoken," which might appeal to a broader range of players.

One of the game's standout features is sand surfing. It evokes the adrenaline-charged mechanics of the "Tribes" series, allowing players to traverse the vast dunes with a sense of speed and freedom that's exhilarating. This feature encapsulates what's best about "Atlas Fallen": a marriage of innovation and nostalgia, both catering to old-school gamers and tempting newer players. Somehow, sand surfing adds to the spectacle of the game's environments as you whiz through its sand-filled vistas, making it feel like a real journey.

The co-op mode adds another layer of depth to the gameplay. While Atlas's world is engaging enough solo, sharing the experience with a friend will undoubtedly amplify the excitement and intrigue. The ability to synergize with different Essence Stones and team up against the game's varied bestiary promises hours of replay value. Plus, when you or your friend logs off, your progress won't be tied to one another. This means that you can both take your individual stories in their own directions while jumping in and out to play together at any time, regardless of where you each may be in the story or your individual progression.

A fun ride across the dunes

"Atlas Fallen" is undeniably an ambitious game. Its sprawling landscapes beg to be explored, and its deep-yet-accessible combat system offers a balance that many large-scale RPGs lack. The game does stumble slightly with its character models, which can detract from the overall immersion. But these are small gripes in an otherwise impressive package.

The sand-surfing mechanic alone makes it worth a try, marrying the nostalgia of classics like "Tribes" with modern gaming's fluidity and speed. And while the game does echo "Forspoken" in its vastness and grandeur, its accessibility might make it more appealing to those who found "Forspoken" a tad too intricate.

Ultimately, "Atlas Fallen" is a game that's worth checking out for fans of high fantasy and exploration RPGs. It beautifully blends old-school mechanics with innovative new features, ensuring both nostalgia and novelty. Its release timing is a bit unfortunate. With "Baldur's Gate 3" capturing much of its potential audience, "Atlas Fallen" might not get the full attention it deserves — at least at launch. Nevertheless, for those who venture into its sandy realms, a rich and rewarding experience awaits.

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