Atomega is actually a really cool idea. Reflections, the Ubisoft studio responsible for Grow Up and Grow Home, have packed BUD away in favor of EXOFORMS, nigh-omnipotent biological beings that represent the most advanced evolution of man and machine. Situated on a crumbling landscape located at the very edge of Time, these EXOFORMs battle each other for reasons that...don’t make a whole lot of sense. The premise that these unique lifeforms spend their last moments of existence killing each other instead of holding back the imminent destruction of the universe is really silly, so it’s a good thing that none of that really factors into the proper game.
What makes this game so unique from any other shooter of its type is the evolution mechanic. At the start of a match, each player begins as a small and incredibly fast ball of light. Scattered throughout the large map are a series of purple energy cubes (referred to as MASS) of varying size that, when collected, fill the player’s evolution meter. By collecting MASS, you’ll grow from a ball of light to creatures resembling cubist renditions of dinosaurs, gorillas, and ultimately, the humanoid OMEGA. What’s more is that your speed and damage threshold change with each evolution, making you slower the larger you become but at the same time exponentially increasing your damage output. Killing other players reduces them down to their lowest form which forces them to collect MASS and build their evolutions all over again. For the most part, there’s an even playing field during the game’s earliest moments. Each player has the same beam weapon to attack with and can collect special power-ups that grant damage bonuses, personal shields, teleportation ability, and a weapon modifier that reduces another player’s MASS.
There is no denying that Atomega has a really high cool factor. The concept is awesome and the visuals are just as great. Everything, including the map and the EXOFORMs are made out of glowing cubes. Considering the scaling mechanic, the whole game is like this weird mesh of TRON and Katamari Damacy and for as weird as that sound, it really works well. It’s a neat aesthetic that looks great both in screenshots and in play.
With so much going for it, it makes me all the more sad that Atomega’s honeymoon is incredibly short. It took me all of twenty minutes to realize that I had seen everything the game had to offer. There is only one map to play in and no other play modes outside of deathmatch. While I feel a $9 video game typically means I don’t have to expect much, I’m honestly surprised that this shipped with so little content. Strangely, there’s a fairly robust character customization system that offers unlocks through a level-based character progression and I find it odd that more time was put into cosmetic nonsense instead of gameplay content.
Lack of content isn’t the only issue that holds Atomega back. There seems to be a really poor sense of game balance in the evolution mechanic. If you’re killed by another player that has two or three evolutions on top of you, their damage output is enough to pull off near one hit kills. This makes it really difficult, especially with a full complement of players, for someone to get on the same playing field as everyone else. As I scrounged the map for precious MASS cubes, I always found myself getting hit at extreme distances from better evolved players. Having all that progress thrown in the trash so quickly felt kind of unfair. Also, trying to attack other players when stuck on the first level evolution is about as effective as an ant trying to topple the Empire State Building. Atomega wants to empower the player by seeking out enough MASS to evolve into the near-game breaking OMEGA, but I found that difficult to do because of how easy it is for dominant players to stomp on the competition.
In my mind, what Reflections is selling on Steam is effectively a beta or demo for a full product. With its extremely limited content and balancing issues, it seems hard to justify buying the game until they’ve had the time to address such concerns. I’d like to see the game get more time in the oven because it’s legitimately cool and the concept is fresh and new. Ubisoft and Reflections didn’t quite put their best first forward with this release. But with time and energy, Atomega has the potential to evolve into an addicting multiplayer experience.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.