As Massively OP’s SWTOR
and Elder Scrolls Online
columnist and an unapologetic MMORPG fan, I’m not usually the first person people turn to when looking for an expert on lobby-based PvP games, but that’s exactly what makes me the right person to tackle this impressions piece of Trion
’s Atlas Reactor
for our MMO audience. I don’t dislike PvP; in fact, I really enjoy PvP in traditional MMOs like RIFT
and slightly less traditional MMOs like Guild Wars 2
. In the past, I’ve also enjoyed turn-based strategy games like the Master of Orion
series. And Atlas Reactor
combines all of these gameplay styles in a compelling way.
In April, I gave my initial impressions of the game’s closed beta. Obviously, the overarching game concept hasn’t changed, but there are other interesting changes that have leaked in since then, like new characters, interface changes, and match setup. Let’s first take a look at what Atlas Reactor is, what sets it apart from other games in similar genres, what changes I noticed since April, and ultimately, who should buy this game.
Atlas Reactor, like many games in the lobby-based PvP arena, sets up the conflict with a light and ultimately unimportant story. That said, it also follows in the tropish footsteps of many games since Team Fortress 2 by making its characters fun and over-the-top with distinct personality. Blizzard fans and newbies to the genre might get an Overwatch vibe from the game, but Overwatch was hardly the first game to insert personality into the game by giving the player a cast of characters as well as specific gameplay style to choose from.
Atlas Reactor separates itself by introducing a wildly different core mechanic: simultaneous turn-based combat. Each player controls one character that is part of a team of four. The characters have three basic classes: Firepower (DPS), Frontline (Tank), and Support (Buffs and heals). The team composition is usually composed of one of each class with one more Firepower thrown in for good measure. However, if you group up with your friends, it doesn’t really matter what the composition is.
Combat itself is made up of four different phases, with each phase taking place at the same time for every player. The prep phase allows for traps, buffs, and some preemptive damage to start. The dash phase is pretty self-explanatory: It allows for dash abilities to be used. Some dash abilities deal damage, but it’s usually minor. The blast phase is when most of the damage is dealt, but it’s also when a lot of the healing takes place, too. Cinematically, characters will conduct each of the first three phases individually, but as far as the mechanics are concerned, the abilities happen at the same time according to the phase. The fourth and final “move” phase happens cinematically and mechanically at the same time. In other words, everyone moves at once.
I’ll give examples using two easy-to-understand characters: Lockwood and Rampart. When the match begins, all abilities are automatically placed on a one-turn cooldown, meaning the only thing players can do is move. In this case, they sprint, which means they can move farther because they are not using any other abilities that turn. During the next turn, players have 30 seconds to decide which abilities they want to use. Some abilities, like the damage-boost catalyst, cost nothing, and another ability can be used at the same time. However, Rampart’s “bulwark” prep-phase ability cannot be used with any other ability. Lockwood’s dash-phase ability “back-up plan” allows him to zip away a few meters, avoiding damage that might be pointed at him. But Rampart’s dash-phase ability “Aegis Protocol” causes damage to anyone in his way. Blast phase abilities are the most varied, but for the most part they are designed to cause damage to another player or to heal yourself or your teammates. Lockwood’s “trickshot” allows him to fire a blaster bolt off walls and to hit a single target, but “light’em up” is a cone that hits all targets in the spaces in front of him.
“If I were to elevator-pitch this game, then I’d say it’s an arena shooter mixed with chess.”
If I were to elevator-pitch this game, which is extremely difficult, then I’d say it’s an arena shooter mixed with chess. Each move you make is strategic over impulsive, and the team composition and synergies are important to winning a match. Thirty seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time when you don’t know a particular character, but when you become familiar with how a character works, 30 seconds actually gives you a lot of time to think about the best possible move. I am most familiar with Nix, and I found that 30 seconds gave me time to see the actions of my teammates and preview a couple of possible moves before time ran out.
Trion has also added a few new quality of life changes since I played the game in April. For instance, there is a warning for when you are getting close to the end of the timer. There are icons for where your teammates are moving when setting up your turn. The reticles have always appeared on the ground where attacks were going to land, but the icons for the moves make planning ahead easier. There is also Discord integration that will automatically set you in a group with others on your team, if you have that enabled (Trion says it’s this integration is a genre first). And you can also set the interface so that you choose your freelancer after you see what your friends have chosen. Those are the QoL changes that I saw, but I also noticed the studio did fix some of the balance issues with Helios and Rampart, who were both nearly unkillable in April.
It’s hard to decide who would actually like this game, which isn’t a dig on the quality of the game. Trion has done a fantastic job, and I would certainly recommend this game to anyone who likes innovative games that aren’t afraid to step outside the status quo. Atlas Reactor makes me consider jumping back into the PvP scene. But besides me, I’m not sure who exactly would fall for this game. It doesn’t fit squarely into any one gaming category, and I have to wonder whether that’s not ultimately going to be to its detriment. It will not appeal to those who like twitchy PvP. It won’t necessarily appeal to those who like XCOM kinds of games because you’re controlling only one character, and it’s PvP. Perhaps the overlap of those strange concentric circles is enough to make the game successful.
The bottom line is that I do recommend the game. It’s surprisingly well made, it’s genuinely fun, and it’s inarguably different from standard gaming fare. And those with eclectic tastes in games like mine should give this game a shot.
Here’s a quick recap of all of our coverage since the game’s announcement
Whatever happened to Atlas Rogues?
Atlas Rogues tweaks visuals, stability, gear, and interface in today’s patch
First Impressions: Atlas Rogues’ current early access is a broken imitation of Atlas Reactor
Atlas Rogues, Gamigo’s Atlas Reactor spinoff, begins $14.99 early access tomorrow
Atlas Reactor spinoff title Atlas Rogues now has a trailer to enjoy
Gamigo officially announces the Atlas Reactor rogue-lite co-op PvE title Atlas Rogues
Atlas Reactor’s revival is actually a story-driven co-op game that was part of original prototyping
‘Welcome back Freelancers’: It looks like Gamigo might be reviving Atlas Reactor
Perfect Ten: 10 notable MMO developers that shut their doors
Gamigo is sunsetting more MMOs, this time Dragon’s Prophet EU and its sequel, Savage Hunt
The Soapbox: The sunsetted MMORPGs I miss the most
Gamigo is sunsetting classic Defiance – on the Xbox 360 – next month
Ask Mo: The hits and misses of MassivelyOP’s 2019 predictions
Gamigo plans Defiance 2050 anniversary event with goodies for Classic Defiance too
Farewell, Atlas Reactor: Gamigo has officially sunsetted the first of its Trion MMOs
Not So Massively: Mourning the wasted potential of Trion’s Defiance
Gamigo is sunsetting Atlas Reactor this summer
Gamigo plans holiday events for ArcheAge, RIFT, Trove, and Atlas Reactor too
Gamigo promises ‘new content on a regular basis’ for ArcheAge, RIFT, Trove, Defiance, Atlas Reactor
Gamigo finally confirms that Trove development will continue after Trion’s firesale
ArcheAge consumer lawsuit hits snag: Trion Worlds’ corporate dissolution
Trion Worlds has been sold to Gamigo, and yes, there have been more layoffs
Halloween blows through RIFT, Trove, ArcheAge, Atlas Reactor, and Defiance 2050
The Stream Team: Atlas Reactor turns two!
Trion Worlds announces week-long Double Up Days sale
Atlas Reactor launches new Oblivion map just in time for a double-experience weekend
Trion Worlds offers free MMO goodies for Marvel Heroes refugees
With 17M registered players, Trion’s voxelbox Trove launches in Japan
Atlas Reactor arrives in China via Steam
Trion Worlds’ Scott Hartsman goes on NBC to address video game violence and game ratings
Massively OP’s guide to Valentine’s Day 2018 across the MMORPG-verse
Atlas Reactor’s fifth season is live with new cyborg character Vonn and Valentine loot
Massively OP’s Winter Holiday 2017 guide!
RIFT course-corrects on $100 mount pack while Trion gets into the holiday spirit
Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Most Underrated MMO of 2017
All the best MMO sales of Black Friday 2017
Here’s the full list of Trion Worlds’ Black Friday deals
Halloween events across the MMORPG verse, 2017 edition
Trion Worlds entices players to support Extra Life charity with in-game rewards
The Stream Team: Celebrate Atlas Reactor’s first birthday and get gifts!
Atlas Reactor turns one year old with free stuff, fourth season, and Halloween
Atlas Reactor patches in a new solo mode and a new character
PAX West 2017: Atlas Reactor’s next freelancers are a hamster and a dino
Checking out RIFT 4.2: Celestial Storm
Atlas Reactor adds a hula-hooping catgirl to its crazy roster
ArcheAge’s CM Celestrata is promoted to associate producer
Atlas Reactor offers free loot for an appreciation weekend
The MMOs of the Steam Summer 2017 Sale
Trion Worlds brings Joe Brogno on as ArcheAge’s new community manager
Atlas Reactor’s season three appends Meridian to the roster
April Fools’ Day 2017: Hijinks across the MMOverse
Massively OP’s guide to Valentine’s Day around the MMORPG verse
Atlas Reactor launches its fully free-to-play patch with a new freelancer
Atlas Reactor opens up its public test server with a new Freelancer
Atlas Reactor is going ‘fully free-to-play’ next week
Battle Bards Episode 89: Nightfall
Massively OP’s Best of 2016 Awards: The Pseudo-MMO of the Year
Massively OP’s guide to the 2016 MMORPG winter holidays
Snowmageddon strikes Atlas Reactor
Atlas Reactor shows off Kaigin the Warpstalker
Atlas Reactor enters the e-sports scene
Cheers to the MMORPG studios supporting Extra Life this weekend
Massively OP’s guide to MMO Halloween 2016
Atlas Reactor pushes out post-launch patch with new hero and Halloween event
The Stream Team: Atlas Reactor’s head start
Atlas Reactor: Blur trailer, September 30 head-start, October 4 launch
Atlas Reactor introduces players to Orion, the Empyrean
Atlas Reactor opens up free play for everyone
Atlas Reactor keeps the beta party rolling
Atlas Reactor reveals free-play event, new toons, and Blur trailer
Atlas Reactor opens up its closed beta for everyone until July 17
Atlas Reactor opens beta access to all this weekend
Analyst argues game devs are abandoning free-to-play in some genres
Atlas Reactor arrives on Steam early access today
Atlas Reactor welcomes one and all this weekend
Atlas Reactor switches from a free-to-play to buy-to-play model
What to expect from Atlas Reactor’s closed beta launching today
The Stream Team: Another round of Atlas Reactor alpha
Atlas Reactor launches Vive preview, EVE Gunjack launches on Vive, EVE Valkyrie confirms Vive arrival in 2016
Atlas Reactor’s Oz will restore your faith in humanity
Atlas Reactor’s open alpha kicks off on March 31
The Stream Team: Accessing the Atlas Reactor alpha
Atlas Reactor hosts its alpha sneak peek week
Massively OP’s sneak peek of Atlas Reactor, Trion’s turn-based strategy MOBA
New Atlas Reactor vid explains the basics
Atlas Reactor’s alpha signups start today
PAX Prime 2015: Trion tries turn-based strategy with Atlas Reactor
Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?