Atlas Fallen is a very ambitious title from developer Deck13. While overall it shares some similarities to their previous title, including Lords of the Fallen and The Surge 2, it’s also their first step away from the Soulslike genre. At its core Atlas Fallen is a third-person action RPG that focuses on speed and fast-paced encounters. While you sometimes encounter groups of smaller enemies, the bulk of your enemies is giant hulking beasts, which quickly becomes a staple of the gameplay.
Atlas Fallen (PC, PS5[reviewed], Xbox Series X|S)
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Release: August 10, 2023
MSRP: PC: $49.99, PS5 & Xbox Series X|S: $59.99
In Atlas Fallen, the world lies in ruin due to the savage sun god Thelos. Most of the once lush landscape is now entirely sand dunes with the occasional dead tree or patch of dried-out grass. The inhabitants are forced to serve Thelos by extracting a powerful resource called Essence from the world and delivering it to him. Some people have pledged loyalty to the sun god in exchange for an elevated status or a more desirable job in the harsh desert. Others are tasked with performing slave-like labor, extracting Essence, and transporting it across the dunes.
The protagonist discovers a powerful ancient Gauntlet that is able to manipulate Essence to shape the sand, granting its wielder powerful weapons and powers. With this newfound strength, the player sets out to lead a rebellion and put a stop to the savage rule of Thelos.
All hope relies on the Gauntlet
The Gauntlet allows you to equip two of three potential weapons at all times. The Dunecleaver is a powerful heavy weapon axe and hammer hybrid. The Sandwhip is a fast attacking whip that also allows you to close distances quickly. Finally, the Knuckledust is a hard-hitting fist weapon that also allows you to grow additional arms as you pound your foe. Each weapon has its own specific attacks and combos that synergize differently with the other weapons. Honestly, the three weapons are unique enough, but once I found the combo of weapons that worked for me—Sandwhip and Knuckledust—I never really found the need to ever us the third weapon.
While beating up on majestic beasts in the desert, you’ll also learn how to master Atlas Fallen’s Momentum system. Momentum is a bit of a risk-reward system. As you successfully land attacks, you will fill up your Momentum bar. As its filled, you will be able to carry out more hard-hitting special attacks. However, the fuller the bar is, the more damage you take when you are hit.
It’s a great premise, but it honestly feels like it misses the mark a little bit. There’s not truly any risk to be had, because at the end of the day you’re just going to be focusing on beating down your enemy. I never really stopped building momentum to consider the risk of doing so. Instead, I’d just try to land as many attacks as I could while also prioritizing not getting hit so I didn’t risk taking additional damage.
Throughout the world you will find deposits of Essence, as well as from dropped enemies. With this Essence you can unlock new abilities and upgrade your Gauntlet, increasing its capabilities.
A truly beautiful world
Visually, the world of Atlas Fallen is simply beautiful. I literally found myself stopping to look around the vast open landscapes, and admiring the beauty of the ruins scattered amongst the sands. The detail in some of the areas such as the Knights of Bastengard Stronghold is second to none.
As you progress through the world you will visit three different areas in total. Each one has a main hub that you will pickup the bulk of your quests from. Additional optional quests and collectables are peppered all throughout the area as well, in no short supply. Your Gauntlet also has the ability to raise buried objects up out of the sand, which can include chests and even structures that allow you to reach higher elevation areas.
Some of the colossal beasts that you encounter are pretty incredible as well, both in size and appearance. Fans of Monster Hunter will find familiarities here, as some of the bigger monsters have various body parts that you can focus on. If you deal enough damage to them, they will break, causing massive damage to the enemy and also dropping special loot. Unfortunately, I found loot to be mostly irrelevant throughout Atlas Fallen. I still tried to break as many monster parts as I could, but never found the materials I obtained for doing so to really matter.
In fact, this is perhaps one of the bigger issues with Atlas Fallen. A lot of the systems in place are great in premise, and even have their own intricacies to them. However, in most cases they fall short in terms of relevancy. In a vast open world action RPG like Atlas Fallen, equipment and itemization should be important. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fact, I think it would be quite possible to play through all of Atlas Fallen without bothering to equip anything you’ve obtained throughout the entire experience.
But, not everything is beautiful
Unfortunately there are some pretty sizeable problems with Atlas Fallen as well. The biggest issue without a doubt is the voice acting. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect every title to have Baldur’s Gate 3 level of voiceovers. But the voice acting in Atlas Fallen isn’t even average, it’s downright terrible. Some of the non-important side NPC’s were alright, but the playable character as well as your main companion, Nyaal, were not great. It really took from the overall experience.
From a lore perspective, the weight of the world is on these two character’s shoulders. But you wouldn’t have known that based on their monotone line delivery. I know I’m emphasizing this a lot here, but can’t stress how bad it is. We’re talking worse than Peter Dinkelage as Ghost in Destiny 2 before they replaced him.
Overall the story of Atlas Fallen had a lot of potential, but it falls short and overall I think the voiceover was a big part of it. Furthermore, the story felt a bit rushed at times. In total it took me just over 14 hours to complete Atlas Fallen, but I did a good bit of the optional content it had to offer. If someone was beelining through the main story quests only, I would not be surprised to see a sub 10 hour completion. However, if you do choose to take your time and really explore every nook and cranny to obtain every collectible and complete every side quest, I could see it taking 20 hours.
Also, a lot of the potentially fantastic features in Atlas Fallen end up feeling tacked on. There’s a feature called Watcher’s Fury where once you’ve done enough to draw the attention of the eye of Thelos, he will create a massive sandstorm on your location. Inside the storm an onslaught of enemies will attack you, all while you have limited visibility. When I first encountered Watcher’s Fury I was excited to see the outcome of it. You have the choice of running and escaping the storm, or fighting all the enemies to the end. At the end you get some rather basic loot…and that’s about it.
All in all, the Watcher’s Fury felt pretty lackluster in every way. Furthermore, I only experienced the Watcher’s Fury a few times throughout Atlas Fallen, making me wonder why it existed in the first place.
A flawed but good experience
Overall, I like Atlas Fallen. It’s great to see Deck13 step outside its comfort zone and show us their take on an open world. It’s a good time, but it could have been a great time.
This was honestly a tough title to review for me. In some ways, Atlas Fallen shows glimpses of a truly remarkable AAA title. The world is vast and beautiful and lively. But in other ways, it just makes me wish it had been more. The combat system had the potential to leave a memorable mark on the genre. But, in reality, it will instead probably end up being forgettable instead. It felt like perhaps Deck13 played things way too safe with their first non-Soulslike endeavor.
I do think there is reason enough to experience Atlas Fallen. Especially if you are a fan of the action RPG genre. It may not leave a lasting impression once you’ve completed the adventure. But it will be enjoyable enough along the way to hold your interest. Also, I didn’t get the opportunity to try it out but you can play the entirety of Atlas Fallen co-operatively. Honestly, while I don’t think that would fix any of the bigger flaws. However, I do think it could enhance the experience overall.
Perhaps the best words to summarize Atlas Fallen is this: I can’t wait to see what Deck13 does next.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]