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Have you ever wondered, while playing Fallout, how a nuclear conflict of such scale could have affected the other side? Well the developers at the very aptly named AtomTeam clearly did, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign followed by an Early Access phase, they have produced ATOM RPG - an isometric role-playing game that takes place in the Soviet Wasteland.
ATOM RPG is subtitled as “A Post-apocalyptic Indie Game,” and that's exactly what you'll be getting if you decide to purchase it. It looks and plays a great deal like the early entries in the Fallout series, and seeing how that series is now a first-person shooter and on some occasions an online survival game, getting a proper new isometric “Fallout” is not something to be overlooked.
With ATOM RPG getting its final content update back in May of 2019, I decided to see for myself whether it was a worthy spiritual successor or a low-grade clone.
While most spiritual successors wear their inspirations on their sleeves, ATOM RPG completely drapes itself in them without a slightest bit of shame. Immediately during character creation you'll know you're playing Fallout. Seven attributes, a bunch of skills that go up to around 200, and up to two unique traits that provide both a bonus and a penalty. Some things got changed, others rearranged and all the traits are new, but it's all fairly close.
The similarities end when we get to perks. In ATOM RPG that whole system was drastically overhauled and instead of getting level and attribute-gated perks every few levels, you have an ability tree. The tree branches in eight different directions and each of its paths represents some particular theme, like automatic weapons, martial arts, or exploration and survival. The more abilities you get, the more points (you get 2 per level) the next one will cost you. This creates a situation where you're able to front-load your character with useful abilities, but later on you don't get a lot of them.
This system has its advantages, but it doesn't really work that well because it forces you into rigid builds. You're using rifles but the ability that makes it so you don't need high Strength to use heavy weapons is in the automatic weapon tree? Tough. You want to use heavy armor without penalties? You have to start going down the armor path early on. This way of doing things limits your character-building options and as a result doesn't feel at all satisfying.
And in general, ATOM RPG sits in this weird spot where some of its features feel like direct copies of what Fallout had but with minor alterations, while others change things for seemingly no reason and those changes pretty much never improve the overall experience. An example of the latter is the aforementioned ability tree. As for the former, you have the inventory screen - it's the same as Fallout's only now you have two rows of items.
Still, while the game follows its predecessors a bit too closely, and the new stuff it introduces doesn't exactly push the genre's boundaries, all of it is at the very least competent, and at the end of the day, you won't hear me complaining about a chance to play more Fallout.
The game's story follows a member of ATOM, a secret military organization that has a lot in common with Fallout's Brotherhood of Steel, on a quest to find a missing general. This quest will take you all across the game's multiple overworld maps and their locations that include dilapidated pre-war bunkers, an assortment of settlements doing their best to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war, and plenty of various points of interest in-between.
What sets ATOM RPG apart from Fallout here, is the fact that this time around we'll be exploring a post-apocalyptic wasteland that started off as USSR and not USA. The game positively oozes a certain unmistakable Soviet charm and most of the time feels quite authentic. Locations, characters, decorations, weapons, and even quests all feel right at home in this drab and grey communism-laden atomic wasteland.
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