Atlas:

  • The pirate life MMO with RPG elements along with taming, crafting, and surviving similar to Ark: Survival Evolved and Minecraft

  • Horrible delayed start, “mostly negative” reviews on Steam

  • Huge map spanning server clusters
Atlas is an interesting Early Access MMO pirate game made by some of the devs who created Ark: Survival Evolved. This is readily apparent, you can tell just by playing it how similar to two are.

Atlas has “mostly negative” reviews already and the game hasn’t been out for a week. Part of that, perhaps most of that, is because of the rough start it got. In the beginning it was extremely difficult to play, due to lag and serious rubber banding. Rubber banding, in case you don’t know, is when you walk in a direction and you get pulled back to where you started. This is an issue seen in online games that people play on a server. This also seems to be relative to the server’s ping. Higher pings mean you’re going to see more lag or rubber banding. Atlas servers usually have a high ping, especially in the starter zones. Luckily, the game got patched and it’s not as bad as it started out to be.

Many players were already disappointed, because the game release was delayed. This happened more than once, I think. This is nothing new to those of us who are used to Ark updates, hence one of the similarities between Studio Wild Card (the Ark devs) and Graphshot Games (the Atlas devs). Players could not pre-order the game, we had to wait until the devs released it on Steam. Once that finally happened Atlas arrived. It was extremely difficult to purchase. Apparently so many people were trying to buy it that Steam got overwhelmed. I’m pretty sure the holiday sale had something to do with that, too.

An interesting thing about the game is that it uses server clusters. The map is so huge that it covers more than a few servers. When starting out, players can choose one of the four main server sections (NA PVE & PVP or EU PVE & PVP). Once that’s selected, you’ll be shown the map and the many servers in which you can start in (these are called free ports). The servers will show you the server’s ping and how many people are playing on that server at the time. In the beginning, I found the ping to be inaccurate, because I’d get on one with a lower ping (not usually lower than 100) and end up playing with 255 (max ping). Once you make your way out of the starting area, you’ll find the number of players on each server drops as does the ping, which means a more stable game.

One of the issues with these starting areas is that players who were logged out still showed in the world, except they were sleeping. There were tons of sleeping bodies lying around. The devs quickly realized this was a problem and corrected it. Another interesting thing about the game is that it boasts the ability to handle 40,000+ players.

Once spawned in to the world players will need to gather wood, thatch, and stone to make their first tool, a pickaxe. Like Ark and Minecraft, wood can be harvested from trees by punching them. However, like Ark and unlike Minecraft, punching trees hurts, you can definitely kill yourself by punching a tree too many times. Unfortunately punching trees mostly yields thatch and it takes a bit too long for it to yield wood. Once you get a pick axe, you’ll be able to more easily gather thatch, wood, and then you’ll need to gather flint, which you can harvest from stones. Without any tools, you can gather stone by punching stones, similar to how you obtain your first wood and thatch. This also hurts, but once you get your first tool, it’s no longer necessary to punch anything for resources.

The point to getting your tools is so that you can get other materials more easily. The axe (or hatchet) will yield more wood and stone. Once you have enough of these materials (including flint), you can start by making spears. This is how you’re going to kill animals, which you’ll need to do for meat and pelt. Pelt and fiber are used to make all of your clothes, except the hat, which only requires fiber. Gathering fiber may also yield berries, which are a starting source of food. However, in Atlas, one cannot survive on meat and berries alone. You have to keep an eye on your vitamin levels. There are four of them one for meat, berries, veggies, and fish. Before you set out off of the beginning island, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of these and water skins full of fresh water. You cannot drink salt water. Luckily, there’s a fresh water area in town and you can also get water in the wild by going prone and searching lush areas.

You can go fishing, but if you want to do it in the nice, relaxing way, you’re going to have to craft a chair and gather bait, which is sap from trees. This can be a difficult resource to get, so this may not be the ideal way of fishing. Probably the most efficient way of fishing is to swim in the water, look for a fish, and hit it with a spear a couple of times. Once it’s dead, you’ll automatically start dragging it, which you’ll want to walk to shore so that you can harvest it with your pick axe (best used for getting meat).

Before setting off, you’ll want to gather more materials, especially for a camp fire, which is used to cook meat, and a bed, which is used to respawn. You’ll also need to gather enough materials in order to craft a raft, which can be done via an NPC on the dock. Once you’re prepared, it’s time to set sail and explore the large world of Atlas. Of course, you’ll run into more players on the starting island, but once you get off of it, you’ll find there are few around. However, you’ll notice as you’re exploring that it’s difficult to claim land as most land (outside of free port and lawless areas) is already claimed. You could sail for hours and still not find any land that isn’t already claimed. You can, however, contest a claim, but this takes time.

You’ll want to start out small in the beginning by building a small dock. This will allow you to start building your first “ships,” the raft and dinghy. I tried building one of these, but I didn’t have enough weight to carry all the required resources, so I’m not sure how people have already built them. After that you’ll want to build a ship yard. You can build bigger ships, but this will take many hours. Once you have a bigger ship you can buy AI crew members and set sail. You’ll be able to fight other ships (assuming you built cannons on your ship) including ghost ships, which can be seen patrolling the sea every now and then. Such tasks probably also pretty much require joining a company, which is a group of people. Many things in this game are very friendly for the solo player.

As of now, the game finally runs pretty decent. I’m so glad that most rubber banding is gone and I can now get more than 10 frames per second. I am currently sailing the seas with my 5th raft after my 4th (which I named “May the 4th Be W/ U”) suffered a devastating destruction by trying to get turned around and getting too close to shore. I haven’t talked to very many players. One guy said “ahoy” to me as we crossed paths on rafts out in the sea. He was obviously using a microphone as I am. I ran into a woman who asked me to leave the island she was trying to claim land on. I said, “sure,” but she got a bit nasty that I messed up her claiming process. This encounter left me feeling sour.

I don’t know what the future holds for this game, hopefully more servers so that more people can enjoy it and pings won’t be as bad. There’s also hope for more servers to provide more land to claim as I mentioned the difficulty in finding land to claim. But, right now the game is cool, interesting, beautiful, and running quite well on my PC. It is currently about $30. After they take it out of Early Access the price will raise again (I think they said to $60) as was the way with Ark. If you like pirates, sailing, and MMOs, I give this game a recommendation. It’s not as bad as it started out to be. The devs have been very good at resolving issues and updating the game frequently.

*Update 6/4/19*
My thoughts on this game have kind of changed and I think it's important to update this post. I really did enjoy playing Atlas when it came out. I enjoyed the beginning, which was quite similar to the beginning of Ark where you have to punch trees and gather resources to make tools and clothes. After that, you start to work on building your first raft and making sure you have enough supplies for a trip to sea. Once you're ready, it's time to set sail and hit the open seas, and there's a lot of sea to explore, assuming you're playing on a server (like an official one) with multiple servers in a cluster. Next is pretty much where my enjoyment of the game ends. I played on an official server and searched for unclaimed land to claim as my own and make my home. Unfortunately, there was little to no land to claim, in fact I ended up landing ashore at one point to get cussed out by a female pirate, because I interrupted her claim on some territory and was abruptly asked to leave. I never did find any land to claim. I also quickly learned at this point that this game is most definitely focused on multiplayer. In the beginning it's quite forgiving and welcoming for the single player, but once you set sail on your first raft, the single player parts of the game fail to become relevant or anywhere near easy. It takes a company (the game's name for groups of players) to build boats, and it takes a lot of resources to do, hence the need for multiple players constantly gathering resources for ship production. Once a company has a ship (because a single person could definitely not easily or any where near quickly build one), it's time to set sail once again. However, there are undead pirate ships out there to battle along with big monsters on various islands to fight (in a group). You can also go treasure hunting, but that also requires a group effort as it triggers the spawning of undead pirates, too many to deal with alone. You can also find a variety of animals to tame. You can find AI pirates to hire to help with ship operations, but to get these, you have to defeat undead pirate ships and rescue them. While I was originally interested in the game and enjoyed the very beginning, it quickly dawned on me that this was not a game for me. I'm used to solo, single player gaming. So sadly, my enthusiasm for this game has died. However, if you're interested in a multiplayer pirate, ship building/crafting, exploring kind of game, this might be the one for you.

*Update 8/7/19*
There's a new single player mode, which has got me playing again. It's interesting and, I think, in ways better than the multiplayer mode. There's also a free DLC.

*Update 1/29/20*
Yet again, I’m feeling disappointed with the game. Even though there is a single player mode now, much of it is still too difficult to do alone. The best way I found to build, especially ships, quickly and efficiently is to use a mod that modifies the weights and stack sizes of resources. I find such a mod essential to the single player game. Even with such a mod, much of the game is still very difficult to do alone. Out in the open season, undead ships spawn in groups and you’re the only one available to defeat them. You can hire an NPC crew, but you also have to manage them, keep them paid and fed or they’ll mutiny. Areas where there are much stronger creatures are pretty much impossible for the single player.

The other major issue I had when I last played in October was dealing with the game crashing. At the time, it wasn’t completely stable. Even though this is still an Early Access game, game crashes are a major disappointment, especially after getting used to games (like Monster Hunter: World) that never crash.

I’m still keeping my eye on the game’s development and I really hope much of my own complaints get resolved. I’ve clocked 171 hours again, so paying nearly $30 wasn’t really a big waste of money. I don’t think this is a bad game. It has ambition, but still has room to improve.

Will_Ball   Game Mod   Super Member wrote on 12/31/2018 at 01:05am

Sounds like fun, outside of interacting with grumpy people. :) The trailer had everything in it, but the kitchen sink, which makes me a little worried. If I had time to sink into an MMO, I would check this out.

GregoPeck   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 12/31/2018 at 01:20am

I'm "salty" again because my raft got blown up by a ghost ship and I was killed by a shark. That was my 6th raft.

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