Atomicrops is the latest game released to do something different with roguelike design. This time, we’re going to the farm for a case of Stardew Valley meets a run-and-gun. We have a game that is loaded with personality and comes close to being all-around amazing for me.
Farm Living is the Only Life for Me
The story is that we have just inherited a farm from our deceased uncle, and just as we’re setting up to start a nice peaceful life…the nuclear apocalypse happens and wipes everyone off the face of the Earth. As both the only human and farmer left alive, it’s up to the player to survive and grow the crops for the local town of humanoid mutants.
A run takes place over a year with each season making up three days of in-game time. Your objective is to explore the surrounding areas for resources, upgrades, and seeds. You can use the acquired seeds back at your farm to grow crops, and fertilizer to raise the quality of them. Every night, you will be attacked by waves of enemies trying to kill you and eat your crops that you must defend against.
If you can survive, you’ll head to town to spend cashews earned from harvesting crops on a new gun for the following day. Growing roses can be given to the locals for buffs and can eventually marry them to help you out. If you’re able to survive an entire year, the game begins to open up with new challenges.
A Decade of Difficulty
Atomicrops features two kinds of persistence between runs. As you explore the environment, you’ll find characters that you can rescue that will provide you with upgrades by spending cornucopias earned through good play.
Every time you beat the game, you unlock another year which raises the difficulty and provides more rewards for playing. The difficulty modifiers include adding more enemies, new enemy types, and making bosses harder. While it may not look it, this is a difficult game even at year 1. The comparisons to a run-and-gun are apt: expect the screen to be filled with enemies and bullets coming from all sides as you try to water your chili peppers.
There is a lot to like about this game from a theme and gameplay point of view, but I was hoping for my crop growing to be a little deeper.
A Stale Crop
For those of you looking at screenshots and descriptions of the game hoping that this is a more action-heavy take on Stardew Valley, then you will be disappointed with Atomicrops. There are no “sim” elements to the growing and maintaining of your farm. Everything is in service of the running and gunning, and even that isn’t fleshed out enough.
At the moment, Atomicrops features four biomes with two areas apiece. Regardless of your run, similar elements will spawn in every playthrough, and you will fight the same enemies and bosses each time. The major differences are what buffs will drop from points of interest and the available stock at the various shops. While those elements do provide some variance, it’s not enough to generate long term replayability. Nothing changes in terms of what bosses you fight, what potential upgrades can be found, etc…
The reason is that this is a game built on tempo — having one good season will impact the next and so on. Do well, and you’ll have enough money to keep buying weapons each day and affording new upgrades. In turn, you’ll be able to scavenge more and grow stronger. Not having the money to keep an upgraded gun on you at all times is a death sentence at the higher difficulties.
Advance play, like creating megacrops, is not mentioned by the game at all, and I had to learn them by watching a let’s play.
The persistence elements are not deep or varied enough to impact the game. The changes help, but they’re not going to be enough to help a struggling player win. I cannot stress this enough; this is a run-and-gun game first and foremost: being good at the farming will not circumvent the need for twitch skills.
From a design point of view, despite the game being called 1.0, there are still noticeable elements missing from it: the ability to rebind keys and a leaderboard that says “coming soon.” As a quick tangent, you don’t release a game at 1.0 and at the same time say that there are content and functionality missing.
Back to the Market
Atomicrops is a game that has a solid core gameplay loop, but I can’t help shake this feeling that what’s here is simply the foundation and that there should be more to this game. At this moment, the developer has stated that the game is feature-complete and there will be no more major content updates. If you’re looking for a different kind of roguelike — one that isn’t on the deep end in terms of complexity — you might have some fun down on the farm.
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