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Fallout combined a Mad Max setting with patriotic retro-futurism. That was the high concept there. ATOM RPG doesn't have anything of the sort. It lacks a sense of direction and fills that void with a bunch of elements that don't fit very well together. Mystical Communism could have been that thing, but in the current state it's severely underdeveloped and has to compete with aimless references and numerous story elements lifted straight from Fallout. As a result, it feels like the developers gave up their shot at creating a universe with any sort of memorable identity for a bunch of cheap jokes. And that's a shame.
If you can get over the annoying references and the shaky foundation, the game's overall atmosphere is actually kind of great. The props and items all make perfect sense for the time period and setting, and it's obvious that a lot of care went into crafting the game's world. Some overarching story elements are fairly neat, like the drug ring quests sprinkled throughout the game. Just get through all the fluff and filler, and you'll find plenty of great stuff.
The game's companions are pretty outstanding as well. There's not a lot of them, but they all have unique personalities and their lines are usually a joy to read. Apart from my main character, my party consisted of a spy turned bartender who liked to pretend he was Cuban, a completely deranged but nonetheless legendary writer, and a larger than life marine who somehow managed to get his brains eaten by a mysterious parasite, but if you think that slowed him down, you know nothing about the hardy Soviet marines.
The Red Army
A nuclear wasteland, Soviet or otherwise, is not exactly a friendly place, so expect to be solving a lot of your disagreements through combat. Just like in Fallout, in ATOM RPG you get two weapon slots, regular, aimed and burst firing modes, a number of action points based on your attributes, and initiative-based turns.
In combat you control your main character and can suggest a general course of action to your companions. Your enemies possess a basic AI and either charge you and start attacking as soon as their weapons allow them, or try to run away and break line of sight if they don't like their odds.
It would have been nice if the project's scope and budget allowed for a more complex combat system. More Fallout Tactics, less Fallout. Carefully crafted tactical encounters, level design that allows for for various creative approaches and line of sight tricks, different combat stances, silent takedowns - that sort of thing. Before becoming a shooter, the Fallout series went into this direction, and I don't see a good reason for ATOM RPG not to at least try and improve the original formula. At least there are no “cover shields” here, and that's a big plus in my book.
On the level design side of things, what stood out to me was the fact that every map was completely flat. Every building was limited to a single floor. Not sure why that's a thing but all the blocked off staircases felt a bit unnatural to me.
When it comes to difficulty, early on you may think that the game is pretty hard, but that's mostly because you're new and don't have any decent gear. Get a few levels, find a functional gun, and you'll discover that ATOM RPG can be quite easy if you know what you're doing. In fact, if you keep putting points into weapon skills, by the time you graduate from kicking rats, your chance to hit will already be around 99% and it will stay that way for the rest of the game.