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Atomic Heart could have been the next BioShock

atomic heart takes his bioshock influences up his sleeve. Both games place first-person adventure mechanics in elaborate utopias gone wrong. Both feature wordy, bombastic leaders bent on making their grandiose dreams come true; Combat repertoires mix traditional weapons with the “magic” of the game (rather than bioshock‘s plasmids or infinite bioshock‘s Vigors, we have atomic heartof polymers); a confused and amnesiac main character has mysterious ties to said leader, forming the narrative crux.

However, crucially, atomic heart it fails to pin down what made the BioShock series, divisive as it is, work: a laser-sharp focus on a few central themes.

Instead of carefully weaving a textured dimension into its plot and gameplay, atomic heart Developer Mundfish cast their net wide open. And by hugging so much, she clung to very little. This lack of focus, whether intentional or not, on a careful narrative thread in favor of set-piece paint bombs results in a vague sketch of BioShock rather than a detailed reimagining. None of this is to mention the camaraderie of their writing bloodying the waters of their world, or the incessant whining and wanton antagonism of their unsavory protagonist, all within a random mess of levels that needed more editing, not more variety.

While my initial impressions of the game were (and still are) very favorable, and I recommend trying it out on Game Pass, just not buying it, I can’t help but be disappointed by the game’s consistency of inconsistencies. While the retro Soviet “aesthetic” is prominent, that bombastic and beautiful opening theme is abandoned in favor of occasional notes. It is symphony more than soloist.

Image: Mundfish/Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity

This disease of diversity also seeps into the bones of the game. While atomic heartInitially the approach is fun: jump from areas full of zombie plants to spaces with hulking monsters; it quickly looks like the designers took the kitchen sink approach. There’s no connection between these sections of the world, and as a result, the game feels more like a mosaic, rather than several solid ideas gradually repeating each subsequent level.

The crucial parts of the game take place in underground facilities, interesting, initially unsettling, beautiful corridors, but when Mundfish pushed me into atomic heartopen world, I actually considered turning the game off.

In the game’s semi-open world, the murky depths of an empire’s fragmented fault lines are abandoned in favor of a garish pastoral setting. The space is open and full of security cameras and robots and machines that make further robots when alerted by said security cameras. Everything you spent hours learning is abandoned. atomic heartThe open world of could be a completely different game. Filled with endlessly repairing robots and swarms of sponge-bullet enemies positioned in nearly every corner, these open-world areas are some of the worst-designed spaces I’ve come across.

The player character from Atomic Heart stares at his left hand, while an older woman looks behind him.

Image: Mundfish/Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity

In addition to playing host to numerous useful crafting materials, I’d advise, if you insist on continuing, to skip the open world entirely. The game is stingy with ammo that is best saved for hallway fights and boss battles.

After all, let me repeat: atomic heartOpen world robots respawn endlessly. I can’t understand this design choice or why it’s so antagonistic to your presence. Even FromSoftware’s games, famous for their worlds’ antagonism towards players, kill enemies semi-permanently.

But the open-world design is illustrative of the larger point: the game is trying to do everything, and therefore wins at next to nothing. bioshock It had big, beautiful spaces, but it didn’t inject that design into the game; there was no need to diversify his approach, as he stuck to one theme and played it. atomic heart, in his attempt at complexity, spins a thousand plates and drops many. If the developers had stuck more to bioshock, would have stuck to his underground installations, carefully playing with his central theme. It would have turned a sometimes enjoyable game into a memorable one.