Review: Atomega


Stunted growth

Atomega is devilishly simple. Its premise and its gameplay loop are exactly the same: Get big so you can get bigger. It's a race to the top of the food chain. There isn't anything to overthink. Sometimes less is more.

But, sometimes more is more. Atomega's thematic purity comes at the cost of any real nuance or any real variation. There's an intriguing framework but it isn't expanded upon enough. Its simplicity is a double-edged sword.

Atomega (PC)
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: September 19, 2017
MSRP: $9.99

Atomega is the newest game from Ubisoft Reflections, the developer responsible for the endearingly charming Grow Home and Grow Up. Atomega undeniably retains that charm. Its cyber-futuristic landscape made up of purples and yellows, as blocky dinosaurs and robots roam freely. However, its approach is significantly more aggressive than the Grow games could ever claim to be.

Atomega is an eight-person PC-only arena shooter that emphasizes quickly growing up. Players start as tiny balls of light (Atoms), and they try to acquire blocks to tack on mass. This can be achieved by either finding stray blocks that are littered around the battlefield, or by attacking other players and stealing their mass. Attacks are limited to shooting, and there's only one weapon type (a laser) that operates on a cooldown. The ultimate goal is to have the most points at the end of the 10-minute game, and being big is the only means of scoring significant points.

There's a seven-stage growth cycle that players try to progress through. Starting as an Atom, they work their way to Cel, Zoa, Saur, Prime, Superior, and Omega. There are advantages and drawbacks to each form, but they're consistent across each evolution. The smaller ones are more nimble and agile, but weaker; the larger ones are more powerful, but unable to move as quickly or jump as high.

This could make for interesting styles of play if there wasn't an unmitigated focus on scoring points. The smaller forms can access the more movement-oriented areas of the map, such as the jump pads and the speed tunnels. However, utilizing these is just a means of finding blocks that other players might not be able to reach, and the end is to get bigger. It's always about getting bigger.

There's a mental trade-off between all the stages in Atomega that makes each one simultaneously more and less enjoyable relative to the one before it. The smaller forms feel oddly safe because of their quickness and tiny stature. But, the bigger forms also feel safe because of their increased health and damage. The truth is that neither is safe, so you're always better off just being as big as possible.

Atomega has a couple of crutches that help vary this cycle. There are power-ups scattered across the map that enhance one component of what you're trying to do (e.g. increase damage, shield, magnet for nearby blocks, knock enemies back when shooting them, etc). There's also the strategic option to "teleport," which means reverting one form but returning to full health and not starting over again as an Atom. It's important to know when you're bested.

Those crutches don't vary it enough, though. Atomega matches play out too similarly to one another, often with early momentum serving as the key to holding onto leads. At release, there's one map and one free-for-all game mode. Atomega is a joy at first and then it's diminishing returns in each subsequent match. There just isn't enough opportunity to create memorable moments for this multiplayer game to have legs. Experience-based character shaders aren't enough incentive to keep playing.

Ironically, Atomega's fatal flaw is that it never grew to its full potential. It's a mostly-unique multiplayer game that's good until it's too familiar. Once it's too familiar, it's too small and simple for its own good. Call it growing pains.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Atomega reviewed by Brett Makedonski



Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

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