Atlantica Online – Review
Playing an MMO usually requires quite a lot of time and dedication so making the right choice in deciding what type of adventure suits your taste is very important, but also it can sometimes be a real challenge. This is because lately the MMO market has been saturated with countless titles of obscure origins and quality, most of them pulling your sleeve and dragging you into their fantasy world with the over-used “free to download, free to play” catch phrase. Among them though there is a hand-full of titles that crawl out of mediocrity and at least try to offer something slightly different, and this is the case of Atlantica Online, a strategic turn-based MMORPG from NDoors.
The story the game proposes is a bit far-fetched, placing the players in the shoes of adventurers looking for clues towards finding the long-lost land of legendary Atlantis and to the powerful secrets that eventually led to its demise. The game world is a low-scale copy of the real world, with common locations and city names such as Berlin, Rome or Beijing on top of which a layer of fantasy sceneries, events and enemies is roughly added. The simple quest system of the game will function both as a tour guide and a basic tutorial for the new and inexperienced players – it’s far from being anywhere close to spectacular, especially since in most cases it has only one active quest at a time, but it’s decent enough to “hold your hand” at least through the first steps of your adventure. It is also clear for anyone that the focus of the game is not questing or following the peculiar story when you discover that the user interface comes with a button which moves your character automatically to the next quest area while you can conveniently arrange items in your backpack or simply have a quick snack. It almost seems that it has been created only for someone to check a tiny box on a game feature list. The same can be said about almost every other aspect of the game, ranging from crafting, trading or guild and city administration. They are all there, implemented, functioning, working as intended if you wish, but simply to support one single game feature from every direction: the combat system.
When starting the game, you will be able to pick from a range of nine classes, each with special unique abilities that will make a difference in combat if used correctly. As you progress through the game, these classes can and will be enhanced both by equipping new armor items and weaponry, but also by upgrading at certain levels to more powerful versions of those classes. This applies also the mercenaries, characters you can hire in order to fill your party’s empty slots. They can also be upgraded, trained and enhanced almost in the same way you would the main character. Normally a party only has three slots when you begin the game, but as the main character levels up towards the level cap, the party will also grow in size up a maximum of nine slots, giving you the chance to be accompanied by a maximum number of eight mercenaries. The actual combat is based on the turn based mechanic most of you might remember from the Valkyrie Profile series or from the old iterations of Final Fantasy. The party members’ positions on the battlefield can be adjusted both before and during combat in order to tackle the party’s needs, and they are quite important strategically since the nine members can be arranged in a square of three by three character slots, and the melee characters can’t bypass rows of enemies when attacking. So placing the most weak classes, like ranged and healing, in the back rows is a natural and logical decision every player will make. During the combat phase the both sides will have a limited amount of time to decide and act upon that decision. Once the timer is up it will be the opponent’s turn to move in and attack with his troops, so quick thinking and knowing both your characters’ and your opponent characters’ weak and strong points will make big difference in the end.
The tips and tricks of the combat system will reveal themselves slowly through the player as he goes up on the level ladder. The basic steps will be learned with the help of NPCs and NPC quests, but these are only meant to prepare you for the greatest challenge the game has to offer: PVP. Starting with level twenty all characters are allowed to sign-up and participate in a competition called the Free League. Here, they will be matched against characters of similar level and/or PVP experience and battle for honor which results in pvp rank, experience and of course loot. Except for that the game also offers weekly championship battles and also a challenge system where players can fight among themselves in 1vs.1 battles anytime they want in order to test their parties’ strength, having also the possibility of adding a bet to the fight to give more incentive.
To conclude, the game is quite good at what it does, I give it that – the only problem is that it doesn’t do much. Atlantica is a multiplayer game that you play with other people online, but somehow it has managed to successfully miss the entire idea of being massive in terms of having people playing together in large numbers. One might argue this by bringing into discussion the server population figures and I would have to agree that game is swarming with tiny characters running around in search of fame, fortune and eventually the lost land of Atlantis, but the fact that the game allows and sometimes even encourages the singleplayer game experience simply transforms Atlantica into a hub for people interested in playing the turned based combat system mini-game. A system which indeed is fun, cool and challenging, but there is no epic feeling attached to this, no spectacular outcomes to hours of gameplay and most surely no urging desire to come back to it the next day. So if Atlantica would have been a single player game with the option of online tests of tactical thinking versus other players it would have ranked quite high on the favorites list of gamers who still have fun playing strategy oriented games. But as an MMORPG it fails at the basics.