ATLAS had a very rough start. Though, it says something about the post-Fallout 76 world when players are still flocking to a game that delayed without any notice the start of their early access by a couple days, had connection problems that prevented most players from playing even after it released, and then had incredible amounts of latency and rubber-banding once players managed to get into the game.
You could not be faulted for walking away from ATLAS, but there could be a few reasons to stay. A lot of articles have focused on problems with ATLAS and I don’t think there’s any need for me to pile on to that bandwagon. Instead, I’m going to take a look at some of the things ATLAS has going for it and correct some of the things I’ve seen around the internet that aren’t actually true with respect to the game.
Not an ARK Clone
To begin with, ATLAS is clearly developed with some of the same ideas as ARK, but it’s not a clone. If you like the first, I think there are enough similarities that you should really be thinking about trying the other. They are still very different in a lot of ways, though.
ATLAS isn’t just a pirate skin of its predecessor, as sailing is a critical part of the game that’s woven into the fabric deeply enough to change several fundamental aspects of how the game even plays. For one, advancement is locked behind exploration to some degree. Players have to travel to multiple islands and physically set foot on them, or levels cap out at several points.
There are also a number of ships to build, which is one of the key measures for advancement in the game. Getting into larger ships matters a lot more than you might think due to the distributed nature of many resources. Plants and animals populate the many islands of the map, but no island has everything. That means players will need to travel the world to collect resources they need for more complicated recipes. Better ships travel faster, capture the wind better at different angles, and provide better protection against the elements.
Another difference is that while you do earn experience and level up in a similar way to ARK, you don’t just pick random things to build and unlock them with skill points. Instead, there are a host of actual skills, some of which also unlock recipes, that fall into something more like a tree. The skills are diverse enough, and there are enough of them, that it doesn’t look like a single person will be able to do everything at once. I haven’t counted, but it appears that there are more skills in ATLAS than there are in ARK. They certainly seem to be more complex and developed, in any case.
A lot of the early reviews of the game I saw blasted it for stability issues. That was fair the first day after early access started, and even into the second day. It didn’t take long for those issues to be resolved, though. As of now, I haven’t had a single instance of rubber-banding since that second morning. I even sailed back through the same starting zone I initially spawned in while heading to another biome and had no problems.
I have had a couple client crashes, but they’ve been relatively far between. Even when the game was having major issues, I only crashed a handful of times. Once they’d had time to isolate the issues, the devs clearly took steps to address the problems, and did so quickly. At this point, the game runs far better and is more stable than many of the early access games I’ve played over the years. It’s possible it’s even better than the majority of them.
The Real Problems
That’s not to say there aren’t a few legitimate problems for ATLAS, though. One issue is that you can get stuck and not have any way to get unstuck until you die. That happened to me, and I had to leave the client running so that I’d starve to death. I fell between two cliffs and got stuck in a state where the game thought I was still falling. I couldn’t overeat or do anything to hasten my death. The world is large enough that I don’t think the devs can fix all the potential problem areas, so they really need to implement a suicide command for players who need it.
The land-rush has also caused a few issues on public servers. Every island I’ve sailed to so far has been fully claimed with flags all over the place. In most cases those claims were single flags with no buildings and looked like a clan had gone through claiming as much of the island as possible. That’s going to dramatically limit the opportunities for other players to advance themselves if they’re playing solo or in smaller groups.
It’s possible that this is an issue that’ll clear up as more servers open and the player count evens out a bit. For now, sailing up to any island involves dodging random rafts and shipyards that jut out from every conceivable angle. Until the public servers get to a more stable population, private servers might be the way to go, though I haven’t tried any yet.
In the end, the buyer should always beware. ATLAS is very early in development. What’s there is interesting and fun, but there are also a metric ton of random bugs and issues. A short glimpse at the forums and the lists of bug reports, and there are a lot of legitimate complaints there. If you’re the sort to find yourself easily frustrated with that sort of game, stay clear.
On the other hand, if you played and liked ARK a lot and you’re not bothered by bugs, character wipes on occasion, and general lack of good info on how to do or find various things, then you might go ahead and make the purchase. There’s enough of a difference already between ARK and ATLAS that I don’t think you’ll feel like you’ve blown money on an upgraded version of a game you already have.