by Joel France
previewed on PC
Peas in a Pod
For all its nods to classic Harvest Moon gameplay, Atomicrops is first and foremost a modern action roguelike, with all the trappings of the genre you’d expect. Permadeath, randomised power-ups, tough boss fights and an ever-expanding area to explore provide a seeming wealth of replayability, even with the game in such an early stage. Gameplay is divided into days, in which you have a limited time to plant gathered seeds, harvest any fully grown crops and explore further afield to find additional upgrades and materials. After three in-game days, you’ll advance forward to the next season, but not before a strenuous boss fight to send out the current one with a bang. The unavoidable progression of time is an interesting wrinkle in the formula as it forces you to optimise each aspect of your approach in order to maximise chances of survival during these tricky fights. Focusing on growing crops early means you’ll have plenty of resources to spend at the town market in between days, but by sticking close to your crops you miss out on the strong upgrades available in the wider area.
The game’s visual style is certainly striking. Muddy browns and murky greens set the backdrop for the post-apocalyptic landscape, whilst any objects deemed useful or threatening - crops, enemies and projectiles - are presented with vibrant, inorganic neon hues. This approach definitely draws your eye to where it’s needed, but can begin to feel a little overwhelming. This isn’t helped by the low res pixel art aesthetic, which aims to recreate the classic farming games Atomicrops is drawing inspiration from. On a monitor blown up to full screen it can sometimes be difficult to decipher the various pixels flying around, though when looking at the game in screenshots or windowed mode the details are a lot more digestible. It would be interesting to compare how the game would feel if the art was scaled down to a finer resolution, giving you a wider range of visibility and reserving less of the screen for the various UI elements.
As you’re out exploring the plains teeming with hordes of angry wildlife, you’re sure to take a hit or two. Atomicrops is pretty uncompromising in this regard, and taking too many knocks sees you set back to day one. Whilst this is pretty common for a roguelike experience, the extra sting of losing all of your progress on your farm - expanded soil patches, budding crops and helpful animals - makes the failure that much more difficult to stomach. Additionally, whilst many games have factored in a permanent upgrade path to take the teeth out of a do-over, the distinct lack of any progress you can measure yourself by leaves a sour taste in your mouth. With the game in its early stages, it’s quite possible this area is due for expansion, but at this point the lack of gratification gives the game a harder edge than one might expect.
There’s a solid core to Atomicrops, one that with careful cultivation could grow to something great. But unless you’re keen to be on the frontline as the game develops, the rough edges and the punishing lack of progress indicators mean that you might be turned away from a game that, once refined, could have otherwise got its roots into you.