PAX Prime 2015 Day 1 Recap
When Trion teased an unannounced title was being shown for the first time at PAX Prime, I certainly was not expecting Atlas Reactor. Quantifying the genre of this game in a small enough number of words to still be a viable classification is impossible. The best I can say is its the visual realization of a bunch of five year olds that enjoyed the concept of chess, but wished it was more fast paced and multiplayer, then refining it in their minds for twenty years before someone at last told them they could be paid to unite their visions. So that’s what I’m going with. Real-time turn-based Scifi MOBA Chess.
Yea, yea, I’m sure you’re not satisfied with that answer. But that is what this game is! Teams of 2v2, 4v4, or 6v6 (official match options still being finalized via alpha testing), duke it out on a Wakfu-esque science fiction tiled board map, complete with obstacles/cover objects, ramps, and other nifty strategic square variants including randomly spawning buffs. So each player on a team must coordinate with their allies under the gun of a set timer (also still testing how long turn timers should be) to combine a series of MOBA movesets into a three phase battle plan to one-up their enemies, who are doing the exact same thing to you at the same time. Then the game plays out with as much unexpected twists as a thriller Anime where the heroes have BS omniscient precognition of their foe’s plans to counter and then recounter, with trap cards and other nonsense thrown in at some point. *Takes deep breath* So yea, it’s intense. And turn-based. Weird right?
I’ll try to put the over the top ranting aside to break this down as well as I can. Each turn you have three phases that work in chronological order for determining how the simultaneous turns play out.
The prep phase is simply looking over the board to see what is going on. Pre-combat abilities like heals, buffs, debuffs, and traps can be set during this phase, which will activate, unless otherwise on a time delay, before the dash phase begins. Essentially this is the outplay phase where you hope to predict your foes’ move, and disarm their actions to some certain extent when possible.
Dash phase is where you try to counter play your foe by utilizing movement skills that will activity before the blast phase. The key point of this is to rearrange your positioning on the board in a way that your foes won’t expect, forcing them to waste skills.
Blast phase is where you expend action points to reposition your character, unleash your auto attack, or activate one of your character specific MOBA style abilities for real “Blast Damage.” This includes a powerful ultimate unlocked via doing damage to the enemy team over the course of a match. Some abilities take more than one turn to activate, offer AoE effects, or even move your character further.
Matches can be single elimination or played out to be based on the first team to a set number of kills. I imagine there will be some sort of capture a region in the future given the way play is done, but that wasn’t the case at this time. When eliminated, a character can respawn after a couple turns, which overall turns a kill into a Hockey power play as your remaining party members get brutalized during the downtime.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, from a crazy Borderlands style Asian girl rocking all sorts of timed explosives, to a cowboy with overly slicked up hair firing a pistol, to a transforming dog, to some sort of robot that thinks she is an angel and may also be able to heal. It’s a nutty cast of weird diversity the likes of which you’d expect out of a Pixar movie. That’s a good thing more so here than any other genre as diversity of characters really is going to be a lifeline for this game’s lasting fun factor.
So being that the game is turn-based, yet intended to be a competitive moba, there was one particular thought that came to mind. Doesn’t whoever goes first hold the massive advantage in this game? Heck that’s the case with chess. Have these mad scientist developers found an answer to this long standing chess imbalance? They have, through the concept of extended life past death. Basically if you activate an action on a turn, even if your character is blown to bits, they will stay alive until they execute this action. This might lead to draws I’m sure, but it ensures no speed stats of other complications are needed in the gameplay to explain the first versus second move disparity. An interesting thing to note is that if you’re dropped to zero hp, and manage to use an ability or pick up a buff that heals you, you can come back from the dead zone to live on another turn!
Monetization signs are already present in game with a rather cool skin system that features multiple texture options per skin, and a variety of recolors designed specifically for each texture. You’ll also be able to mod a hero to tweak their abilities not unlike a mastery/rune system found in League of Legends. Though that is something they weren’t supposed to tell me. The silly dev that spilled the beans immediately was silenced with cold glares and icy shoulders, blocking further questions on details.
While its difficult to express the awesomeness of them, the taunts in this game are a huge selling point for fun factor and enjoyment. You get a set number of taunts each game, that you can utilize when an ability is predicted to land a kill shot (or hurt really bad?) on an enemy. Then before the action plays out, the camera zooms in for a facial POV of your hero taunting. This simple addition, featuring emphatic movement and quality voice acting, brings life to the game’s heroes that simply isn’t present in other small avatar based MOBA games. I dig that they want to build memorable characters that you can feel attached to, and this should make for epic/cringeworthy moments when you finish a long close match with a punishing taunt, or throw the game after embarrassing yourself with a cocky shout.
We’re still a long long way off from seeing Atlas Reactor launched, but it’s good to know that basic alpha testing has begun. The game is looking really polished, with five levels of artificial intelligence bots already designed. We saw close to 15 heroes on the roster (most were greyed out) with plenty of open boxes waiting for more to fill in. Atlas Reactor is honestly like nothing else we’ve seen in the MMO space, and I very much look forward to seeing how the community reacts once more information becomes available publicly.
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