I have one problem with Roguelike games, I become incredibly addicted to them to the point where I’ll give it “just one more go” then find out I’ve been playing for hours upon hours without realising. Atomicrops was no exception, delivering highly addictive gameplay combined with progression bonuses, tight controls, and gorgeous colourful art design. Despite not being very good at the game, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve played so far and can’t wait to tell you about it.
Atomicrops is out now on the PS4, Xbox One, Switch and the Epic Games Store, with a Steam release planned for September this year. Developed by Bird Bath Games and published by Raw Fury, the game launched in a questionable state on the PS4 (the version I’m covering), but there have been a few updates that have fixed a number of the issues I had – which is why I held off on this review until now.
So, let’s grab our
pitchforks heavy weaponry and protect our crops as we take a closer look at Atomicrops…
Thanks to the new animated intro sequence, which was added in the last update, we have a bit of backstory into Atomicrops and what’s going on. Just like pretty much every farming simulation game out there, you’ve inherited a farm from your late uncle, choosing to take on the hard task of running the place even though you have no background in the field at all. However, whilst looking around the farm and checking out the strange bomb shelter you find next to the barn house, disaster strikes as an atomic bomb wipes out all living creatures within the vicinity!
Determined to make this work – even though the land is rather toxic and contaminated – you begin to grow the few seeds you have left, watering them from the nearby well. However, it’s not long before you realise that you’re not alone, the nuclear blast hadn’t eradicated all life, it had mutated plants, vehicles, and even the sun itself! Thankfully, there are also a few other humans who had survived, or at least friendly mutants, who will sell you new seeds, tools, weapons, and even date you if you give them enough roses.
With the help of these and the daily chore of finding and planting new seeds then harvesting them for money, you must make your farm grow whilst fending off the creatures that come at night to raid your crops.
Atomicrops is a Roguelike game with progression upgrades as well as permadeath and a rather steep difficulty curve. Thankfully, since launch the game has received a few patches which have adjusted the balance and made things a little easier for new gamers whilst keeping the same intense difficulty as you progress through the seasons. The game itself blends a few popular genres together to form a unique and exciting experience, with the two main mechanics being farming and twin-stick combat.
The whole point of the game is to sow seeds, water the plants, then harvest your crops so that you can use the earned money to buy more seeds or better weapons/defences against the following day of mutated attacks. Initially, it’ll be you vs them, having to till the soil, plant the seeds, water the crops, destroy any weeds, and then harvest them, all whilst shooting the Diglett-like moles and slaughtering the creatures of the night who want to feast on your fancies.
However, as you explore the various biomes which are conveniently attached to each side of your farm, you’ll begin to uncover various animals and machines which will help you out. For example, cows will automatically water plants whilst your there or on an adventure, chickens will clear weeds, bees will fertilise your crops, and pigs will till the soil for you. These are essential allies as they’ll maintain the farm whilst you’re out looking for more seeds and goodies.
Speaking of, you’ll also acquire various tractors which will perform unique abilities, such as watering your crops, shredding enemies into fertiliser, cutting weeds and finding seeds, and more. These are timed and manual abilities though, so you can’t just spam them. In order to help you defend against the creatures, you can also find turrets and scarecrows – these will attack and defend against nightly nuisances.
Twin-stick combat / exploration
When you’re not tending to your crops you’ll be either out exploring one of the unlocked biomes or you’ll be protecting your farm from the menacing munchers. Combat is nice and simple yet solid and responsive, it’s a twin-stick shooter with a variety of weapons you can buy between days (although they break after one day use unless you have a certain character). If you’ve not played a game in this format before, you move with the Left Thumbstick and aim with the Right Thumbstick, then you hold or mash the R2 trigger to fire your weapon – simple.
But, why would you want to explore? Wouldn’t you want to stay with your farm – yes and no. During the daytime, the moles which pop up on your turf are harmless to your crops – they’ll shoot you but they won’t destroy the crops. This means it’s safe to go out exploring your surroundings without worrying about your plants – it’s also why having animals is essential so you’re not needed to water and tend to them. However, you’ll want to get back before night time as that’s when the mean ones come out, and you don’t want to be absent when they’re out and about!
Each biome has a number of different ‘camps’ for you to ‘raid’, basically wipe out all the animals guarding various items under a flag. These are your per-game upgrades and bonuses. You’ll find seeds, tractors, pickaxes that expand your farm, fertiliser, and you’ll occasionally get given the choice of two abilities or animals, allowing you to pick only one. If you’re to survive, you need to branch out and explore all of these areas, as well as buying planks of wood so you can expand further into more difficult and aggressive combat areas.
Thanks to the pigeons, you can obtain various one-use abilities within Atomicrops, actions that make your life a lot easier for a few minutes. You can expand your farm and automatically till all the plantable patches (very useful), summon a raincloud to constantly water your plants, plant a seed in every free piece of land (even if you have no seeds on you), and also fertilise your entire farm.
Now, I will admit that I didn’t even know you could fertilise your plants for about five hours – I saw I was picking up a strange thing when killing enemies but I had no idea what it did or how to use it! Turns out you simply hold Cross when you’re near the plants and you’ll dispense it – I wish I knew about this earlier!
There are also some abilities that affect you, rather than your crops, such as speeding up how fast you walk, making plants you stand next to grow faster, and even a floating drone to attack enemies or gourd to deflect bullets. As this is a roguelike game though, all abilities and ‘boosts’ are only for this particular playthrough, which means (in my opinion) that luck is a major factor in how far you get into the game.
To expand on that, the first few times I played Atomicrops, before the latest patch which makes things a little easier, I wasn’t getting very far as the enemies quickly got quite tough and I wasn’t well equipped to handle the situation. I was protecting my farm at night when the game became a bullet-hell situation, dodging the onslaught of bullets whilst trying to harvest my crops and shoot the enemies – all at the same time! I found it incredibly difficult to keep my eyes on everything that was going on. Then I had a good run, I found a few turrets, multiple animals, I had enough money for a good gun, an ability to slow down enemy projectiles, and I had a few new life hearts.
I still died before getting past year one, but I felt the God of Luck was smiling down on me for that run – it reminded me a lot of The Binding of Isaac and how success in that game usually comes down to luck and what you find in the level.
There are bonuses and progression items that you can unlock via doing well at the game, making your next run easier or more efficient. At the end of each season, the game counts how much you made via selling your crops – based on the amount you have, you’ll unlock freebies from the mayor. Among the items you receive are ‘Cornucopias’, items you’ll get if you hit the upper-bounds of the scale.
Cornucopias can be spent before you start a new game, unlocking one of two bonuses presented to you. They aren’t massive bonuses, giving you things such as having one extra pickaxe when you start the game, start with a number of seeds based on how well you did in your last run, and starting the game with a few extra hearts of health, but when you have a few of them, you can really see the benefits. So, the better you do in each season, the more of these you obtain, and then you can spend them to make subsequent runs a bit ‘easier’.
I can’t talk about Atomicrops and not talk about how gorgeous it looks. The entire game is so colourful and cutesy, even if you’re being raided by mutated creatures and vehicles at night time. Every single enemy has its own personality and charm to it, even the crops you grow are disturbingly living ‘things’ with faces and emotions. Also, at the end of each season (three days), a boss appears who is looking to wreak havoc on your farm with its much bigger size and strength. These bosses look fantastic, a giant sun that evolves into a pissed off sun, a murderous tractor that claims the farm is his, and even a giant killer bunny!
On launch, Atomicrops wasn’t a fun game to play. I loved the concept and the game itself was great, but on the PlayStation 4, the performance was pretty bad. Thankfully, the latest patch, 1.04, has resolved ‘most’ of the issues I have with the game. Previously, walking into a new biome or engaging in battle caused the game to stutter, pause, have frame drops, and/or jerkiness, and the loading times between days was very, very long. The patch resolved the performance issues, I’ve not encountered any stuttering or pausing when in battle or moving between biomes now – so that’s great.
However, there is still an issue with the loading. Each run you make is different, the placements of the creatures and bonuses in the various biomes changes upon each time you hit play – so the initial load I can forgive for being a little long. However, when you end a day and have to wait about 20 seconds to return to a small town, then another 20 seconds or so to return to the farm for the next day, I’m not quite sure what’s causing that delay. As far as I’m aware, it’s just reloading the same layout it generated with the initial load, so I’m confused as to why it’s so long.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world and you’ll be back into the action within 20 seconds or so, but it does distract from the fast-paced action within the game itself. Thankfully, the devs have now opted to pause the action as soon as the game begins to load – previously the game was still active behind the black screen, meaning you could, and I did, get killed whilst the game was loading…
First up, Atomicrops doesn’t have a platinum trophy – which is a shame. Second, the trophies themselves are very, very hard to obtain – I’ve spent about 8-10 hours in the game and I have the grand total of zero. You can see them for yourself by clicking the link on the right, under the game info in the sidebar. At first glance, they don’t seem that bad. However, completing Year One is quite tricky as the final boss is a pain – but never mind that, try beating year five and ten (that’s 15 and 30 days in a row), or how about having 15k cashews (currency)? I think the most I’ve had was 2.3k at one point.
I’ve started calling Raw Fury the reverse Ratalaika – Ratalaika gives you a platinum for playing about 20-60 minutes of their games, easy trophies for hardly any work. Raw Fury has recently put out a few games which require hours upon hours of gameplay and performing specific actions just to get one or two trophies. Yes, I have a review for Mosaic in the works…
Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t really care that much about the trophies as I’ll move on once I’m not having fun anymore, not just because of the trophy difficulty, but I know some people do care.
Mouse and Keyboard
Just a quick mention here – Atomicrops works natively with mouse and keyboard, should you chose to play this way. The control prompts are still the controller – unlike House Flipper which changes to the keyboard prompts – but the controls are identical to the PC version. Using the mouse gives you a lot more accuracy and control over where your shooting and farming. So, if you feel you need more control whilst playing, maybe plug in a wired or wireless mouse and keyboard and try that?
Atomicrops is a very addictive roguelike farming twin-stick shooter which is oozing with charm and colourful visuals. It’s a challenging game with a slow permanent progression system, yet each run feels unique and exciting due to the sheer amount of temporary boosts and abilities you can obtain, not to mention all of the animals you can free then enslave on your farm as free labour. Whether your growing crops, killing mutated veg, wooing your potential spouse, or exploring the hostile biomes, you’re sure to get hours upon hours of fun out of this unique indie game.
*Update* Version 1.05 launched yesterday on the PS4, an update that aimed to improve loading times. Whereas it’s still not as fast as I would have liked, it’s much better than it was on launch.
- - Very addictive and hard to put down
- - Contains slow roguelike progression as well as a multitude of per-run abilities and boosts
- - Although it's very challenging, you always want to play it as soon as you die
- - The visuals are very colourful and well designed
- - No platinum trophy and the trophies it does have are very, very difficult to obtain
- - The loading times are still quite long (although this may get fixed as the performance was in the last update)
- - It has quite a steep difficulty curve, getting quite hectic and tricky after only a few days