20 minutes of Atlas Fallen gameplay left us with plenty of reasons to be excited.
The reveal trailer for Atlas Fallen didn’t give too much away. We knew there was lots of sand, and that some gnarly looking monsters liked to call it home. After seeing roughly 20 minutes of gameplay behind closed doors at gamescom 2022, I can confirm that there’s a whole lot more to it than that – and it all looks very exciting. A fast-paced, semi-open world action RPG, Atlas Fallen shows flashes of Monster Hunter, Control, and the Horizon series, while also introducing some intriguing new ideas of its own.
Fully playable in both single-player and two-player co-op, Atlas Fallen is a narrative-driven RPG that is, refreshingly, neither a soulslike or live-service game. Multiple (at least six that I know of) fairly large open areas make up the world and are unlocked as you make your way through its story. The world is called Atlas and, you guessed it, it has fallen. Sand covers everything from your feet to the horizon with old world ruins occasionally surfacing the sea of gold. This is because Atlas is under the tyrannical rule of the Sun God, who enlists the human population to mine and collect Essence – a valuable material used in rituals to honour the deity.
Atlas Fallen – Gamescom 2022
One day, however, your fully-creatable character strays from the holy path and stumbles across a powerful gauntlet that lets you control sand and manipulate it into powerful weapons. A voice from this gauntlet then tells you of powerful shards located around the world. Your mission is to gather these in order to bring the gauntlet back to full strength so you can eventually take on the Sun God and bring balance back to the world. If this didn’t already sound a bit like you’re playing as a heroic version of Thanos, then maybe the fact that you can also collect over 150 different essence stones to slot into the gauntlet, granting you magical abilities, will.
Atlas Fallen lets you switch between three weapons formed of tightly packed sand.“
In terms of core combat, Atlas Fallen lets you switch between three weapons formed of tightly packed sand at will, reshaping and forming tools of destruction similar to how Control’s Service Weapon worked. Each melee armament has its different uses and they’re designed to be constantly rotated through the course of a fight. For example, the sword whip is a quick-hitting blade that can transform between a dagger and whip with the press of a button. It allows you to grapple onto monsters and also has the ability to crystallise enemies – locking them in place and signalling to you that it may be wise to now switch weapons.
This is because the second type you can wield is a massive sand hammer which allows you to perform a shattering attack, dealing heavy damage to crystallised enemies. In general, the hammer does the job you’d expect it to: slow and heavy to wield, but with a high damage output and AOE attacks that are ideal for crowd control groups of smaller enemies.
The third variation is a big ol’ fist. It’s quick-hitting and packs a mighty punch, but is only really designed to be effective in one-on-one encounters, making it ideal for those big bosses you’ll likely face. From what I could see, the action looked satisfyingly fluid and face-paced, especially when compared to the more deliberate combat of Deck 13’s previous outings with The Surge series.
In order to encourage a front-foot approach, a momentum bar fills up which each successive attack you make. You don’t use the contents of this bar for ultimate attacks or as AP for special moves, however, instead it works in a uniquely passive, but integral way. Once you build up to a certain section of the bar, more attacks get unlocked, leading you to be rewarded for your aggressive playstyle, with new ways to deal damage. There is a downside however; the higher your momentum bar gets, the more vulnerable to taking damage you are. It’s intended to make you perform a delicate balancing act between being powerful and fragile in each fight you get yourself into.
The momentum bar works in a uniquely passive, but integral way.“
You’ll need to pay close attention to your enemies, too. Enemies are reminiscent of Monster Hunter in their design, mutated versions of recognisable animals or beasts – for example, one of the guardians of the Sun God, a giant stone crab which occasionally enveloped itself in a sand tornado. They looked like they had a decent repertoire of attacks to go through and didn’t look at all easy to take down, either (there will be three difficulty options available at launch so don’t fear).
Also similar to Monster Hunter, there was no centralised health bar to be seen. In this case, different sections of the crab’s body had their own percentage of health to chip away at, including each claw and its armoured head. Some of those parts will be mandatory to destroy in order to kill an enemy, whereas others will grant you bonus rewards for the fight if you manage to break them before finishing them off completely. So there’s also a bit of Horizon and their mechanised monstrosities in there too.
Outside of combat, there looked to be a fair amount to keep you busy as well. Sand surfing across the dunes looks like a blast, and adding abilities such as gliding across large ravines and raising structures out of the sand (earned by upgrading the gauntlet) look set to add variety with fighting, puzzle-solving and exploration challenges all encouraged. I had other, vast areas teased – with the Sun God’s palatial city and a more linear, cramped underground section, there seems to be a diverse set of things to see and do over the course of an estimated 20-hour mainline campaign. There’s a lot more to Atlas Fallen than a whole lot of sand then, and I’m now very much looking forward to surfing my way across it on my way to punch a God in the face sometime in 2023.
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Simon Cardy would love to stumble upon a magic gauntlet one day. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon to see if it happens.