Atlas Fallen was provided by Focus Entertainment for review. Thank you!
Earlier this year, I had the incredible opportunity to go to PAX East and it was there that I played Atlas Fallen for the first time. I left feeling quite excited for the game, the action, world, and story intrigued me. There was a lot to look forward to and after talking to Deck13 and Focus Entertainment reps there, I left feeling confident that not only would this game be one to really enjoy, but also one that will be at least decently playable on the Steam Deck. Now that the game is almost here, and I had the chance to play through and review it, I have a bit more to say on the game.
Atlas Fallen is a large-scale Action RPG where you will surf across the sands to face ancient dangers, hunt monsters, and become the ultimate champion. After playing through the game and being able to experience what it has to offer, I feel it did a great job creating an addicting and enjoyable adventure, even with a couple of hiccups.
The story of Atlas Fallen is passable. You are a random person that is able to wield a powerful gauntlet, infused with enough power to rival Thelos, the god-like antagonist of the game. The narrative is told through cutscenes, dialogue, and journal entries you find throughout traveling. While I didn't find the story to be anything ground-breaking, I did enjoy the journey. Traversing around the world is pretty fun as well and sand surfing is the real highlight of this. Finding slopes to surf down and accelerate to go as fast as possible is a ton of fun. Though at times, the world itself did seem a little bland and bare at times. Luckily, there are side quests and random chests to find, but it didn't do much to change the overall feeling of the world.
The combat is where things got really fun for me. While the fighting can feel a bit slow at times, wielding gigantic, shape-shifting weapons is a blast. I loved being able to swap between two different styles at once, with each having their own strengths and weaknesses, and watch them grow the more you fight with the Momentum Gauge, which fills up as you attack and land hits. As it fills up, you will be able to execute different special attacks and get passive bonuses, which you equip using Essence Stones. You can also execute a Shattering Strike, which drains the Momentum Gauge for an ultimate attack.
Deck13 found a nice balance of simple mechanics and deep customization here. The Essence Stones are great for fine-tuning your build, while a lot of the stats like attack power, defense, and your shatter power, are tied to your armor. Your armor can be upgraded, which gives you perk points to further passively make your character more powerful. I also really like the blocking mechanic included here. You can dodge enemy attacks, but if you block at just the right time, you can crystalize enemies and bosses, making them vulnerable to attacks for a little. Blocking doesn't interrupt the flow of your attacking either, so you can attack, block, and attack without the flow ever ceasing.
Even with the little nuisances here and there, and an ok story, I really enjoyed Atlas Fallen. It didn't break any molds or try to get too crazy, but it added some nice mechanics that gave it a nice balance between too simple and too complex. There's something addicting about gaining momentum and turning your axe into a gigantic axe that can just demolish multiple weakpoints of a big boss in one swing. I had a lot of fun playing, and while I didn't get to try it, I can only imagine playing the whole campaign in co-op will be even more fun! Though, if you're going to play on the Steam Deck, there will be some compromises that need to be made.
There are a couple things I found a bit odd when it comes to Atlas Fallen performing on the Steam Deck. First, the game settings have a couple of unique settings. For instance, there are separate window and resolution size options, as well as different intensity level sliders for post processing effects. The resolution size changes the game's rendering resolution, while the window resolution changes some of the text size (but not all). While the intensity sliders did change some of the visual effects you see, though for my enjoyment, I elected to keep them lower as it did help performance enough to justify.
Atlas Fallen also has FSR 2 that only works if both resolution and window size are 1280x800, but it doesn't help performance as much as just changing resolution size down while keeping window size at 800p. I also found that while changing resolution down helps performance significantly, it didn't change visuals as much and kept things looking relatively okay. The biggest change from this settings is text legibility for essence stones, armor details and quest text.
In the beginning, Atlas Fallen runs pretty okay. Keeping it at a solid 30 FPS, and even getting to 40, was very possible. But as I played the game more, and the world started to open up, it became harder to run. With this being a gigantic world that you can traverse quickly, there are some slowdowns when going around to new areas too fast. If you are running or surfing around in the immediate area, the game will keep a consistent rate, but other than that, it will slow down a bit as it loads in new areas.
I have also seen some framerate drops when in some combat scenarios. Fighting a gigantic enemy is usually okay 1v1, but when other enemies show up, and they all start using moves that kick up sand, it can start slowing down a bit.
In my opinion, these drops seem to be engine or game-related and not the Steam Deck's fault. I noticed that, whenever there were drops, the battery drain of the Deck didn't spike and CPU, GPU, and RAM usage was under 99%. This leads me to believe something isn't optimized within the game, causing these issues (and I did see similar ones on the ROG Ally). I believe we could see a lot of this patched up and the shader cache could help iron out some stutters when loading in new areas, but only time will tell.
Without any caps, and everything on low, Atlas Fallen still has some trouble sticking to 30 FPS completely stable in the open areas, but when in corridors, caves, or confined areas, the game can hit higher framerates running around and in combat. So, due to this, I actually only have 1 build for the game. Hitting above 30 FPS isn't viable, so my build is a mix between battery and performance. I have the resolution set to 960x600 with the window at 1280x800, lower intensity post processing effects, and low quality settings. I do have textures set to medium as they don't affect performance as much, but do help the game's visuals a bunch.
These settings, with a TDP limit of 10, allow the game to stick around 30 FPS most of the time with a battery drain between 11W - 18W depending on the area. I also found Proton GE helped a little bit in some harder scenes to keep the framerate stable. With these settings, some text will still be small, but I found the performance improvements to be too great.
The game does have 16:10 resolution support, so there are no black bars, and has full controller and cloud save support. I did test the game with CryoUtilities and the UMA Buffer set to 4GB, but I didn't see any discernable difference with either of these changes. I did also test the DirectX 12 version of the game, but it wouldn't launch no matter which Proton version I chose.
Atlas Fallen is a solid action RPG that gave me a bit of a mixed bag at times, but I loved the mechanics. The story is alright and does have an interesting tale woven in the desert world, though it pales in comparison to other deeper stories. At times, the world can feel a bit barren and dull, but surfing and going down slopes at an accelerated speed can be really cool. Combat itself can feel a bit slow at times too, but there is something extremely satisfying when fighting bigger enemies, or many smaller ones, when your momentum gauge is filled and your weapon grows in size, hitting multiple weakpoints or enemies at a time.
I love the simple nature of the armor system, perks, and the momentum bar. Atlas Fallen does well balancing out its simple systems and makes each different set of equipment, weapon, and essence stone feel special and impactful. As a game, I really enjoyed Atlas Fallen, even with its faults.
On the Steam Deck, it was a bit hard to play due to some of the performance issues it has, but with the tweaks, it becomes a lot more playable. It isn't perfect and still has compromises, especially with some readable text, but it is playable. It is very possible some future patches and the shared shader cache can help with some stuttering going into new areas, so I will evaluate again in a couple days when the cache is built, but if you are buying or pre-ordered the game, this will be the experience you get out of the box.
Our review is based on the PC version of this game.
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Atlas Fallen is a flashy, cool Action RPG where you can surf on sand! Though, if you want to do this on the Steam Deck, you will need to make some compromises.
Proton GE 8-11
Window Size: 1280x800
Dynamic Resolution Factor: Off
Intensity Settings: Lowest
Texture Quality: Medium
Shadow Quality: Low
Ambient Occlusion Quality: Low
Volumetric Lighting: Low
Vegetation Quality: Low