Clunky but fun, Atlas Raider raids the best parts of social play and board games.
As far as treasure-themed Facebook games go, Atlas Raider is certainly not a looker, and there was a lot about the initial gameplay that underwhelmed me right off the bat. But as I got ready to simply write the game off and do some backyard raiding of my own, I suddenly realized that several hours had gone by: and that I was actually having fun and didn’t want to stop playing. And that’s exactly the kind of game that Atlas Raider turns out to be.
The game starts off with a noticeable lack of any introduction or story, and simply has your stock character (you can choose between a boy and a girl) wandering around a tropical island and in search of what I can only imagine to be some kind of treasure. A futuristic-looking kid named Newt, who’s in desperate need of a haircut, serves as your guide, although he doesn’t really help much to clarify anything that’s going on. The visuals are also extremely underwhelming, with little to no sense of movement at any point, and uninspired character designs. However, the area designs are fairly imaginative, and there’s a nice progression of environment types as you continue to move through the game.
At its core, Atlas Raider is sort of like a social game with a board game twist. You move around each section of the game board by rolling a die, and advancing your player to the corresponding number of spaces. As you move around the game board, you’ll encounter a number of interesting diversions that lightly borrow from some of the biggest tropes in social gaming. You’ll acquire simple missions and tasks from the island’s inhabitants; you can grow and cultivate different crops for additional currency; and you can even battle with aggravated wildlife, such as monkeys, alligators, and rabbits.
Each of these battles is represented by a simple “dice-off,” in which you and the animal will each roll a single die, and the highest number wins. If you’re facing off against a particularly challenging foe (who will only roll a 5 or 6 every time), then you can splurge for weapon advantages like sticks, which automatically add an extra 2 points to your total roll. A lot of it boils down to luck, and losing a battle will cost you additional energy points, but I never managed to lose a single bout in my entire time with the game. Even though it’s not the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen, it still somehow manages to work in this context, and I couldn’t see the battle system being any other way now.
Another really cool feature is that the game encourages you to land on every space of the game board at least once. Doing so will reward you with a bonus skull collectable each and every time, which can then be used to activate more totems and advance to the next area of the island. One thing that completely surprised me about this game was how much it actually let me play before I hit the expected freemium roadblock. The game is extremely generous in the amount of items and currency it gives you at regular intervals. It does cost one energy point every time you want to roll, but you’ll be earning experience stars and bonus energy points left and right so that this hardly becomes a noticeable issue. As you unlock more treasure chests with the paperclips you win from battling the wildlife, you’ll begin to have a nice system of jewels that regenerate money and other funds over time, to keep your raiding going strong.
But despite the game’s simple, yet fun execution, there were still a few issues that made my treasure raiding a little more clunky than needed. For instance, picking up coins and experience stars with your cursor (which is a little nuance that I always tend to love in Facebook games) is completely unresponsive. There is about a one second delay between when your cursor rolls over an item and when the game actually registers that you have collected it. This may not seem like much, but given the high rate of collectables in Atlas Raider, it becomes extremely noticeable when playing, and only adds to the overall sluggish feel of the total game experience.
There’s also a somewhat strange, and equally unsettling way of incorporating your Facebook friends into the mix. At one point in the game, I passed a shaman of sorts who asked if I wanted to recommend a slave to him. He then proceeded to select one of my Facebook friends, and give me their rating for attributes such as sex appeal and their ability to take a beating. It was pretty awkward, to say the least. I never found out what happens if you agree to give the shaman one of your friends as a slave, for fear that the game would send that friend a Facebook notification saying that I had just sold them as property. The game also tries some less than honest ways of getting you to share your progress on your Facebook wall, which I didn’t entirely appreciate.
So even though Atlas Raider may not be the most well though-out Facebook game in the world, there’s just something about its board game and social mix of gameplay that becomes completely rewarding, and really tough to put down when you’re on the verge of uncovering more treasure. Whether it’s just one more roll of the dice to squash an aggravated rabbit, or planting another field of apple trees to grant a burst of coins, this is certainly one game that will keep you coming back for more.