Atomicrops - Review
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
By Dag Härdfeldt. Publisher: Raw Fury Developer: Bird Bath Games Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS Playtime: I´ve played for about 90hours. Finishing 95% of the content.
Farming of the Isaac. Stardew Hades. Enter the Onion.
Atomicrops presents itself as a Rogue-lite Stardew Valley. It´s not, really. What it is though, is one of the best darn Rogue-lites i´ve ever played! It might seem a bit hectic and chaotic at first, but if you stick with it... you´ll come to love this wonderfully crafted, addictive rogue-lite, The gameplay is split between (in daytime) managing your farm and hunting for resources in different biomes, and (at night) defending your farm from waves of enemies and bosses. Between each day you return to base, where you can buy seeds, upgrades and weapons. Your income comes from the crops you managed to harvest during the day, and after 12 days spread throughout 4 seasons, you face off with the final boss. If you prevail, you will unlock the next "Year", which basically is a new level of difficulty. All in all there are 10 year to fight through, and currently there is only a very few select people, that ever managed to survive year 10. Seriously, this is one of the most difficult rogue-lites out there. But more on that later. There is also a system for permanent upgrades, although this aspect of the game is somewhat arbitrary. The upgrades are uninteresting and i rarely felt compelled to strive for them. This matters less however, since the variety and nuances of the core gameplay in itself is so expertly crafted. According to some, the "fun-factor" of a game can be calculated by dividing the number of meaningful decisions a player need to make, with the time spent playing. If this is true, then Atomicrops has to be one of the most fun games out there. There is constantly decisions to be made. What upgrade should i pick? What build should i aim for? Should i tend to my crops or venture out and hunt for upgrades? Should i plant trees, plants, or aim for fused megacrops? Should i engage this enemy, or should i come back later with a stronger weapon? Should i try to conquer the difficult southern, tropic biome with it´s many bugs - or should i continue combing through the dessert? Should i take a whole day, just to cut some weeds so they don´t turn into those horrible mutated, monster plants later on? Every decision counts, because the developers made sure to weave each mechanic into eachother. The final boss can´t even (Spoilers) be damaged by ordinary means, but can only be defeated through agricultural means, so you you really need to balance your investments. All this variety, and all this decision makes every run feel unique, and really creates that elusive "just-one-more-try" hook.
Health, weapons or seeds? Choices, choices, choices.
Repetition is rooted into the very core of rogue-lites. The best in the business alleviate the repetition with organic upgrade system that actually change the way you play, instead of just boosting certain stats. And i´m happy to report that the variety in Atomicrops is simply astonishing. There are so many different upgrades and builds to aim for. You can go defensive and invest in turrets and drones for your farms. You can aim for a lucrative harvest build, by recruiting pigs that expands your fields and bees that boost your crops. You can go all offense and make it so cutting weed damages enemies, or you can go the opposite and buy an upgrade that gives you cash for weeds, and buy hens that automatically pick weeds. Or you can invest your time adventuring instead, trying to find all the upgrades in the distant extra-zones. There is just so much to do, and most impressive of all - the balance of it all feels quite amazing. Some builds are betters than other, but all are managable. The game is also seriously tough. Don´t let the colorful graphics and artstyle decieve you. Finishing this game to completion is one of the tougher challenges in game i´ve ever experienced. (And i have 100% games such as Super Meat Boy, Enter the Gungeon, Ninja Gaiden Black). It´s hard in the most wonderful way though. Like all rogue-lites, there is permadeath. If you lose all your hearths, it´s game over. Unlike other rogue-lites though, health is extremely scarse. You are not healed automatically after each day, it´s possible to buy health back at the base but it´s very expensive. Enemies can drop health, but it´s very, very rare. This creates an immense sense of urgency. You are always on edge, you constantly need to focus. Every hit hurts, and every dropped piece of health feels like a blessing.
The battles are hectic and demanding. Borderline Bullet-Hell.
The combat in the game is also a shining gem. The mechanics are solid, but what really makes it stand out is how much attention the developers put into creating different types of enemies that poses different kinds of challenges. Every enemy has it´s own pattern and needs to be adressed on it´s own terms. Every weapon fills a different function and has a certain purpose. The quick machine gun is usefull in the southern biome, where the enemies are fast and plentiful. The shotgun is more suited for the barren dessert, where the enemies are bigger with more health. There is an astounding depth to it all, and even 80 hours into the game, i was still finding small new nuances and tricks how to handle different challenges more effective. The presentation is true to it´s cause. The graphics are colorful, cartoonish and very functional. It´s easy to discern enemy bullets, and every sprite is chunky and vivid, making it easy to navigate through the perils. The sound is thematically approriate, it´s a groovy, trippy kind of soft western soundtrack. I never got bored, or was bothered by the soundtrack, despite hearing the same tunes for over 90 hours - which stands as a testament to how finely tuned audio is. The narrative is nothing special to write home about,´but this isn´t the kind of game you want to experience for it´s story or characters. The low-key story elements actually works in favour of the game, since it doesn´t add any unnecessary fat to the bone. All in all, the presentation, and it´s apocalyptic southern fram aesthetic is a perfect fit for the gameplay. The game isn´t perfect though. The hit-detection can seem a bit janky sometimes, maybe due to the large playful sprites. The game can feel confusing and chaotic at first. The balance is very, very good but not optimal. The ultimate challenge for an example, basically demands a certain type of build. (Although the Developers of the game stated they should patch this.) The permanent upgrade system could be more interesting. The online leaderboards were not available at launch, there is no multiplayer, and in the earlier builds there sometimes were frameskipping at random intervals. The frameskips were particulary nast, due to how they could lead to involuntarily, unfair damage being made - and this is the kind of game where every heart counts. (The frameskips have reportedly been patched out, though, at least on PS4) The game could have also benefited from a couple more bosses and characters to play at. Currently, there are just 5 bosses - and three characters, one of the characters being more a bonus difficulty mode, than a proper character. All in all, these little caveats can´t change the fact, that Atomicrops is one of the finest rogue-lites ever created.
Prepare to fight this guy. Alot.
Every once in a while, a game comes along that completely absorbs me. A game that i´m either playing, or is thinking about playing. I game that is damaging for my relationships and my work. A game that completely consumes me - until i´ve conquered it. Factorio was such a game, Dark Souls 1 was such a game, and Atomicrops is the latest of the bunch. I can´t recommend this game enough. If you want to support developers who truly put gameplay above else - then buy this game. And if you consider yourself to be a true hardcore gamer. Than i challenge you to complete the game in Year 10. Good luck. You´ll need it.