HIGH The genres being mashed up are an interesting mix.
LOW This feels like an Early Access release… but it’s not.
WTF My gun broke after one day?
Atomicrops is a top-down roguelike that takes two seemingly different genres — farming and shooting — and marries them to come up with something new. On paper I think it works, but spending time with the release build left me feeling like this one was sent to market too soon.
At the start of play there’s a small field to till, plant, water, fertilize and harvest. It’s done with a single button, and a good idea is to get as much done as possible during the day cycle, as the night cycle brings stronger swarms of enemies who seek to munch on the crops being grown. If the player successfully protects a plant until it’s mature, they grab it, survive until a chopper picks them up, and then turns the crops into cash at home base before gearing up and starting a new day.
Mashing up shooting and farming isn’t something that I can recall seeing before and it’s a neat idea, but my biggest takeaway from Atomicrops is that it just doesn’t feel done — it’s not in terrible shape and the bones are in place, but it’s lacking the fine-tuning and polish that I would expect from something released as ‘ready’.
For example, there’s no opening cutscene or any story to set up the premise. What’s the backstory or my motivation? No clue. The tutorial is insufficient and left me with a lot of questions, and once in the game I was puzzled about several aspects. I figured some things out as I went, but what helped most was a reviewer’s guide from PR that outlined info not contained in the game. I found it super useful, so why weren’t these tips tutorialized for people who’ll be putting cash down?
Once I figured out a good routine — plant/tend ASAP when starting a new day, guard until harvest, then wander the surrounding areas and look for items or enemy camps to raid until the day is over — things were looking up until I realized just how little the devs give the player in terms of persistence or progression.
Between days, the player can spend precious cash on a different gun… that breaks after one cycle of use. The only way to heal is to beat a boss or spend a rare resource on a single-hit heart between missions, but that resource is also needed for other vital upgrades or to build ‘relationships’ with NPCs. The PR materials I mentioned earlier made reference to things that permanently unlock or upgrade, but I didn’t find any, so if (more like when) the player dies after a series of days, it’s likely that nothing they’ve earned is saved — like oldschool roguelikes, Atomicrops is all too eager to send the player back to square one and start them over from scratch.
Beyond all this, I’m not even sure if there’s an endpoint that I should be shooting for? I’m not aware of any goals, narrative or mechanical, beyond some ‘do X number of things in one run‘ achievements. Do credits ever roll, or perhaps it’s just about pure enjoyment of its systems?
I think the art in Atomicrops is cute, the controls are fine, and honestly, I do like the high-level concept, but the pieces just aren’t fitting together to form a cohesive experience. Resources feel too scarce and prices feel too high. Why are the nighttime swarms so overwhelming so soon? Why does the shotgun take so long to reload while the rifle can fire infinitely? Shouldn’t there be a comical tale about trying to save my family farm? Isn’t tending the land going to make anything easier in successive runs?
There are tons of games out there that play fine, but Atomicrops offers little to make it a memorable, worthwhile experience amidst so much stiff competition on the Switch. I’m guessing that with another year and a few content updates, Atomicrops will be a fantastic little actioner, but in its current state it comes across like an Early Access release that’s hit the eShop too soon.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Bird Bath Games and published by Raw Fury. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed (if it’s possible?). There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Violence. This is pretty tame stuff, just the usual cartoonish shoot-’em-up type of action that’s commonly found, nothing especially gory or bloody. there is no salty language and no sexual content.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the game on mute and had no problems at all. Dialogue comes via text that cannot be resized or altered, and there are no audio cues necessary for play. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.