Atom RPG is a flawed masterpiece. It’s a classic Fallout-inspired RPG funded on Kickstarter, and as you’ll see in the video below, it leaves a little to be desired. Either the translation into English or the writing itself is spotty, the graphics are bland, and the combat is slightly random. But it sticks to what Fallout used to be great at before Bethesda got their hands on it: player choice. It’s handled so well here, with the depth and complexity you’d expect from a role playing game in the 90’s, that it more than makes up for the rest of the game’s shortcomings.
As engaging as Atom RPG is now, its extended stay on Early Access of almost a year highlights the problem of Early Access gaming.
Updates, Updates, and More Updates
Since first entering Early Access in December 2017, Atom RPG has had 11 major updates and patches. These have tweaked combat, stats, and AI, new features have been added like cutscenes, quests, characters, and weapons, and bugs have been squashed on a regular basis.
I fired up Atom RPG for the first time last week in preparation for this video for the first time since our last video knowing it’s had eight dump trucks worth of updates poured into it. Yet despite that, there are only one or two things I could point to in this second playthrough that I could definitely say have changed. Maybe there are a few more things that feel different, but I couldn’t swear they’ve been added or changed in any meaningful way.
Atom RPG is unquestionably better today than it was last December, and it’ll likely continue getting better until its final release. It’s just so hard to see those improvements that it’s almost as if they haven’t happened. That’s not to mention the problems that were prevalent in the original Early Access release (the writing, graphics, animations) still remain.
The problem that plagues every Early Access game is one that’s impossible to solve. You’ve likely heard the phrase “you only get one first impression, so make it count”? The same is true of video games, and every game that releases before its finished will burn their first impression on that early release.
Unless a game drastically changes over the course of its Early Access phase, there’s not going to be much of a reason for longtime fans of the game to care too much about a final release. That’s the problem with Atom RPG. A lot has been added, sure. But these additions have mostly given you more game, they haven’t changed the overall quality of that game to any major degree, and if they have improved a problem, they haven’t completely fixed it.
For example, one of the improvements in an update gave the game a new English translation. This new translation is considerably better than the previous translation, but it’s still not great. So while better, it’s still not good enough. It’s hard to stay invested in an Early Access game’s progress when the only tangible things the updates are adding are more quests, more NPCs, more towns, and more weapons when all that stuff is already there to begin with.
Atom RPG’s foundation has already been laid. What it is now, what it was in December 2017, is what it will always be. More things will be added to that base, more bugs squashed, but the core content will probably remain as it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, despite its flaws Atom RPG is a fantastic game. But it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t lost steam because we already know what the final game will be. That is the problem with Early Access – it ruins any chance of surprise.