Boy, Atlas Is Having A Rocky Launch


Atlas, the latest game from ARK: Survival Evolved’s developers, is meant to be a large multiplayer experience about being a pirate in a strange new world. But as reactions and discoveries trickle in following the game’s early access launch, the supposedly swashbuckling adventure sounds like one big mess.

Atlas was announced at The Game Awards on December 6th and released in early access on December 22nd. An initial countdown clock teased a December 13th release before a smattering of delays pushed the game’s launch back. Since its debut last week, the massively online adventure game has been met with largely negative reaction from players due to issues like severe server lag and an extremely hostile world.

Players can build settlements, but apparently, a small percentage of launch players have claimed important coastal areas for their own. The results have been shaky for other players, since it is hard to survive too long. Numerous Steam user reviews—which currently place the game at a “mostly negative” reaction—talk about just how damn rough it is. Our own Mike Fahey has spent time with the game and had a similar reaction.

“It feels a whole lot like ARK,” Mike told me this morning over Slack. “The character creation is definitely ARK. My first time in game I spawned in the middle of the ocean, ran out of stamina trying to swim to shore and died. I respawned and was immediately murdered by an eel.”

Not only does Atlas feel like ARK, there are some questions about just how much of it is ARK. Twitch streamer mukkayo apparently found a way to access a hidden menu in Atlas that’s literally just a menu screen from ARK.

Atlas’s developers have not yet responded to Kotaku’s request for comment, but this ARK menu screen’s presence is likely due to the use of the same engine. Still, between similar gameplay loops and the game’s overall choppiness, players have been saying Atlas feels like little more than a glitchy reskin. While some players are posting positive reviews, many more are warning their fellows away.

“I have never uninstalled and asked for a return on a game quicker than this before,” one Steam review states. “Take that as a warning.”


  • The character creation is definitely ARK.

    It’s a far more advanced version. I’ve been playing it, it’s had a significantly better launch honestly than Ark did, which I’ve been with since Day 1 as well (I honestly think a lot, a lot of people forgot how horrendous that launch was…).

    The game definitely reuses assets from Ark, which imho needs to be addressed by them to some degree, but in another sense, instills familiarity for players. The climbing picks are straight out of Abberation for example. The Rabbits are just reskinned Jerboas. However, there’s a plethora of animals people claim are just reskinned, but aren’t, for example the Elephant, the Rhino (which has been completely redesigned), and the bear (which at best, reuses the skeletal structure however has been retextured and the mesh is new).

    It’s been a rocky start, but it’s also in alpha, they’re planning a two year stay in Alpha status, so we’ll see where it goes from here. It’s not the disaster people are making it out to be imho, nor is it the highpoint they wanted it to be. It’s ‘ok’, but not great so far. It honestly could be a lot better.

    • I honestly think a lot, a lot of people forgot how horrendous that launch was…
      God… Ark’s early weeks/months make train wrecks like Fallout 76 look like master classes in game making.

      Even if it was early access, even if they weren’t some triple A developer… The state the game initially came out in was barely short of disgusting.

      And when I consider how expensive Ark still is, I’d pick something like Fallout 76 over it without hesitation.

      • I honestly don’t agree with Ark’s final pricing point, but I do think it’s a much, much better game than FO76. The expansion packs however, could’ve been done a lot better. Instead of being seperate instances, where the DLC doesn’t merge with the original. The DLC *should* have expanded the original island, it should’ve added all of them into a gigantic open map. Granted Ragnarok has done a lot of that, and it’s a fantastic map itself, but they have stumbled in a few places.

        But that said, I’ve seen where Ark went and it was 3000 hours of fun for me. I do look forward to seeing where Atlas goes. I just had a run in on the ocean with ‘Ships of the damned’, ghost ships that hunt down players. I had no idea they were in the game and it was pretty neat. I look forward to seeing where this goes too.

        • I really like Ark but it really feels like they should have finished fixing the issues in Ark before making a new game. The DLC’s for Ark showed that they really like to just release a product, get some money and then abandon it in favour of whatever else they can get out the door and ship.

          Its been 3 years now since they said that DX12 support with performance increase was coming soon. I played Conan Exiles recently and was shocked that a game with such a big open beautiful world could actually run at well over 60FPS on a GTX 1080.

  • I’ve been playing atlas, and this article reads just like the writers have spent 20 mins reading the typical reddit and steam review mob negative reviews and haven’t spent much time actually playing.

    Its a pretty lazy hottake to point out that the game is like ark. How about pointing out the ways that it does in fact differ?

    My review to date is that this game is completely rough but shows a lot of promise. It was tediously and unplayable rough at lauch, but already its been patched multiple times and is fun and playable now. Its pretty much exactly where you would expect an early access game to be.

    • I’d agree with this. One week in and I’m on a 3×3 private server, having loads of fun 🙂 The public servers are always going to be competitive (eventual shitshows one day). But, I’m having a lot of fun.

    • typical Reddit and steam review mob negative reviews

      Just because you don’t like the negative reviews does not mean you get to dismiss them. The negative reviews are just as valid as your positive review.

      Dismissing the huge backlash against this game just because you happen to like it is intellectually dishonest.

      Im not saying you cant like it, Im saying you can’t treat opinions different to your own as wrong just because they are different.

  • why the fuck is this being called a launch? its fucking early access and the shit is only in an actual alpha state. of course everything going to be shit and not working, thats why report whats broken. Dont like it, dont fucking buy it until it comes out of EA 2 years down the track like Ark did

    • Early Access is a broken system on Steam though because it’s really an alpha, but it’s an alpha people can leave scathing reviews for because people are expecting, and will accept nothing less than a finished product apparently.

      At the same time, the “it’s early access” excuse has been used a lot of times to defend a game that is clearly never going to improve so it has lost a lot of its meaning.

      • I think there is still a place for reviews on early access games. If the developers want people to pay to play an alpha build of a game, then why on earth shouldn’t Steam show reviews of its current state so people can decide whether to take a chance on the game?

        Those reviews will be marked as referring to old builds as the game updates, so won’t be mistaken for reviews of the final game.

    • To make things worse it’s only been in early access for three weeks – coming up to Christmas. If people expect these bugs to have already been fixed they’re dreaming. Jeez, give the devs a break and let them have a couple days off for Christmas before they start fixing issues.

      No problems with people reporting issues in an alpha (thats how they get fixed), but when they do it with an attitude of “how can you release a buggy game like this”… that’s mind boggling.

  • Need to remove the stupid vitamin system. Annoying at best and painful at worst. Should just be food as a whole. I havent eaten fish irl for years and am fine…

    • Yeah early access… I feel it’s a bit unfair to be reviewing it right now.
      Kotaku using its weight to kick something down before it can even get up is kinda lousy tbh.

      • To be fair, these are the same devs that started selling DLC on their last game while it was still in early access…

        • Haha yeah wow, looks like devs need to draw a line what’s alpha/beta and what’s commercial to avoid confusion.
          Seems more fair now people review it like a finished product if the devs themselves do shit like that.

      • The devs need a good hard kick up the backside.

        Ark is still an unoptimized mess
        The port of Ark to switch is a joke
        And atlas is just a reskin so they can trick people into giving them more money.

        • I’m deep into Atlas now, I have to say, it’s far, far more than just an Ark reskin. Taming isn’t anywhere near the same. The Exp/Skill system is completely different. Sailing is possibly one of the best I’ve seen in a game (and the oceans are *massive) and the ghost ships and their crews on land are actually pretty damn cool.

          It might have started out as one and on the surface seems to be one, but when you scratch away and actually play the game, it’s definitely not just ‘an ark reskin’.

          • You can literally access the ark menu on the main menu on this game

            Its an ark reskin with some low effort extras chucked in.

            The ark devs have a track record of chucking something out for some quick cash and then leaving it broken.

          • Well aware of the menu, it’s built off the Ark framework. Also seen a few of the textures, but once you get into the game itself, it’s more than just ‘ark retextured’.
            Don’t know about the ‘low effort’ aspect, there’s not much ‘low effort’ stuff going on here, last night I helped battle a Kraken that was attacking a town, then fended off ghost warriors that attacked us when we dug for treasure. We then sailed the map, fending off others as they tried to destroy our ship 🙂

            Having a hell of a lot of fun 🙂 If you don’t want to play it that’s more than cool, but at least know what you’re talking about 🙂

          • Hey. Its great you enjoy the game. An im not attacking your personally or anything 🙂

            But this developer has a history, And the fact they chose to release this game through a 3rd party rather than themselves says a lot.

          • If you did ever play it, you’d see the differences. Animations aren’t borrowed, they’re completely redone. Character gen is taken up a whole new step, environments animations too such as trees blowing in the wind. Animals were borrowed for the first trailer, but were remeshed and retextured.

            I do find it kinda funny though how many people are acting like this is practically a war crime, while they’re the same people who invest in AAA standards of this exact same practice every year with COD, Battlefield, AC, Far Cry etc. Like I said, when you get into this game, you see how much is ‘supposedly’ borrowed vs how much actually is. Some stuff absolutely is. Climbing picks? Borrowed 100%. So is the fishing. It’s likely done as it’s a system that works and it keeps familiarity for players.

            However, the reality, and it is the reality, is ‘the rule of the internet’ has been applied, and what’s only been a case of some stuff being reused until replaced, has been turned into people screaming ‘every single bit is an asset flip’, which is just flat out disingenuous and a lie. For 35 bucks AUS, I can handle some stuff being borrowed until it’s replaced, just as Ark used some textures in the early days that were apparently open source until they were replaced (the cooking Oven for examples original texture), but if this were a 90 dollar game? I’d be joining you in being pissed.

            But for 35 bucks? I’ve already gotten more value from this than nearly every major release I’ve had in the last 12 months short of Red Dead 2. That’s where value is for me 🙂

          • Im an ex-player of Ark.

            and ive given up on that game and anything these devs ever release again based on their development quality.

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