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Atlas Fallen Review: Buried in the Sand

Surf the sands to fight a god in Atlas Fallen — for better or worse.

Atlas Fallen pits you against Thelos, the Sun God, in a world made barren under his control. Covered in never-ending sand (insert popular Star Wars meme), the majority of humans are Unnamed, serfs to those with a personal identity. You play as one of these Unnamed, armed with a mysterious Gauntlet that harnesses the energy of the land.

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There’s so much potential with Atlas Fallen, but it never reaches its full potential. The story’s plot twists are foreshadowed at the beginning, giving away much of the plot before you can get to the meat of it. Along with less than stellar voice acting, the narrative ultimately falls flat, even where well written. There are a ton of side quests, challenges, and collections to complete, which flesh out the world and elevate the gameplay — but that can only take it so far.

Atlas Fallen Review: Buried in the Sand

Image via Focus Entertainment

The story of Atla Fallen is rather straightforward in its presentation. God takes over; god exacts relentless control over the people; the world decays; people revolt. Of the plot twists, only one isn’t spoiled by hints dropped throughout the early game. And that one twist really got me! It’s a shame, then, that aside from it, everything else is handed to you in artless ways.

Most of the story is laid out in that simple fashion. For a narrative trope that’s been told a variety of ways and a hundred different times, more unexpected plot points are needed to make it stand out. To make it grip you. To make it worth investing in. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any draw to go back and advance the main story when doing anything else with Atlas Fallen.

The main questline is relatively short, too. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it only took me roughly 18 hours to complete Atlas Fallen, which makes the game feel truncated with its RPG elements and trappings. Compared to the hours of gameplay present in Final Fantasy 16, Hogwarts Legacy, or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, it falls quite short. I personally like more oomph in campaigns, but for someone who has less time to play, it may not be a negative.

While the main story may be lacking, the side quests and errands are where the game shines. Unnamed, nobility, priests of Thelos, and more all have quests you can pick up that allow you to delve further into the world of Atlas Fallen. You can learn more about the Knights of Bastengar, how Essence drain affects the environment, or how to survive against fearsome Wraiths. Some of the characters in these quests end up being more well-rounded than some of the main characters, which can say volumes, depending on how you look at it.

The voice acting isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard, but it’s as bland as the desert itself. The lines are delivered clearly and are easy to understand. However, there’s no emotion portrayed through the acting of some of the main characters. Scenes of sadness or anger barely see changes in volume. Conversations lack the micro sounds, such as a sigh or sharp breath, that signify emotional beats or betray inner struggles. Overall, I just found the plight of the Unnamed disinteresting as time went on due to the fact that the main characters seemed disinterested themselves.

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A major downside to these errands and side quests, though, isn’t innate to their structures or mini-narratives but a strange mechanic evident when you leave the first explorable region, Caladrias. You’re met with an alert that if you leave to go through the gate, you won’t be able to return and finish your quests. Odd. And though we’ve all seen this type of thing in other games, those moments are often temporary, allowing us to return at some point, even if it’s post-game, to complete those quests and gain their rewards.

However, when you reach the other side of the gate, all your pending quests — aside from Watcher’s Fury and the main story — are moved to the completed section with a note that the quest goals weren’t achieved. You can return to Caladris by fast traveling from any anvil, but any quests from the region are finito.

This is the only time in the game it occurs, and from a narrative perspective, it makes sense, given the fact that people are fleeing the area. From a gameplay perspective, though, I wasn’t happy when my quests were just taken from me. At the very least, a more specific bit of text detailing this better would be helpful.

Despite that oddity, other things Atlas Fallen does well alongside errands and side quests are traversal and combat. Having a weapon that changes forms depending on power level, Momentum, and distance is ingenious.

You choose two weapons, each of which has one form for light attacks and another for a charged attack. The Gauntlet you wear enhances your punches with a flurry of attacks but also brings forth beefcake sand arms to beat Wraiths into submission. And each of these weapons gets bigger the more Momentum you gain (which is basically your mana or energy pool). In addition to that, depending on the distance or attack combo, the weapons will take on another form. The battle axe will turn into two battle hammers, the scythe will turn into a whip.

Once you’ve selected your weapons, you only need to worry about equipping Essence Stones, which are your extra abilities and passives, and your armor. Essence Stones are found by killing Wraiths, finishing quests, looting treasure chests, or crafting formulas. There are 32 stones in all that can influence your playstyle.

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You also have the ability to set up to three loadouts, which can easily be changed before battle, allowing you to have certain builds for certain enemies. Armor is easy to take care of. Found at merchants or given from quests, you can only upgrade them at Anvils.

When both of these are set, you’re ready to wail on enemies without a second thought continuously. The combat is fast-paced but pauses using the menu button. If you’re fighting a flying enemy, you can jump at them, pull yourself with your scythe, or dash over to destroy their mortality. I’ve rarely experienced combat quite like it in any other RPG that I’ve played in the past. The most similar that I can think of is Monster Hunter or Dauntless. Even then, the system here is more unique, streamlined, and easily accessible than in those games.

When it comes to traversal, sand surfing is one of the coolest things. I equate it to having a mount, but it’s far easier to start, control, and end. It’s fast and immediate. You can close distances of hundreds of feet rapidly — and it just feels good and fun. All you have to do to proc it is run on sand, and if you’re already running across rock or grass, you’ll automatically begin to surf once you touch the sand.

You can also jump from various heights and dash through the air. When fully upgraded, you can dash three times, making getting into other high locations or over chasms relatively easy. The rush that comes from trying to make it across a split in the earth by just jumping and dashing is very palpable. I find myself trying to air-dash my way to nooks and crannies in other games after using it so much in this one.

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There are also some minimum expectations players have playing a game like this. Being able to play the game adequately, fight enemies, and complete quests without issue is one of those expectations. Sadly, the fighting enemies part needs more work.

When fighting large or Elite wraiths, the enemy can disappear as you get stuck under them. You get hit by their attacks but can’t dodge. You may not be able to attack properly if you can focus on the target that keeps phasing out due to the size. I found this happened frequently when in a Watcher’s Fury zone or facing Watchtower Guardians. You can zoom out, but the main problem comes from the lack of focus and ability to execute skills in a consistent manner.

Atlas Fallen focuses a lot on dashing through the air and jumping over obstacles. This is great, except when you’re trying to complete a Sealing Totem challenge and get stuck under the ledge you’re supposed to grab on to. I found this happening often. For example, some areas have pallet like wooden overhangs to help you climb up, but I would get stuck on the edge of the pallet, causing me to have to restart the challenge, fall to my doom, or just get more frustrated.

When changing your key bindings, make sure to go through the full list of assigned keys. Unlike other games that alert you when changing a binding that is already set to something else, this game doesn’t do that. I changed my dodge binding early to Tab, which is easier for me to press during combat. However, tab was already assigned to Nyaal’s vision. When that tutorial came up I was unable to move forward since no key was now bound to that action. I couldn’t even open the settings menu to fix the issue, having to restart the game instead.

Other issues include some stuttering, the camera randomly whipping around during conversations, and having a hard time seeing the lines for the Sealing Totem challenge at certain angles. These issues culminated in the game freezing and crashing on me while facing an endgame boss.

Atlas Fallen Review — The Bottom Line

Image via Focus Entertainment

Pros

  • Nice design and graphics
  • Variety of side quests and errands
  • Sand Surfing
  • Dashing through the air
  • Unique combat mechanics

Cons

  • Bland voice acting
  • Shorter main storyline
  • Large enemies “phasing out” during combat
  • Caladrias quests autocompleting when moving forward

While the game had its high points, there’s a lot of unexplored potential on the table. I found it hard to care about the people of the world, frequently becoming bored. I couldn’t buy into the story and immerse myself into the game as I’ve done with other games. Atlas Fallen isn’t a bad game — it’s just not an excellent one, either.

[Note: Focus Entertainment provided the copy of Atlas Fallen used for this review.]

6
Atlas Fallen Review: Buried in the Sand
Surf the sands to fight a god in Atlas Fallen — for better or worse.

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Author
Ashley Erickson
Ashley, otherwise known as Glitchiee, is an avid gamer of RPGs, TTRPGS, farming sims, and survival crafting games. Playing since she can remember, she started on the SNES, GameBoy Color, and collection 1st gen Pokemon cards. Using her passion for gaming, she's written about games for a combined total of 2 years.