It’s been over three years since Deck13’s last game, The Surge 2. But this May sees the company launch Atlas Fallen, something that’s rather different.
Gone is the often cold, robotic sci-fi setting. In its place is a world of sand, inhabited by fleshy but fearsome creatures with a bit of a fantastical bent. But having spent an hour or two with Atlas Fallen, we’re confident that it might just turn out to be Deck13’s best and most successful game yet.
Our time with a preview build of Atlas Fallen saw us jump a little forward into the game’s campaign, at a point where its protagonist is getting to grips with the powers granted to them by a mysterious gauntlet. In next to no time we’d learned the power of Unearth, allowing us to raise certain structures and items from the ground. It’s something that certainly comes in useful when there’s a ledge that you just can’t reach by jumping alone.
Upon using Unearth to escape from a cave, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in combat, however, and it’s clear that this is going to form the backbone of the game. The combat system itself is pretty ordinary at its core: you can perform standard and secondary attacks thanks to your two weapons, and by holding one of those buttons down you can perform yet more attack variants. And on the defensive side, you can either dodge incoming attacks or parry them, freezing your opponent for a short while.
There are a number of systems implemented here that spice things up, however. One of those is momentum. You have a momentum bar in the lower left corner of the screen, which increases as you perform attacks on opponents. The higher you raise the bar the harder your attacks hit, with your weapon also changing in appearance to become larger and more menacing. But it’s a double-edged sword, as you’ll also take more damage. Thankfully you can purge your momentum if you wish, unleashing it in a powerful Shatter attack. It’s particularly useful when facing off against a truly hardy foe, or when you’re outnumbered, as it has a wide area of effect.
With the momentum bar split into three tiers, another thing that complicates matters are Essence Stones. These are equipped to a number of slots corresponding to the three tiers, and provide a range of bonuses as you progress through them. There are skills available as well. We gained a bronze Essence Stone, which means it’s useful at the basic momentum tier, which allowed us to throw a mighty hammer. These skills operate on a cooldown timer though.
To further allow you to develop and upgrade your character, Essence Dust can be used to upgrade your armour, not only boosting your defences, but also providing a perk point that can be spent within a perk tree. These perks remain unlocked even when you change armour, too. And then you have Idols. On a basic level, these allow you to heal once charged. But you can find and equip alternative idols on your adventure. We found one which restored health based on how much damage we did with with our powerful Shatter attack, for example.
Being dropped in the game rather than starting it from the beginning, its story didn’t quite manage to grab us but it seems interesting. Seeking to learn more about the strange gauntlet on his arm, our protagonist found themselves at an impasse. A great city lay behind a large gate, but our powers just weren’t developed enough to clear and open it yet. And so the majority of our time was spent scouring a large open area for pieces that could be used to upgrade our gauntlet.
Thanks to the ability to glide along the sand at great speed, as well as being able to double jump and air dash, traversal is a hell of a lot of fun, making exploring something very enjoyable indeed. And there are plenty of things for the inquisitive types to discover. Combined with the engaging combat, this is a game that’s very easy to get lost in, seeing something intriguing off in the distance and going to investigate, perhaps getting into a battle or two along the way.
Our time with Atlas Fallen ended with an epic boss fight against a dragon-like creature, and it was here that perhaps our only real gripe with the game so far became more of an issue: targeting. You can lock onto enemies if you wish, but it’s not always the best option. The trouble is, if you don’t lock on, it’s easy to confuse your character into attacking an enemy or a part of an enemy that you didn’t intend to. Attacking an enemy out of sliding on the sand can be hit and miss, too. These issues aren’t too troublesome though, and hopefully they can be looked at before the game’s launch.
After going hands-on with Atlas Fallen, it’s quickly become one of our most anticipated releases of the year. It looks great, has some neat ideas, and offers plenty of freedom. And there’s good news for those who have played Deck13’s games and found them too challenging: there are difficulty options. This seems set to be a very impressive and engrossing action RPG, and we can’t wait to play more.
Atlas Fallen launches 16th May on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.