Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC
Release Date: 08.10.2023
Between the looming peaks of big-budget triple-A releases, and the endless ocean of indie titles crafted by smaller studios, one of the travelers of the sprawling middle ground of video games is German developer Deck13. In recent years, the studio has gained notoriety thanks to titles such as the heavily Dark Souls–inspired Lords of the Fallen and the more sci-fi—yet still very Soulslike—series The Surge.
Given the nature of those past projects, it might be easy to expect a similar experience from Deck13’s latest work, Atlas Fallen. According to the game’s creative director and overall managing director Jan Klose, however, that would be a mistake.
“We want to evolve as a studio and look into the future, picking new core elements for every game we make,” Klose told us. “This time, the fast-paced combat was something that we felt very intrigued by, so we chose to build new features around that to make something new.”
Part of that “something new” is the world of Atlas itself. As opposed to the more strictly defined and guided areas of previous games, Atlas Fallen better resembles an open sandbox—in part because, well, the land is covered by a vast desert.
“We have our own very unique world with lore that’s literally buried there, in the sand, in the devastated rock formations, in old towns and villages,” Klose explained. “These are new locations hidden across the many regions of our semi-open world that can’t be found like this in the other games.”
Klose added that, in opening up more of Atlas Fallen’s world, the team also wanted to expand other elements of choice and gameplay freedom to players as well. This, of course, made it harder to predict what those players will do and when. Klose and the team took that as a challenge to find the right balance between “guiding the players and having them figure things out by themselves.”
Another interesting element of balance comes in the game’s combat systems. As opposed to the slower, more tactical battles of the studio’s previous few games, Atlas Fallen features more dynamic, faster-paced, and flashier combat. What will feel familiar to fans, however, is the ability to target specific body parts of your enemies when attacking them, something Klose called “part of the Deck13 DNA.”
Built deep into all of that is the Momentum system. Using a special weapon that’s found early in the game, players can launch powerful attacks that charge the Momentum bar. As the bar’s energy increases, players can do more damage, utilize additional skills, and transform their weapons into deadlier armaments (see sidebar “Mixed-up Melee”). However, here’s where that balance comes in, as the more energized a player’s Momentum bar is, the weaker their defense becomes. Engaging in Atlas Fallen’s combat will constantly be a question of which is more important at any given moment: higher offensive capabilities or better protection against death.
Of course, finding that balance just leads us back once again to Deck 13’s determination to craft a new project that creates a world of possibilities, and then lets players loose there to find their own way forward.
“If you enjoy these types of games, you should give Atlas Fallen a try,” said Klose. “Discover the many secrets and dangers we’ve hid there for you, and try out our unique ways of traversal, discovery, and combat.”