We’ve been pointing out problems with Atlas, such as the claim system, aggressive and often illogical animal AI, respawn roulette, the nutrition system, resource distribution, and ghost ships, but we do not want to give the impression that Atlas is a bad game or that we do not recommend you play it; in fact, despite all of the problems Atlas has had since releasing about a week ago, our small company of around eight players have been playing around the clock and having an absolutely great time, so we would like to take this time to discuss what Atlas has gotten right.
For us, the mechanics and feel of ship construction and sailing are amazing; the dev team has really hit a home run here. While you can hire and assign NPC crews to different stations, we find that actually manning our vessels ourselves has been an amazing experience, with one company member filling the role of the ship’s captain, controlling the wheel and barking out orders to adjust the sails, while other crew members are needed to rotate the sails, which quickly becomes a full-time job on the ship when the wind is not blowing in an opportune way and ships of the damned are everywhere on the open ocean, resulting in the captain demanding the crew continually tack back and forth to try to avoid detection.
Other crew members are required to man cannons and swivel guns, if they are installed on the ship – without a crew, it doesn’t matter how heavily armed a ship is, it isn’t going to fire. Can you honestly say that you don’t want to fire one of these bad boys? I thought not.
Finally, we always have someone manning the crow’s nest with a spyglass, as, especially in rough seas, visibility is much better from higher up. That said, sails can be manned from any point on the sail object, from the bottom of the pillar under the deck to the highest point in the crow’s nest, so our spotter is often relegated to also controlling the sail they are on top of.
Speaking of sails in Atlas, both the direction and strength of the wind are dynamic, though in our personal unlucky experience it feels like we’re always fighting against it to try to get where we are going. While sails can only rotate from -75 degrees to +75 degrees, the game contains several different sail types, from speed sails which will give the absolute maximum top speed in good conditions, to handling sails, which are slower but rotate extremely quickly and catch more wind than other sails when winds are not optimal, to the weight sail which will result in a slower vessel with greater carrying capacity. Most vessels can sport more than one sail, so it’s definitely possible to mix-and-match sails in order to design a unique vessel that suits your needs
One of the coolest things about the wind system is that the wind speed has a direct effect on wave generation, with storms and heavy winds resulting in monstrous waves that make you feel suddenly very small indeed. See, for instance, the picture above of a “bare-bones” sloop we threw together for a quick voyage to a neighbouring square on the map
As ships crash through the waves, they are tossed to and fro, and very noticeably sway back and forth – I would not be surprised to hear that some people experience motion sickness while sailing in this game as the ocean physics just that amazing. Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of NPC ships of the damned sailing the open seas (something that, to the credit of the dev team, is being tweaked to not be nearly as obnoxious), the seas are currently very dangerous, with our own small group having lost a small armada over the last week, and as such, naval combat is not quite common yet. That said, due to the nature of the current iteration of the claim system, in order to build out in uncharted territories, you will most likely need to contest a land claim placed by the locals, which will almost certainly result in an engagement, unless a deal is made before hand to share the territory (which, while it is possible to find friendly groups willing to work together, in a large-scale survival game like this one, it’s best to assume that everyone you see is hostile and be pleasantly surprised when they aren’t) and this is where we have had the most fun thus far, and made some interesting allies and enemies along the way.
To conclude, Atlas is very much an early access game. There are bugs that need ironing out, and systems that will hopefully be reworked, but in its current state, the game is not only very playable, but also extremely enjoyable, as long as you’re in with at least a few friends – it’s certainly not a solo game, but you also don’t need to be in one of the massive alliances in order to have a good time.