Atlas Reactor is a Free to Play turn-based, multiplayer team tactics game developed and published by Trion Worlds. Two teams enter an area and battle 20 second at a time.
The First Impression
As I walked around downtown San Diego during Comic Con 2016 I saw a lot of attention getting advertisements. This isn’t uncommon as the event has expanded over the years and encompasses all of downtown. But among all the bright colors, loud voices, booming music, and Guy Faux masks one add caught my attention due to its subtlety and simplicity. A flyer taped to a utility box adverting a lost mechanical dog. Instead of a phone number, the pull tabs showed a hashtag #lostPuP. These flyers resurfaced in San Diego in time for Twitch Con in October. At first glace the flyer told me nothing about Atlas Reactor, but it piqued my interest enough to eventually look into it at Twitch Con.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about you’re too young, ask your parents or legal guardians.
I decided to take a fresh look at Atlas Reactor after its Free to Play relaunch in January. The game shares many similarities with other popular hero arena games like Overwatch and League of Legends. The players is offered a selection of unique heroes(Freelancers) and is set against an enemy team. Victory over the opposing team is won by elimination or objective. The aspect that sets this game apart from the others is its turn based combat system.
Atlas reactor play out like a tabletop wargame with each turn consisting of four phases: Prep, where buffs and self healing occur; Dash, escape movement and minor attacks; Blast, primary attack phase; and Move, you know, when you move across the map. Moves are decided in a 20 second period with two 5 second “time banks” just in case. Actions are resolved simultaneously as each phase plays out in turn. This is often when the instant regret kicks in.
Damage can be mitigated by taking cover. Each area is decorated by crates, columns, boxes, and all kinds of other obstructions. Moving next to any of theses set pieces offers a 50% damage reduction for all incoming attacks. For many Freelancers this is a necessity to survive a match.
Most games are won by eliminating five enemy players, playing 20 full turns, or accomplishing an objective. Most matches last for 15 to 20 minutes at a win, a loss, or a draw. Every match, regardless of outcome, nets the players account experience and Freelancer experience as well as in game currency. Experience unlocks customization options for player profile and new skins for your Freelancers. Currencies unlock new Freelancers, consumable boosts, and taunts.
Where many games push for a Sudden Death or Overtime rush at the end of a close match, Atlas Reactor simply ends them at a draw. This is a refreshing design choice. A match never overstays its welcome and ends in a fulfilling way. Besides, even if the last fight was a draw, there is always the next round.
At time of writing there are 25 Freelancers to choose from. These are grouped into three classes, Firepower, Frontline, and Support. Firepower Freelancers are the damage dealers, powerful, but squishy. Don’t get caught in the open or you’re in for a bad time. Frontline Freelancers are the Tanks, they take a lot of damage and block the enemy team’s attacks. Support Freelancers support the team, duh. They heal damage and offer player buffs to improve their team capabilities.
The first Freelancer I am introduced to is Lockwood, the scoundrel and First Freelancer. He is a straight forward firepower class who’s primary attack can ricochet off walls and around corners. He is agile, quick, and easy to learn but he can be fragile if caught out of cover. His character has a sly confidence and thrill for the fight that is only matched by his desire to get paid. He also has fabulous hair. A great deal of detail went into the design of each freelancer and that detail extends beyond the game itself.
Trion Worlds took a page from Overwatch when it comes to the Atlas Reactor’s story. The game itself is just the game and only the game. Each Freelancer is given a short biography and profile but its no bigger that a typical Facebook profile. The game’s website on the other hand holds a small library of information about the game’s backstory including a timeline, a story so far following the game’s launch, and a running narrative of the current game chapter(currently chapter 2).
All 24 of the Freelancers’s are fleshed out on the site with full dossiers that include details like their common associates and nemesis. They even link to each Freelancer’s twitter feeds! PuP’s tweets are exactly what you would expect.
The story itself if surprisingly grim despite the colorful upbeat humor of the game. In the past humanity achieved post scarcity when the first reactor was built. With the reactor Humanity was immortal and free of want and need. More reactors were built and placed under the governance of the AI Gaia. One day Gaia disappeared and with her departure the reactors started to fail. When a reactor failed, the city it served died, along with all its inhabitants.
Atlas is the last surviving reactor and its city is all that is left. The Trusts were founded to govern the reactor for the benefit of all its people. But those trusts are run by people, and people can be hungry for power.
In time I’ll write a more comprehensive review. I may even go deeper into the story of Atlas Reactor, its Freelancers, and the Trusts. It is a fun game with a unique take on the hero arena genre that resonates with me. I look forward to continue in the game and the world created around it. I highly recommend Atlas Reactor to anyone looking for something a little different with no cost to entry.
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