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Atlas Fallen Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

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Developer Deck13 may have kicked the ball rolling in the Soulslike genre, with their previous works in The Surge and Lords of the Fallen likely coming to mind. It seems, though, that the studio is shifting gears into a more agile, fast-paced action RPG setting with their latest: Atlas Fallen. In gaming, the first time is always a tricky endeavor. And so, my expectations for the new game are kind of non-existent. 

That being said, the trailer does evoke a sense of joy with its captivating expanse of sand and ruins. I could never have envisioned sand appearing so stunning within a video game. This sentiment extends to both the combat mechanics and the overall gameplay experience.Although not entirely innovative, it does show a potentially good time to be had playing this game. But assumptions and expectations aside, what really does Atlas Fallen bring to the table? Is it a worthwhile game to buy? Are there any issues that are big enough to derail the overall gaming experience? Let’s find out in our Atlas Fallen review. 

Welcome to Atlas

Atlas Fallen

In the beginning, everything was great. People went about their daily lives just fine. The land would give forth fruit and drink to its dwellers. Presumably, there was a society that worked, and that’s all anyone needs to be honest. Everything was pitch-perfect. That's until Thelos, a savage sun god, rises to power and strips the good from these lands. He divides the people into the “unnamed” and the religious ones that mindlessly follow him. 

The unnamed, consequently, lived in poverty. They were looked down upon, while the others flourished in wealth and leadership positions. To sustain himself, Thelos commands people to live out their lives gathering essence stones. Essence is some sort of magical lifeblood they would bring over to the queen, who then uses it to appease the sun god. 

Enter an unnamed character (you) who’s spent his entire life gathering essence. He randomly runs into a special gauntlet (or the gauntlet chooses him). But this isn’t just some random gauntlet. First, it’s hella chatty (hey, Forspoken), and I mean, it just never seems to shut up. 

Inside the gauntlet resides Nyaal, a forgotten god who’s also hellbent on liberating humans from the oppression of Thelos. By wearing it, you can draw power from it and do cool stuff like surfing on dust and conjuring weapons made of sand. To upgrade the gauntlet’s abilities, though, you need essence. And so, the two of you embark on an epic journey together, gathering as much essence as you can and taking down anyone that stands in your way.

Beyond the Surface

Never mind the seemingly detailed story I gave up there. That is merely the premise, some of which I had to put together myself because the storytelling in this game plain sucks. The premise was so promising I found myself glued to the screen. But only when I had seen more than a few characters did I realize hardly any of them had any personality. Their lines are delivered so blandly with no charisma, nothing.

A few NPCs did try to elevate the situation. But it was already a lost cause when the main character, and his companion, Nyaal, constantly irritate you to want to pull out your own hair. Overall, the writing and performance are hardly compelling, and neither are the character designs that barely do justice to a few of the more interesting ones.

As you progress, cutscenes grow irritating, one after the other, as they attempt to build on an already failing plot. I would have loved to see the unnamed versus the others' society explored further. Or simply a deeper dive after the already promising premise. Instead, Atlas Fallen’s story sinks into a convoluted rabbit hole that doesn’t bother to explain why you do what you do. And when it does, it skips to the end without bothering to build tension, add some twists and turns here and there, or simply tell a story that syncs with your current quest. But oh well, I guess it was easy to let all that go when the combat was just too enticing to have your mind drift off elsewhere.

Beautiful Desert World

Atlas Fallen

There exist four main regions to explore, each packed with treasure chests, quests, and errands. Each region is unique enough, which, contrary to my expectation, has a variety of places like ruins, roads, tunnels, and more to discover. If there’s one thing Atlas Fallen nailed perfectly, it’s the beauty of this world. So much so that I would constantly stop for a minute or two to take in the mouthwatering vast, open landscapes and the different locales sprouting amongst the sands. Atlas Fallen’s world is so incredibly detailed, to the extent that I would dare say I haven’t seen it in many games of late.

Each zone has a main hub that has a bulk of quests to pick up. But the world outside the zones also has its own share of side quests to discover, as well as treasures and collectables. Main quests are great for advancing the story. However, side quests are important, too, to unlock previously inaccessible areas, as well as looting essence, armor, and rewards. If you have a friend or two, you can tag them along on the online co-op mode. You won't have to worry about sticking together all the time. Your partner can explore side quests in other areas and possibly uncover things you may have missed. This perfectly embodies multi-tasking in the best way possible. The only caveat is there’s no couch co-op or crossplay. Hopefully, those will launch soon or in the next game.

Meet the Wraiths

While you’re out in the desert ruins, you’ll often run into the game’s only enemies, called wraiths; essentially beasts made out of the sand. There are smaller ones that sprout out of the ground, and usually in packs. But there are bigger ones, too, that occasionally pop up and take a while to beat. The bigger wraiths can summon weaker wraiths mid-fight. They also have breakable parts you can gun for in exchange for loot. And, of course, enemies wouldn’t be complete without the bosses. While they rarely appear, whenever they do, it’s nothing else but a tooth-and-nail affair.


Atlas Fallen is an agile, fast-paced game, so the mechanics used here are pretty frantic. Thanks to your gauntlet, you can surf the sand, double jump across platforms, and air dash into the sky, all using smooth and seamless control systems. These traversal mechanics can be used during fights, too, like air dashing to deal vicious combos to monsters that tower above you. You can also use your gauntlet to yank out huge chunks of rock buried under layers of sand. For a minute there, I thought this new ability gave me the power to bend the sand to my will. But no. Lifting platforms only work in specific spots in the map to either reach a treasure chest buried underground or advance the story.

You can wield two of three weapons at a time, including a Thor-like axe-hammer hybrid, a sword-like whip, and boxing gloves, all made out of sand. Yes, sand is everywhere in this game. Supposedly, people have mined essence nearly everywhere such that all that is left behind is a sand-filled desert stretching farther than the eye can see. While Atlas Fallen has a simple combat system, they’ve innovated it to include dynamic gameplay. Say, for example, your character’s movement. It changes based on your weapon of choice. The same goes for mixing and matching attacks to come up with cool combos.

Building Momentum

Atlas Fallen review

Above all else, the risk-reward system called momentum caught my eye the most. It’s a gauge system that fills up the more successful hits you make. This allows you to deliver even more devastating attacks based on your choice of essence stones. Essence is the pillar of the game’s customization, where if you craft and upgrade, you can come up with any sort of character you like. These can include a healer, attacker, defense, crowd controller, and more.

Unfortunately, the more your momentum gauge fills up, the higher your damage intake gets. So, if you get hit, you’ll sustain more damage than if your momentum gauge was lower. It’s an interesting risk-reward system that forces you to question strategies mid-fight, which only goes toward keeping combat more interesting. And then there’s the final blow, where once the momentum gauge fills up, you can unleash a powerful attack like a sand tornado perfect for crowd control.


Atlas Fallen

Atlas Fallen is one of those games that crafts a fantastic premise and then fails to execute it down the road. The only aspect where it flourishes is its open-world design. Otherwise, everything else falters under the pressure of today’s standards. The story kicks off nicely, only to wither away into nothingness. The same goes for the gameplay, which despite the combat being fun and flashy, ultimately loses track of its impact and intent. 

Atlas Fallen Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

Sand Surf for Fun?

Interestingly, no other game has implemented sand surfing like Atlas Fallen. Cruising in the dust and fighting off beasts sprouting from beneath the ground is so much fun. But probably keep your expectations low, and you’ll likely have a good enough time to hold no regrets.


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.