by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Sands gets in everywhere
Sand as far as the eye can see. A devastated wasteland that has been overcome with monster-like wraiths. A God whose subjects will do anything to collect the magical Essence that will supposedly appease their God. And a magical Gauntlet that will hopefully set things right. This is Atlas Fallen.
Atlas Fallen has players taking on the role of an Unnamed, the people designated to be of little value to those who are attempting to restore the land after the destruction of the civilization. Basically, they are used as slave workers, searching for the magical Essence to rebuild. Our character begins with little rights within this harsh world, but all that changes when you stumble upon a magical gauntlet – not dissimilar to the one wielded by Thanos in the Marvel Avengers movies.
This gauntlet gives our Unnamed character special abilities, not the least of which is the ability to converse with a spirit known as Nyaal, who assists you in your quest to liberate the other Unnamed from the evil God, Thelos. It is somewhat of a bland storyline, and the characters you meet along the way don’t really provide anything memorable either, but this is secondary to the combat phases of the game.
Slicing and dicing
Having said that, the combat seemed somewhat on the boring side early in the game. Your Unnamed character would wildly swing an axe-like weapon at the low-level opponents, with the simple ability of dodging enemy attacks as their main course of defence. But as you move through the game, players will accumulate other special abilities that they can use in battle, that gives the combat some much needed refinement.
Once the new skills are added into the combat, the fights take on an added strategic impact, as players will need to dodge and parry to gain momentum to affect these new powerful attacks. Indeed, the combat in Atlas Fallen can be quite hectic - particularly against the larger creatures that have designated weak points – as you try and take on multiple opponents at once. The 360-degree combat can make things difficult at times as enemies attack from various directions – and from various heights. But completing the perfectly timed parry and then using your ultimate ability known as Shatter to destroy a boss feels highly rewarding.
Defeating enemies in these battles grants Essence Dust, which is essential to improve your armour. Players will also need to locate special Essence Stones that will enable players to upgrade the gauntlet and its abilities. And it is not just combat that the gauntlet assists our Unnamed. One of the major abilities of the gauntlet is its Air Dash ability, allowing players to leap across large canyons – with upgrades of this ability allowing players to increase their gliding distance. As well as that, special platforms can also be raised with the use of the gauntlet, granting access to higher areas.
Dune not disturb
I must admit, early in the game I wondered if sand-sliding would be at all useful and if it actually added to the game, but several hours in had me turning 180 degrees on that thought. Although Fast Travel is available, doing so means that the player misses out on collecting a range of ingredients required to increase the power of your combat abilities and other collectibles. Building up speed as you slide across the dunes feels like snowboarding, but in a desert location and become an enjoyable break from the combat phases of the game. I found myself gliding this way and that whilst enjoying the views that the vast wastelands provided and allowing myself to stumble upon the plethora of treasures hidden above and below the sand.
Another bonus of using the sand-sliding as a way of traversing the location is that players will often come across special Anvils. These anvils are similar to Bonfires in Dark Souls and allow our character to recuperate, reinforce their gauntlet and upgrade the powers that can be attached to it. But they also act as fast travel locations. As mentioned earlier, I personally found sand-sliding to be a relaxing way to move across the map, but these Fast Travel points are advantageous when needing to travel back to a specific location across the other side of the world.
Although much of the world is covered with sand and large rocky outcrops, the visuals in Atlas Fallen are a delight. Exploring cavernous locations for hidden objects does allow players to escape from the blandness of the sand, and nice little touches such as watching your shadow below as you leap across large crevices with your air dash ability. The creatures you come across too, are quite easy to differentiate enabling players to work out a plan of attack for each battle.
Atlas Fallen has much going for it, with satisfying combat, lovely visuals within the desolate environment, plenty of collectibles, and the fun sand-sliding mechanic to traverse between quest locales. But it also suffers from a several issues – not the least being the bland storyline and dialogue. Chatting to quest givers is somewhat tedious, but luckily once you head off into the dunes this is easily forgotten.
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Satisfying combat, enjoyable sand-sliding travel mechanic
Storyline is secondary