If you are looking for a classic RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world to play, then you'll be glad to know that Russian developer AtomTeam recently released Atom RPG. In Atom RPG, instead of tearing down the Berlin Wall the Cold War ended with the nukes launching. You play as a member of ATOM, an elite Russian force tasked with recovering pre-war era tech and restoring the Soviet way of life. Did the indy developer put out a worthy title, or did they just drop another bomb? Read on to find out.
Character creation gives you all the options you would expect to see in a classic RPG. There is the typical RPG stat allocation along with a point pool to allocate to basic skills. I was surprised by the number of character portraits available, and the option to write your own backstory, though purely cosmetic in relation to the game, was an added bonus. The last choice to make at character creation is choosing up to two Distinctions (aka perks). The perks are completely optional, but they provide some serious bonuses to your character's stats and abilities. They also come with hefty penalties, so make sure you have a specific play style in mind if you go this route.
The choices you make at character creation have a major impact on how your game is going to play out. As I mentioned, you can seriously boost or cripple certain skills, allowing you to make just about every imaginable archetype. You can be anything from a super soldier with zero social skills to a silver-tongued salesman that would accidentally shoot them self in the foot during a gunfight. Unlike some games, these choices really do impact the options you have available as you play, so make sure to weigh all your options before finalizing your character.
As you begin the game you are introduced to just how harsh the wasteland can be. After a quick tutorial, you begin your journey outside the town of Otradnoye. Here you will get your first couple of quests, whet your appetite for combat, and partake in my favorite part of any post-apocalyptic RPG, collecting so much junk that you can barely walk.
All of the action is viewed from an isometric view. Camera control will be familiar to anyone who has played other top-down games, left-clicking to move and WASD map scrolling. The graphics quality feels uninspired yet serviceable, and the environments you will be exploring portray a bleak wasteland well enough. Towns and outposts feel realistic, even to the point that I understand why so many of the NPCs you interact with seem to just be waiting for death.
Leaving your current zone places you on the world map. In the beginning, only the town of Otradnoye and it's immediate surroundings are revealed. NPCs will also mark any quest locations on the map for you, but without any form of quick travel you will have to hoof it across the map to get to your destination.
As you journey into the wastes you will frequently trigger random events. These encounters can be as simple as wandering merchants and bandit attacks, with more interesting encounters awaiting those lucky (or unlucky) enough to find them. Besides the towns and quest locations, there are also plenty of other points of interest scattered across the map. Almost every location, whether it be an abandoned car or a couple of buildings, beckons you to make a side trip to see what is there. It might just be a couple of crafting ingredients, but some zones will have NPC interactions yielding more useful items or more quests These zones all have the chance to reward you for your time, but death is often the result for the unprepared.
This chance of death is my main problem with Atom RPG. Many of the encounters in the game are just too tough, especially in the first few hours of the game. Going up against a few giant ants won’t be too hard, but being attacked by four or five armed bandits, that’s another story. At one point, I was able to easily dispatch all the enemies in a complex, only to come up against a final battle that I was completely unprepared for. The only options I had were to surrender all my hard earned equipment to my assailant or restart from a previous save. Life in the Wasteland is a bitch!
Overall, my time with Atom went about as I expected it would. It plays similarly to every other classic RPG. It does this well but fails to bring anything new to the table. Character creation and advancement are the strongest aspects of the game, but some players may fall prey to the freedom the developers give you to cripple your character.
As far as the story, it's a tried and true post-apocalyptic world, but the developers bring an unfamiliar (at least for me) perspective, similar to how a cook can change up a dish by adding a couple of new spices to the mix. As you explore you will find plenty of diaries and the like that flesh out the pre-war and post-apocalyptic world. As an older gamer, I was amused by many of the genre and 70s and 80s pop culture references in the game.
Atom RPG is a valiant effort for a small indie team. For anyone who longs for a classic RPG such as Fallout or Wasteland but wants better graphics or smoother gameplay, Atom RPG will fit the bill. The story, although unoriginal, is decent enough, and the game systems work nicely. Now, if I could just quit dying all the time.
Speaking of that, if there is one piece of wisdom I could impart on anyone wanting to jump into Atom, it would be how imperative it is to explore every inch of each zone. Click on every item (pressing the Alt key will highlight any object that can be interacted with) and talk to every NPC you come across. I missed several things with my first character (I made several before I found one I wanted to keep) that would have made my first couple of hours in the world much easier.
OVERALL RATING: 8.0
- Captures the feel of classic RPGs like Fallout and Wasteland
- Strong character customization that actually affects gameplay
- A familiar story with a unique feel
- Graphics are mediocre
- Void of any innovation