Atlas Reactor is currently in alpha and they are currently holding their “alpha sneak peek” event until February 24. Since there is no NDA for this event, I can write about my impressions. Hurrah! Just in case you missed it, I will repeat myself here: This game is in alpha! A lot is subject to change still.
TL;DR: This is currently a true gem!
Now on to what Atlas Reactor actually is: It is a turn-based MOBA. Yes, turn-based! Like in XCOM. Or even Civilization, but here in Atlas Reactor all players take turns simultaneously. There are currently three game modes. “Solo”, “Cooperative” and “Versus”. In “Solo” mode, you play with bots on your team and against bots only. In “Cooperative”, you play with other players against bots. In both games modes, you can choose the difficulty of the bots (both your allies and your enemies) giving PvE players some nice options! In “Versus”, you and other players play against other players. While you get 60 seconds to decide your moves in “Solo” mode, you only get 20 seconds in “Versus” mode. I find it a bit stressful, especially since I am still learning the game. I misclicked once and did not have time to correct my mistake (you can undo your choices by hitting ESC). Oh the shame… I moved one whole field and did nothing else! I think in those few Versus games that I played, my most often exclaimed expression was “5 more seconds, pleeeeease!”.
A turn consists of two stages. One called “Decision Mode” is when you decide your next actions, the second is called “Resolution Mode”. In this stage, you see how your choices play out.
Combat itself consists of four phases (green abilities are played in “Preparation”, yellow abilities in “Dash”, red abilities in the “Blast” phase and then the “move” phase comes at the end of the Resolution Mode). In the first, the Preparation phase, you have some abilities like traps that activate when an enemy steps through or heals. In Dash, you often have movement-related abilities. The Blast phase is when you shoot and hit enemies. Then all players can move to a different field on the map. You can choose a couple of abilities, but you do not get to choose one ability per phase. That is, if you choose a Dash ability, you will not be able to also lock in a Blast ability. You can always choose where to move at the end of the turn, though. A short example: You choose to set a trap in front of yourself. An enemy decides to teleport towards you in the Dash phase. The Resolution Mode starts. All actions were locked in and cannot be changed anymore. The Preparation phase comes first. Your character sets a trap in front of himself. Then Dash phase starts and the other player teleports towards you, right into your trap.
Another example: You are all standing on the battlefield. You are low on health and there is an enemy right in front of you. You have several options. You could heal (in the Preparation phase which plays out first), but then you can’t hit that big guy in front of you in the Blast phase. And while you are considering your fate, the enemy player (who for the sake of this example, is at full health) will certainly not put a trap or anything else that may do damage later on. No, he will get out his weapon and smash you during Blast phase! So his choice will be one of the damage-dealing abilities and then probably a movement to another tile. Maybe that heal ability will save you, maybe it won’t. Your 20 seconds are ticking, but hey, you see that you actually have a nice “dash” ability (which plays out in the middle phase, the “Dash” phase). You hit it just in time and choose which tile to dash to and the combat stage starts. Preparation phase: Big guy does nothing. Dash phase: You dash to where you’d chosen just a few seconds ago. Blast phase: Big guy hits right in front of him, but you are not there anymore. Phew. You’re safe.
This is Atlas Reactor in a nutshell!
But there is more than just you and one other guy. The game is 4 versus 4 and the goal is to get 5 kills before the other side does or get the most kills within 20 rounds of gameplay. This is actually quite a fast game. I think each match takes about 15 to 20 minutes. And you do not all have the same abilities, of course. You choose a character – called “Freelancers” here, before the match starts. A freelancer belongs to one of three categories: Firepower, Frontline and Support. They all probably do exactly what you imagine right now. Not all characters have an ability for each of the phases. Rask, a frontline freelancer, has one ability for the Dash phase and four abilities for the Blast phase. Normally, you can only choose one ability per phase, but he has two abilities (Augmented Regeneration and Uncontrollable Fury) which can be used in addition to another ability. I am definitely not a Frontline player, by the way, as that’s where I die quickly without dealing much damage. In short: The exact opposite of what I should be doing.
On the other hand, watch the video below. This is me playing Aurora, one of the three supporter freelancers. I played her twice in a game against very easy bots. Then I took her to this match with and against other players. If you know anything about Atlas Reactor already, you may see how I make hasty silly choices. However, it was my first time playing her there. But really, I would love to get 5 more seconds to decide! Those would make such a big difference.
Each freelancer has 5 abilities. Your first four abilities give you energy. The fifth, your “ultimate” needs 100 energy to be activated. The abilities can be customized with mods. Aurora’s first ability, “Shock Therapy” deals 18 damage to enemies and restores 12 health to allies. The mod “Vain” adds 5 heal to Aurora when you use this ability. You can also unlock (via in-game currency) other mods. The mod “Group Therapy” would instead add 4 heal when adding allies. So, no more heal for Aurora, but 16 health instead of 12 for targeted allies. There are also Catalysts. Those are identical for all freelancers and you can choose one for each phase. Those can be used only once per match and give you the ability to heal yourself or teleport, reduce cooldowns and so on. Just some nice little helpers.
On to the next point, the far less amusing one: The payment model. Atlas Reactor will be a “free to play” game which is in line with all other games by Trion. I can’t say much about the shop yet, as not much has been implemented yet. Freelancers can be unlocked either by spending currency you earn through gaming (called “ISO”) or by spending real money (you buy currency called “Credits” in Trion). This is on par with what we know from League of Legends and the likes. What I find odd is that there is a “patron” option (a monthly sub!) giving patrons some benefits – or one, currently, an extra contract per day (like a daily quest which gives you ISO as a reward). I find it odd, because I haven’t seen or heard from a MOBA with a monthly sub yet… although this could also be because I only checked out League of Legends way back when it first launched. So I could be wrong here and it is a common thing to have. I am a bit wary here since they recently removed features from Rift players unless they decide to pay a monthly fee and they also removed the option to buy classes in Trove without real money.
At the moment, what you can buy in Atlas Reactor is skins and faster progression (e.g. getting ISO faster to unlock additional mods). And, of course, you can buy freelancers much faster by just opening your wallet instead of playing for ISO to unlock them. On the other hand, none of this makes you stronger. It just gives you more options. And then there is skins: Make your freelancer stand out from the crowd!
For this alpha, we are getting free credits to unlock things, by the way. Nobody has to – or can, I think – any real money yet. Just in case you were wondering why I have credits. :p
What I really like about “visual customizations” so far is that while you do have to buy new skins, some colour options unlock with freelancer level as well as titles and your account’s banner. Nothing here makes you stronger. It’s all just cosmetic stuff and they seem to go for a mix of real money and playing the game here.
I did mention that the game is in alpha, right? It plays really great so far, though. In the beginning, Atlas Reactor crashed when I launched Fraps. But this hasn’t happened anymore recently, so maybe they fixed this bug already. Other than that, I personally did not encounter any bugs or other client crashes. I know of some bugs, I just did not experience them. But they are mostly related to not being able to load the client, I think.
In closing, I do hope they know what they’re doing here and are careful when it comes to the patron abilities and the shop, because I actually believe this game is a true gem and I am very much enjoying playing the game!