Oops, I did it again. No, I didn’t buy another Britney Spears album - that’s a mistake I’ll never make a second time. I fell victim to a masterfully laid hype plan by yet another company. Seemingly out of nowhere in the 11th hour of 2018 the creators of Ark - that game you either love or hate - dropped a bomb on the MMO world in the form of ATLAS. An MMO in the truest sense of the word boasting up to 40,000 simultaneous players on a single server and not to mention pirate themed. The instant hype was real and players were queueing up for a Sean Murphy level let down by the thousands.
The first thing we got were delays. Now delays aren’t bad in the slightest. It was interesting to see the “most watched game” on Twitch being ATLAS when it was just people waiting for ATLAS to actually come out and in my book any developer who will delay their game to make sure they release a good product is a-okay in my book. But did they… release a good product? I would argue that it’s really not even up for debate. Before you go all “but it’s early access!” - yes, it is but they charged for it. It isn’t a paid beta and these days early access just means ‘here’s our buggy game, give us money and we’ll probably fix it eventually’. ARK is a good case when you see them releasing expansion content for an Early Access game. You lose the cushion as a company when you pull hijinks like that.
Now as far as gameplay goes, at least from what I’ve experienced, it’s ARK 2.0. Take ARK, slap a pirate skin on it, replace dinosaurs with actual animals and boom - ATLAS. It even comes with the ARK optimization problems and bugs - all for your pleasure. You spend your first moments in game punching rocks and trees to craft tools and clothes and off to the races you go from there. If you don’t have friends to play with - that sucks and you’re in for a pretty mediocre time as anything meaningful requires collaboration and resource pooling. I should point out that your typical starting moments depend on your getting a spawn point on normal geometry. I spent 90 minutes spawning one evening and every spawn was either under the ground at the top of a mountain (which you always fell to your death off - no matter what) or deep beneath the ocean where you were attacked by sea creatures or drowned before you reached the surface. I spawned on land once and was attacked by a lion immediately and died - only to be placed at the top of a mountain again. This was my even of gaming and was the same over four different island locations that I attempted.
This brings me to optimization. From what I can tell from surveying people about 50% of the people that have played that game have had no issues with optimization or frame rates and best I can tell (I didn’t do an actual study) it comes down to having an Intel or AMD system. Some AMD people said they didn’t have a problem but you find out they’re not even hitting 60fps on medium settings on a GTX 1080 with a Ryzen 1800x and you realize that they do have a problem - they just don’t mind or notice. For example, I have to run ATLAS on medium-low settings at all time to have even close to a playable framerate - and I still don’t hit 60 frames per second. AT 1440p with a Ryzen 2700x at 4.4Ghz with a RTX 2080 and 32GB of 3400Mhz RAM on an PCIe M.2 there is NO reason I should be getting sub 60fps. At all. Compare that to my laptop with a 7700hq and GTX 1060 rocking 60fps on medium-high settings and it’s nothing short of infuriating.
I could talk about the gameplay but if I’m going to be completely honest there’s not really a lot of reason to. What we shown in the trailer for the game is simply not what was delivered and even people that have managed to grind their way through the buggy mess of a game to the “end game” endorse the fact that this is more ARK than something else. So if you’re curious what it’ll be like if you pick it up and spend a few hundred hours bashing trees and rocks - go read a review on ARK.
When it comes down it Grapeshot GAmes really missed the mark. The buttery smooth gameplay of their trailer doesn’t exist. The epic moments of their trailer don’t exist. Spawning is bugged. Gameplay is bugged. Network problems are a dime a dozen just like optimization and this is assuming you don’t crash to desktop when you try and play. I’ve spent over 30 hours simply trying to play ATLAS and about five hours successfully in the game - including that 90 minutes of hell I talked about earlier. It’s entirely possible that a year from now we’ll be looking at what was promised (or maybe two since this looks like a No Man’s Sky bait and switch) but for what you get right now it’s not worth $30, or even half that. As for the claim of 40,000 simultaneous players … I doubt we’ll ever know.