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Atlas ain't quite ready to sail the seas, matey

William Murphy Posted:
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Atlas is ambitious. It’s going to be, with time and development, one of the singularly most massive MMOs ever created. But right now, in Early Access, and even for the low sale price of $25, I’d recommend against buying it. The promise of everything you saw in that Gameplay Trailer is there, but the rough state of servers and performance mean you’re better off waiting to see if things improve even if it means spending $5 more.

Is it basically Ark: Pirate Mode? Right now, yes. Because that’s all you can really see so far - the crafting, the resource gathering, the buggy animations and laggy servers. It is, without pulling punches, kind of a shitshow right now. But the few hours we were able to play and see on the “Preview” servers before the masses hit (Chris Bowman streamed a good deal of it) - that was promising. Framerates were solid, the game was smooth. It’s clear that Grapeshot bit off more than they could chew, and that’s clearly why they went the route of Early Access.

This UI look familiar?

But is that really an excuse you can let slide for a game that had the funding to spend on a promo during the Game Awards - if they did indeed pay for the time on the show? There’s evidence that Atlas began life as an expansion for Ark, before it was realized that it had the potential to be the most ambitious MMO. And thus, Grapeshot games split off from Studio Wildcard, and here we are - watching the troublesome but promising birth of a crazy and massive sandbox adventure.

This whole massive Atlas tech setup, where individual 150 person servers have different pieces of the massive world map and are interconnected seamlessly so players see one big world and not thousands of tiny 100 player servers. When it works, it’s going to be a marvel. But for now, unless you want to toss away $25, I’d say wait it out. The game is fun, more than it has any right to be in this state. You’re still starting off punching trees and whacking animals with janky animations, but there’s something addicting about the promise of it all.

An army of damned AI crewmen, aging, hair that grows slowly a la the Witcher, death (or finding the fountain of youth), treasure hunting, main story questlines, mythological creatures, secrets to uncover, hundreds of islands to chart. Atlas can only go up from here, but right now it’s just so damned rough around the edges that I can’t possibly recommend you buy the game - yet. I can’t help but think this is another case where a game could have solved its woes by having a prolonged beta test, rather than a pay-to-test Early Access period.

When it’s not crapping on itself, Atlas can be really pretty.

Atlas is groundbreaking in its scope and ambition, but it’s far from what you saw in that long gameplay trailer, and it’s definitely not quite everything the steam pages claims it will be or should be. And yet... here I am, about ready to boot it up again and see if I can’t get my pirate lass to spawn in a Freeport, because lawless life is just bogus when you’re starting out anew. We’ll have a more thorough review in the next couple of weeks but for now I’d suggest keeping an eye on steam updates, the many many streams of the game, and Reddit to see if it’s making progress and sailing or sinking into the briny deep.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.