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Atlas Reactor's competitive turn-based play shows promise

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I'm pleasantly surprised

Signing up to see an unannounced title at a gaming convention or expo can be risky. I've never been burned before, but I'm aware my streak could end in an instant. I went into my PAX appointment with Trion Worlds (Rift, Defiance) worried -- not so much that the mystery game would be bad, but that it might be something I just didn't care about at all. My luck persists.

The game in question was Atlas Reactor, a simultaneous turn-based tactical multiplayer game.

In the words of senior producer James Karras, "The honest truth is, it's the first game I've worked on where we go home at night and we will play this and it's no joke where it's like, 'Get on, we're playing multiplayer together.' And it's fun."

It's also a lot to take in at first. A lot to describe.

Atlas Reactor is turn-based, but players have a limited time (30 seconds by default) to lock in their decisions, and everyone's turns are simultaneous. That goes for your allies and enemies. It's quick and chaotic and not unlike rock, paper, scissors.

After committing to a strategy, your actions (attacking, shielding, buffing, trapping, moving) play out across different phases. There's an order of operations to keep things fair, in other words. During any given turn, you have to get into your opponents' heads and try to predict how they'll behave. If you're sure an enemy is going to dodge, don't plan to fire a shot that will inevitably miss -- lay a trap instead. If you're guaranteed to be hit hard and have no escape, set up a shield.

It's a system that borrows from fighting games (reading your opponents), tactical games (grid-based positioning), and MOBAs (varied characters, free aiming). The end result is a promising fusion of genres that, at least to my knowledge, has never been explored quite in this way.

"Once you have the basics, it's pretty interesting," said executive producer Peter Ju. "You want to play one level above your opponent. If you play two levels above your opponent, you're just going to out-think yourself and you basically are going to seem like a noob compared to the guy who doesn't do anything."

Out of nowhere, another Trion Worlds employee, who was not a part of my demo, chimed in. He said he had far better results early on when he first started and didn't really know how to play. No one could predict his strategy because he simply didn't have one. I can relate.

Atlas Reactor is only now entering alpha, and while the core mechanics are set and seem solid, there's still stuff to figure out. Which modes to create, for one. The match I saw was pretty standard: two versus two, first to four kills wins. Based on what players do with custom games during alpha testing, Trion will adapt to their preferences and "make more of that." I liked the sound of lighting rounds, where you have a precious few seconds to plan your moves.

As for cooperative play, challenge maps of some sort are planned. "I really want to play XCOM with buddies," said lead designer Will Cook, "but I can't do that. This is the key to that."

I'd be down to play with Steven. Between this, Hard West, and XCOM 2, there's a lot of love for turn-based strategy on the horizon. As long as Trion Worlds doesn't mess up the free-to-play aspects of Atlas Reactor -- I suspect it'll charge for skins and taunts -- it should turn out well.

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Jordan Devore
Jordan DevoreCo-EIC   gamer profile

Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random. Disclosure: I backed Double Fine Adventure and Awesomenauts: Starstorm on Kickst... more + disclosures


 


 


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  • Trion Worlds' newest game is Atlas Reactor, open alpha now live - Chris Carter
  • Making sense of Atlas Reactor's simultaneous turn-based combat - Jordan Devore
  • Atlas Reactor's competitive turn-based play shows promise - Jordan Devore
  • Trion announces turn-based strategy game Atlas Reactor - Joe Parlock
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    Filed under... #multiplayer #Notable #PAX #PC #Previews #Strategy games #Trion Worlds

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