Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

“Altas Reactor” is one of my favorite video game ideas of all time. A near perfect blend of turn-based action combat with a MOBA twist. It is one of the few games that I can think of that has simultaneous turns, meaning that every character moves at the same time instead of going one at a time. How it worked was that moves would have priority. Moves would come out sooner or later depending on where the move is in priority. The most popular gamemode was 5v5 deathmatches with teams working together to secure kills through a myriad of different skills and heroes.

Each hero took advantage of an archetype you would see in other hero-based shooters and seamlessly established them in this new turn-based environment. Each of their designs are amazing, all of them oozing with character and vibrancy. You get a real feel for how they would behave in their actual world. There’s a ton of synergy between bouncing bullets and creating walls to black holes and trip mines. The ideas and concepts in this game were amazing, creative and bursting at the seams with potential.

Then the entire game was shut down. It was delisted off Steam and is barely if ever functional online due to the shortage of players IT CAUSED. The concept was great but, apparently, people weren’t biting. Completely ignoring the 82%review score with over five thousand reviews, the company behind “Atlas Reactor,” Trion Worlds, decided that the idea was not working out and completely canned the idea.

Stopping development is one thing, but delisting a game off the storefront is another level entirely. It completely prevented new eyes from seeing the game and effectively destroyed the fanbase in one fell swoop. Personally, I thought this was the end for the series. It broke my heart that such a great concept, one that seemed to be reviewed rather nicely and played incredibly well, was now going to just die because it didn’t do well enough. Certainly, an indictment against the video game industry to let such an incredibly interesting idea die.

Then it came back from the brink as “Atlas Rogues.” That is when I realized that the game didn’t come back. It wasn’t revived in any sort of way. It was hacked apart, clumsily stitched together and zombified as a subpar turn-based tactics game. Gone were the simultaneous turns, the literal reason many loved the original Atlas Reactor and back to the mundane and played-out standard turn-based action that you can get from literally hundreds of games. Many of the actions done by the characters have remained the same but now, instead of the coordination between people, it’s coordination between yourself and your patience.

The pacing of the game has now been literally shot in the legs, shambling to each post praying that people just stop playing the game so that they’re not shot again. It’s terrible; the once frenetic pacing of Atlas Reactor now brought to a complete standstill. Everything feels like it takes forever to do now, and the reason for that is because of the lack of simultaneous movement. Now, everyone moves on their own damn time causing the amount of time spent on movement alone is incredibly high.

The gameplay isn’t faring that much better either as it too was shot, not in the legs, but the head instead. It feels horrible to play. Once again, back to the simultaneous turns. In retrospect, Atlas Reactor was really ahead of its time because it made watching all the pieces fall into place while you sit there waiting for the next turn, an intense experience because you had no clue what your opponent would do. It is almost like an Autobattler watching everything you planned and worked towards now interacting and behaving with the actions of the other players. Now? There’s nothing. All of the animations now feel sluggish and laughably slow. In the game where they’re all from, the animations were a flashy and cinematic way of showing movement after everything was set and done. There was nothing to do but watch your characters in motion after doing all that you could do. Now they feel tediously drawn out because there really isn’t a pause between actions so now those same animations that felt flashy and cinematic then now feel like they’re anchors chained to the ravaged legs of the pacing of the game as it’s pushed off of a boat. The boat represents anything worthwhile in this travesty of a game.

I, for the life of me, can’t imagine what they were thinking. I know I’ve brought it up a million times, but it bears repeating. The core concept of the original was the idea of simultaneous turns. Of all the things they kept from that game to this one, somehow the core idea fell off in the planning phase? It would be like a runner feeling like they should ditch some weight to become lighter and, therefore, run faster but instead of maybe removing the backpack of solid lead marked “reputation” that it was carrying on their back, started meticulously sawing off their own arms and legs. What is even the point of bringing out the characters of a much better game to desperately hold up what’s left of your new one? It feels like a completely different game!
I guess the assets were worth keeping around and they were concerned about how the game would be treated by people who supported “Atlas Reactor” but this is leagues worse. I didn’t want a tour of the shallow grave of great potential and ideas that you’ve now paraded around. I wanted what it once was! “Atlas Reactor”! But I don’t see that happening. This game is already being lambasted by former lovers of “Atlas Reactor” sitting at a cool 60% on Steam with 187 reviews.

Well, I guess technically the game isn’t out just yet since it’s in early access. But I don’t see it changing much in terms of gameplay, probably just adding more to it. Like a porta potty slowly getting worse and worse as more is “added” to it. Or a dead whale bloating and billowing until too much has been added and it pops.

Until they change the pacing, mechanics and general structure to be more like what they’re using as a base, then I don’t see this game getting much better. A true spit in the face and an insult to the die-hard fans of this now zombified “franchise.”

Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major.

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