Written for Xbox Gamer Dad | Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Amidst the vast sand dunes of Atlas lies a ravaged and broken world inhabited by malevolent monstrosities known as the Wraith, loyal to an ancient tyrannical Sun God named Thelos.
In Atlas Fallen, players are thrust into the role of the Unnamed and discover a powerful Gauntlet that channels the powers of another fallen god, taking them on a journey to become a champion of the people to end Thelos’s rule once and for all. By manipulating the sands around them to glide across the sea of sand, manifesting powerful weapons and raising gigantic structures, the Unnamed gauntlet bearer must liberate the people of Atlas from the oppressive regime.
Countless inhabitants have errands and side quests to keep the player busy outside of the main quest line, along with an abundance of exploration and puzzle driven distractions and goliath enemy encounters all await the player alone or in co-op with one other player in this Action-RPG.
The Priests of Atlas worship the evil Sun God Thelos and have essentially enslaved the population of Atlas and stripped them of their names, leaving the masses known as the ‘Unnamed’. Upholding the divine order via the exploitation of Atlas’s inhabitants, a rebellion rises with the introduction of the player’s Unnamed hero. A very simplified character creator lets the player create their Unnamed before the discovery of Atlas Fallen’s most significant gameplay mechanic, the Gauntlet.
Once used by another God in an epic encounter against Thelos, the Gauntlet is tethered to the spirit of its former champion, channeling their spectral presence to communicate with and appear to our Unnamed hero. With their guidance, the Gauntlet is gradually upgraded with story progression to become more than a bond with its former wielder.
Not only can it be used as a sand manipulating weapon that can perform devastating sand-infused and super powered attacks, it can also be used to manipulate the terrain by raising gigantic structures to become platforms and crushing Thelos’ literal shackles upon the sands. Perhaps the coolest function of the Gauntlet is the ability to glide across bodies of sand for faster traversal across the handful of explorable biomes of Atlas.
There are three difficulties available to the player to experience the story of Atlas Fallen, including easier combat that allows the player to focus on the story and exploring the world without being stumped by too difficult of a combat challenge while those looking to test their grit on the sands against the colossal monstrosities with harder combat encounters can choose to do so.
The main quest line itself is very straight forward and clearly laid out with unmissable quest markers and a clear path forward, taking around 8 hours when just focusing on the story. There are at least another dozen hours of mega boss encounters, exploration, puzzles, collectibles and secrets for the completionists looking to maximise their time on the sand.
The lack of traditional cutscenes restrict the story to brief, rather static character dialogue exchanges peppered with artistic flashbacks telling the tale of how Thelos’ reign of terror began. The story is certainly interesting but having it explained via dialogue rather than shown downplays the grand, epic nature of the tale and the stakes at play.
Despite having developed The Surge and Lords of the Fallen series, Deck 13 Interactive have deviated from the souls-like formula used for those games and have leaned into a more traditional Action-RPG experience. Limb targeting from the pair of The Surge titles has made its way into Atlas Fallen however, and this plays a significant part in the combat encounters with the larger Wraith enemies.
An icon is displayed in the top left of the screen during an enemy encounter to show which limbs of a Wraith’s body are covered in Catalyst pieces, marked as red, or yellow for parts not covered in Catalyst pieces. Destroying all of the Catalyst pieces is required to defeat the Wraith while destroying the yellow limbs only increases the chance to receive loot. The simple lock-on and target switching mechanics make it very easy to switch between different limbs or enemies during combat.
Armed with only a primary and secondary weapon, combat offers up a ton of experimentation thanks to the Essence Stones that players can find, craft and upgrade. These are activated via progression of the Momentum Gauge during active combat. As damage is dealt, momentum is built and the Momentum Gauge bar is increased, reaching up to three tiers. With each tier of the bar that is reached, a new ability can be manually unleashed while up to three other Essence Stones have their abilities passively activated.
The Essence Stones fall into six categories; Survivability, Damage, Momentum, Tricks, Healing and Cursed, with the latter awarding powerful effects with a negative cost such as reduced defence or slower cool-down times. Mixing and matching a healthy balance of all categories is certainly advantageous but players can also build their character to favour damage or healing for example, particularly useful for co-operative play.
For my playthrough my character was tailored towards high damage output, utilising 11 of the 12 Essence Stones that can be customised at will to focus on damage increases and powerful attacks. Aside from executing powerful super-powered abilities, the Momentum Gauge can be used upon reaching each of the three stages to unleash a devastating ability called a Shatter. This temporarily crystallises foes while inflicting massive damage, leaving them open for a flurry of attacks without fear of retaliation.
Just as momentum is gained by inflicting damage it is also reduced by receiving it too. On top of the abilities that become available with higher momentum, the standard attacks also grow more powerful as the weapons increase in size, a mechanic referred to as Ascending. This essentially means the higher the momentum, the greater the damage output but, to prevent this from making the player too unstoppable, the same effects apply to the enemy. The higher the players momentum, the more damage they receive.
Deck 13 have introduced such a clever combat system that encourages players to balance their combat style, challenging them to strategically utilise their Momentum Gauge by deciding whether or not to execute a Shatter and reduce the Momentum Gauge back to zero in an effort to reduce enemy damage back to its default stats. It can be crushing to hold onto momentum only for the enemy to capitalise on it and win the battle.
Evasion by dashing is an effective method of repositioning on the battlefield to avoid damage and can also be used to reach flying enemies to engage in aerial combat. Up to three evasions can be performed before a brief cool-down period recharges them, alternatively, every successful hit on an enemy instantly recharges the evasions. Moving from aerial combat to ground encounters is seamless, ensuring ease of managing the varying enemy threats that are typically group encounters.
As well as evading, the player can also parry which initiates the Sandskin ability, briefly crystallising the enemy and leaving them vulnerable for further assault. Rounding out the defensive suite of combat options is the Idol, a customisable item that allows the player to regain health. Additional charges can be unlocked to allow for more uses and the passive effects of the Idol can be changed by equipping a different one, offering faster recharge for example.
There are 16 Wraith enemy types divided amongst three categories; Lesser Wraiths, Greater Wraiths and Colossal Wraiths. As the names of each category suggest, the Wraiths dramatically increase in not just strength and power but in size too. The Greater and Colossal Wraiths are typically flanked by Lesser Wraiths that continue to be summoned throughout the encounters. From a design standpoint the Wraiths all look exciting and distinct, sharing a common overall aesthetic of sandy, rock armoured beasts that compliment the world design perfectly.
Taking down these enemies brings its rewards. Slain enemies drop Essence Dust, a resource also awarded for completing quests. It can also be spent to unlock new Essence Stone slots to allow the player to reach the maximum of 12. Upgrading is done at Anvils, objects scattered throughout the explorable worlds that need to be activated by utilising another of the Gauntlet’s abilities, Raise. Glowing greenish-blue areas can be raised to uncover Anvils or chests containing loot. There are also large structures that can be raised to create new platforming pathways and access to previously inaccessible plateaus.
Outside of progressing the main story, Atlas is teeming with side quests and errands to complete for the many NPCs scattered throughout its plains. Heavenly Shrines used to worship Thelos can be destroyed, giant Watchtowers can be deactivated, treasure maps can be found and their secrets revealed and brutal Elite variants of Wraiths lay waiting to be vanquished. There are plenty of these activities to distract the player from their quest to liberate Atlas and they all feel meaningfully implemented and rewarding to complete.
The world of Atlas is truly stunning, the detail in the environment truly depicts the remnants of a great civilisation that has been lost to oppression and decay. It offers four large regions to explore which each bring a different aesthetic and feel that truly capture the essence of the fallen world. Vast seas of sand, decaying underground labyrinths and even patches of lush forests remind the player of what the world once was before Thelos and his loyalists enslaved the populace.
Each region is riddled with puzzles, collectibles and secrets to discover on top of and beneath the sands which offer countless hours of exploration. From the many NPCs and Wraith that populate Atlas through to the many challenges on offer, everything looks great and fits within the world we’re left to save.
Beautiful orchestral scores and dramatic battle overtures enrich the fantastical landscape of Atlas Fallen, this is well supported by the punchy sound design battle and the monstrous howls of the Wraith that wander the plains.
+ Beautiful world
+ Plenty of activities outside the story
+ Deep combat mechanics
+ Excellent customisation
+ Interesting story of rebellion and oppression
– Mechanics can be overwhelming in the beginning
– Lack of cutscenes and dialogue driven story progression hinders the pacing
Developed by: Deck 13 Interactive
Published by: Focus Entertainment
Release Date: August 10 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC
* DISCLAIMER: A digital code was kindly provided to Xbox Gamer Dad for the purpose of content creation, and as a member of XBGD, this title was covered by Games of DAYNE. *
Check out Xbox Gamer Dad at the following links:
– Additional Links –
For more of my reviews, click HERE.