I saw this game on Steam the day before it was officially released and it immediately caught my attention. The trailer videos gave me the clear impression that ATOM RPG is an indie clone of the first 2 games in the Fallout series but what seemed odd is the fact that the authors didn’t try to conceal that fact and they even mocked a few of the Fallout cliches in those videos. I am a big fan of the Fallout series so I’ve decided to give this game a try and I wasn’t disappointed.
Fallout and Fallout 2 are very old games and I doubt that it’s even possible to run them on the modern PCs without some kind of emulator and even if we manage to run them somehow, the original graphics would look terrible since we’ve got used to higher screen resolutions and better graphics in general. I wouldn’t be happy if the authors of ATOM RPG were to clone the graphical part of the original Fallout experience and, luckily for me, they decided to use the modern 3D graphics. Here is the screenshot of the main menu scene:
It looks pretty good, especially for an indie game.
The gameplay is very close to the early Fallout games and I believe this is intentional, why change things that work perfectly? There is a huge debate on whether Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 are “true” Fallouts and there are many reasons for that. First of all, most of the game designers consider themselves artists and it’s not the best idea to tell the artist that he should make an exact clone of another artist’s masterpiece and that adding a lot of new stuff will only make the product worse. The artists tend to have their own ideas and they usually try to express themselves when working on the sequels of the old games, which can cause negative reaction from the old school fans of the game franchises.
I like Fallout 4 but I think that it has almost nothing in common with Fallout and Fallout 2 in terms of gameplay which means that we don’t have any 3D games that copy the good old 2D Fallout experience. ATOM RPG finally brings 3D to the old Fallout gameplay and it does not feel like a different game, it feels like an extension of the original Fallout world.
The role system is very close to the original Fallout character system called SPECIAL. You can also pick some “prior conditions” when creating a new character and those choices can make each character and game style unique in many ways. The skill system is the same as in Fallout and Fallout 2, you get an amount of skill points with each new level and you can allocate those points among many different skills ranging from pistol handling to speech craft, survival skills and science.
What Makes This Game Unique?
Despite many similarities with the old Fallout games, ATOM RPG does have a lot of unique features. The thing is, the game authors are from ex-USSR countries and probably that’s why the game is geographically based in the post nuclear Soviet Union. This changes the game aesthetics in many ways: the buildings and cars look very different from what you can see in the Fallout games. The same can be said about the NPCs that populate the game world. In fact, there are many cultural references that might be hard to understand for a person who is not familiar with the Soviet and post Soviet culture. Let’s take the encounters with scavengers on the world map:
This scene depicts squatting men and one of them wears a newsboy cap. It probably doesn’t have any meaning for a Western or an Asian person but any person from the ex-USSR countries knows that those man are gopniks: members of the low-life social group that makes a living from petty crimes.
All of that entourage makes ATOM RPG feel like a slavic Fallout game. The slavic part can feel odd for the western Fallout fans but I don’t think that it’s a negative thing: 100% clones are boring and this game feels like 75% Fallout with 25% of weird and original elements that fit surprisingly well in the Fallout-like gameplay.
ATOM RPG is a great game that has taken the best parts of early Fallout games and puts them in the 3D world. This game also features a lot of dialogs filled with dark humor, just like the Fallout games. I’ve played this game for more than 50 hours and I really enjoyed it. I was also surprised that the game developers keep improving the game after they released it so it keeps getting better and better. Honestly, I have no idea how the game devs managed to finish a game of such a scale given the size of their team. ATOM RPG does not feel like a low budget indie game and I hope that they’ll make a sequel.