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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: ATOM RPG

Infinitron

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Tags: ATOM RPG; ATOM Team

Against all odds, the Atom Team's ATOM RPG has turned out to be one of 2018's most well-received titles and a strong contender for our next RPG of the year. Together with Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it forms the basis of an unexpected Russian RPG Renaissance which we hope will continue. That said, for most people ATOM is probably just a well-executed Fallout homage with some funny memes. Not so for the esteemed bataille however, who identified the game's more esoteric qualities early on. In fact, bataille found ATOM so inspired that she volunteered to review it for us, and did a damn fine job. Here's an excerpt from her literary analysis of the game:

First, let’s address the enormous, almost embarrassingly fat elephant in the room before proceeding. The elephant that, before now, I have tried not to glance at too often.

ATOM RPG is exceedingly postmodernist. Actually, I’m fairly certain that it’s the most conventionally postmodernist game I have ever played. Virtually its every aspect is a citation. Its source may be an old Soviet song, a socialist realist film, an actor from the era of Perestroika, a novel written by a dissident, a controversial public figure, an internet meme (yikes), or Fallout. A lot of Fallout. At its most surface level, mechanically and story-wise, ATOM is made of Fallout. It’s got its own Iguana Bob, Richard Grey, The Followers, Rad-X, Vaults, FEV, the BoS, etc. Whether it’s part of the nostalgia motif, a set of homages, or plagiarism is for you to decide, but I think it fits the game’s fever dream feel very well.

It’s not Fallout 2, however, where the elements of its first part were deconstructed to inspect them from a different perspective, but rather a boxful of stuff to play with. In Atom Team’s hands, the borrowed material is clay to create a statue of Lenin with, tear it down, and then make a million other things following the same scenario. It’s playful, lively, and not preachy in any way.

A fair warning, though: like with any PM text, to enjoy ATOM fully, you’ll probably need to play it in Russian and be quite a prestigious Codexer who is no stranger to the 20th century Russian culture. Half the game’s population talks in direct quotes from literature, songs, films, or Soviet clichés. Knowing Sorokin, Yerofeyev, Zinovyev, and Shalamov is a must. Otherwise, you’ll be doomed to giggle at jokes about bigots assuming someone’s hunger level for the 40 to 50 hours required to finish the game. Which is funny enough, I guess, but the game’s main strength lies within the bounds of its literary exercises.

Otradnoye serves as a tutorial village (or as Shady Sands if we were to speak the elephant language), a place designed to be quite moderate in all aspects so as not to overwhelm a beginner. Its secrets are not too obscure; the mutated wildlife is easily dispatched; the quests are simple and easy to follow. The characters are mostly played straight, too.

It’s interesting to note that there are no generic NPCs. Not in Otradnoye, not anywhere else. Every character has their own name, dialogue, and a portrait. Even guards, farmers, and drunkards.

While the ominous implications of this are quite obvious, mostly, ATOM RPG doesn’t degenerate into filler conversations. I’d say only about 5 to 10 percent of all NPCs don’t have anything notable about them. Usually, even if they haven’t got a role in the grander scheme of things, people either have an interesting rumor to share or reference/parody/quote some other Russian text (thus amusing you a bit, hopefully).

Structurally, the conversations are pretty basic. If a character is not involved in a quest of some kind, you’ll only be able to ask them the same four questions. This highlights one somewhat major problem with the game’s dialogues: it seems that some of them have been done absentmindedly, almost on autopilot. More than once I have found myself scratching my head in surprise at some painfully obvious and stupid sentences. A few dozen conversations read (clearly unintentionally) like an unedited stream of consciousness. Again, it’s for you to decide if that’s a dadaist technique that deepens the artistic merit of ATOM or laziness/lack of time on the part of Atom Team.

But when conversations are good, they are witty, often times hilarious, and even touching. Death or misery is rarely the punch line to a joke. The writers are clearly in love with the strange and eccentric but never do they take sides. Be it a hypocritical cult leader, wacky conspiracy theorist, devoted red commissar, or time traveler who is often confused by his own omniscience, all of them are exaggerated to emphasize the qualities that make them tick.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: ATOM RPG
 

Tigranes

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I'm just waiting until I actually have time to sit down and play for sustained periods, but I really look forward to playing this & Kingmaker blind. Presumably by that point we'll have the Underrail expansion pack oh god
 

Sigourn

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Russian rpg renaissance? Can someone point me to the ancient Russian rpg masterpieces that this game learned from?

latest
 

JDR13

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The one thing that's making me hesitate on this is the devs talking about adding a significant amount of content in the future. Not sure if they're just blowing smoke though.

To clarify, I'm talking about whether to start it now or wait to see what content they add.
 
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redsky

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Jan 7, 2019
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Better than POE 1 or not?

Better then anything i played since 1998 ( Fallout 2 ). And i played them all. This game is masterpiece. Its even better then underrail + wastland 2 together. I started on hardest difficulty and died like 30 times. After 28 hours, i pray there is another 20 -30 hours to play. There are some bugs, nothing important. And yes, inventory is not good, combat could be little better ( but i like it), but when you look all other good things this game have, i even love mistakes they made. You dont have to wait for patch and more content, this game is so good youll wanna play this game more then once.
 

RK47

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Finished it. Ran it again in survival ironman. Wanna play it at work but can't. Decided to finish Fallout1 in office today. Will install Fallout2 later.
 

Maggot

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Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
Will wait to play the game a year from now after they've reworked the combat, have more than 2 weapons merchants that sell more than 3 guns at a time, and fix all the typos. Peregon was such a disappointment and I was sick of carrying around pipe weapons checking every random encounter trader to find a decent rifle that worked with my stats so I stopped playing. I really wish the perk system was like Fallout as well.
 

Latro

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Will wait to play the game a year from now after they've reworked the combat, have more than 2 weapons merchants that sell more than 3 guns at a time, and fix all the typos. Peregon was such a disappointment and I was sick of carrying around pipe weapons checking every random encounter trader to find a decent rifle that worked with my stats so I stopped playing. I really wish the perk system was like Fallout as well.
very informative critique
 

Forest Dweller

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A fair warning, though: like with any PM text, to enjoy ATOM fully, you’ll probably need to play it in Russian and be quite a prestigious Codexer who is no stranger to the 20th century Russian culture. Half the game’s population talks in direct quotes from literature, songs, films, or Soviet clichés. Knowing Sorokin, Yerofeyev, Zinovyev, and Shalamov is a must.
Sounds like I'll pass then.
 

Latro

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Finished it. Ran it again in survival ironman. Wanna play it at work but can't. Decided to finish Fallout1 in office today. Will install Fallout2 later.
let me breakdown why this is such a better review:

- it's RK47, though everyone may not know him, he's a known stickler for PC games. If he likes a game very much, people are more willing to take notice because he's a man with strong opinions on videogames.
- That he is playing the game again in a harder difficulty on iron-man mode suggests that he enjoyed it so much, he's willing to play again with everything he learned from a previous play-through and has had enough fun he's more than
willing to die once and lose all progress! This is the sort of thing classic x-com is known for, this suggests the game must be very fun and challenging without being stupid!
- All the best games are the ones you wanna play while you're slaving for a decent wage
- He is so hungry for more game, he has re-installed FO1 and Fo2, decades old games! Wow! ATOM must really succeed in being a successor to the classic Fallout we all know and love!
- I would love to learn in-depth how this game so exceptionally captures that authentic and enchanting isometric turn-based feel!


the actual codex review:

-oh ok, if I don't know russian culture I won't catch anything interesting
-meh, maybe i'll play a few years from now; should I learn russian first? idk
- crooked bee really liked it (the review), maybe I should read the greeks first
 
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AdolfSatan

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Dec 27, 2017
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While I can agree this strays from the pragmatic ends a more traditional review should aim for, I feel it hits closer in unraveling the meaning the writers actually endowed ATOM with. It rings specially true if you've read Atomboy 's posts in the thread about conceiving the world of this game. So congratulations on a great insight into the very zeitgeist this game encapsulates.

Tout suffocant
Et blème, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens.
Et je pleure
 

Rpguy

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Pathfinder: Wrath
Very nice review, I play in English with 0 Russian lore knowledge but still enjoy it. I don't agree at all with the "Personality" bit, I play with 3 points in it and it does not seem important at all, You can still recruit all the companions, Dexterity is much more valuable since it gives you Action points, Dodge and Initiative. The thing is that in this game, most buffs stack in a very silly way, so if a rad-X gives you 50% Radiation resistance, you can take 2 and have 100%. You can go to doctor, get well rested and get a buff of +1 Strength and endurance for 3 days then do it again to get the same buff twice... or you can apply multiple perfumes to yourself to increase personality and speechcraft to absurd levels...

Some perks feels weak but there are some hidden gems like double damage to monsters/animals is bonkers or -1 to AP with pistols - there are some pistols that cost 2 AP to use, with the perks it's 1 AP which is OP.
I really don't like that increasing the difficulty just makes your character weaker instead of making the opponents stronger, that's just not fun and so I play on the medium difficulty. Having 1 perk point per level really destroys character building since every perk you take make your next one cost 1 more. ( right now I need 8 points to get another perk which means 4 levels on medium or 8 levels on hard )
 
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JDR13

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The thing is that in this game, most buffs stack in a very silly way, so if a rad-X gives you 50% Radiation resistance, you can take 2 and have 100%. You can go to doctor, get well rested and get a buff of +1 Strength and endurance for 3 days then do it again to get the same buff twice... or you can apply multiple perfumes to yourself to increase personality and speechcraft to absurd levels...

That alone is reason for me to wait a little longer before diving into this. The game obviously needs some balance tweaks and I assume they'll get around to that eventually.
 

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