In my first impressions of NDOORS' Atlantica Online, I told Ten Ton Hammer readers the game was smoother and more fun than anything I had played in a long time. My love affair with Atlantica has only improved over the past four months, reaching the status of the proverbial fat kid and cake. While it has its faults, Atlantica is easily the best F2P game I have played and is more fun than many subscription games I have tried.
This lady with the snakes will pwn your system if you try to run Atlantica with the minimum system configuration.
You Can't Park
That Jalopy Here
First, ignore the required system specs. If you try to play Atlantica with the bare minimum, your experience will be much like going for a ride with Toonces the Driving Cat.
NDOORS suggests gamers have a GeForce 6600GT graphics card with 128MB memory and 1GB of RAM. My computer houses a GeForce 8600GT graphics card with 512MB memory and 2.5GB of RAM, much better than the recommended configuration, but I still experience baby hiccups and lag from time to time with the medium to high graphics settings. Atlantica simply has too much going on to expect a full-speed play session of 3+ hours. Skill animations, large numbers of character models, and bountiful particle effects all contribute to the game performing worse the longer I play it. It never becomes a slide show, but I can detect the dip in performance after about 3 hours and know that I need a quick restart. Optimization flaws aside, the client is stable. I've never once crashed to the server select screen or the desktop.
The Search for
The beauty of Atlantica is its strategic gameplay (view some video here). Most games drop players into hundreds of hours of Whack-a-Mole, but the moles whack back in Atlantica. The grass snakes and rats you kill in the beginning of other MMOGs are Fairies and Hell Warriors in Atlantica, and they come in a couple of flavors. One type of Fairy uses a standard attack while the other one casts a devastating spell. One type of Hell Warrior might have a special attack that does major damage while the other has the ability to revive fallen comrades. The result is that Atlantica players must treat every battle like their opponent is Mike Tyson instead of Glass Joe. Kill the Hell Warrior who can revive first, and you might get killed by the kind with high damage attacks. Kill the ones who cause the most damage first, and the other type might keep reviving them. And this isn't just end-game material; this occurs around level 4!
To be successful in combat, players must learn to use strategy from the early levels.
The story in Atlantica pushes you down the path to discover the cause of some major disturbances to once peaceful areas. Monsters have risen up, and normally amicable creatures have become more malevolent toward humans than Cruella De Vil toward Dalmatians. The basic premise has been done to death, but the setting and execution are original. The game takes place on Earth with players starting out in historic areas of China and Japan, and the journey takes gamers on a hunt for the fabled city of Atlantis. Despite the realistic setting, the creatures are fantastic, and your human avatar and his or her mercenaries will possess superhuman powers.
The early quests do a good job of teaching gamers how to play Atlantica, and all quests contribute to the overall plot. It's solidly written and translated into English perfectly, but it won't make anyone go "J.K. Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter book" nuts.
between the Mona Lisa
and Painting by Numbers
Basically, the graphics of Atlantica would be a single member of the Average Joe's dodge ball squad; they aren't amazing on their own, but they contribute to the championship-like performance of the entire game. They're certainly not up to the level of Age of Conan, but the game still features some beautiful vistas, especially when coming up on buildings for the first time. Water seems pretty good at a distance but looks fake up close. Character models (see some character creation video here) visit the same uncanny valley that those in EverQuest 2 do. That is, they look human enough, but something is a little off and makes them look a bit creepy. If the gameplay were not so great, the graphics might be considered under average. Since the tactical elements make the game so fun, the graphics are more than adequate to deliver the package.