I accidentally typed “Atlast Reactor.” Then my brain started playing “At Last” with Etta James. That went on for the next four minutes. I don’t think my mind is functioning much like how it used to. Bear with me.
Anyway, continuing to dig through my pile of games that I want to at least sample, and I realized that I had gotten a code to try out Atlas Reactor a couple of weeks back. Honestly, I wasn’t even going to give this game a look — “PvP” is pretty much Syp-repellent, especially as the core of a title — if that hadn’t happened. And while I’m not going to be suddenly throwing up my hands and telling you that this is the game that’s going to win me over to the PvP side of the force, I will admit that it’s a really interesting take.
I don’t think that there’s anything quite like Atlas Reactor out there, and that’s probably a good thing for Trion Worlds. I mean, it probably won’t be a major hit, but if the studio can dig out a new niche, it could bear more of a future than most MOBA clones these days.
And at first look, you might be forgiven for thinking that Atlas Reactor is a MOBA. I mean, a traditional one, with lanes and minions and made-up words like “jungling.” It’s got colorful characters with skins and finishers that you can unlock. It has several modes and is primarily about PvP matches, although there are matches against bots if you feel so inclined.
Yet in truth, Atlas Reactor is more like Battlechess, if anything. Remember that game? I’m dating myself, but I loved it way back when. I loved that because while you got the pacing of a turn-by-turn strategy game, you also got to watch the pieces beat the crud out of each other.
This “plan a move, watch how it pans out” is the core of the game. Each character has five abilities that can be “programmed” during the planning part of turns, after which the turn will play out more-or-less simultaneously. Some actions occur before others, so there’s a lot of choices involved here. And considering that you have eight characters operating at a time, each making hidden decisions, each turn is part gamble, part anticipation, and part spray and pray.
After going through a few matches, I can say that this approach actually works. The pause between turns lets you engage your mind more than your reflexes, and that breather is a godsend to those of us who want to analyze and react without feeling pressured to do something that second. You can even act quickly and “bank” some of that extra time for the turns where you need a few more moments.
Because of the setup, I didn’t feel that crushing pressure of competitive PvP that I normally do. Teamwork is incredibly important (I loved our healers) and getting to sit back and watch while you thought of what to do next established a good flow to the game. I especially enjoyed the personalities and quotes from the characters, and the art style uses cel-shaded cartoons to great effect.
Is Atlas Reactor for me? Nope. Can’t see playing it much past this, but that’s more me than the game. But how will it treat Trion? I think the best that the studio can hope for here, with an unconventional gameplay style and a brand-new IP, is for a modest hit that establishes a good enough revenue flow to keep it running. It’s definitely worth checking out if you feel like you’ve seen all MOBAs have to offer.