What in tarnation is wrong with all these pineapples, and come to think of it what’s wrong with all my other fruits and various varieties of vegetables? It’s what you’ll be saying after you’re thrown into an odd ball society of mutated plants, animals, and other humans after a nuclear bomb is dropped next to your farm. Now, you have to single handedly feed civilization and fend off attacking Grubs! Snails! Worms! And Killer Bunny Rabbits! However, for as oppressive as this new post-apocalyptic farmland is, you don’t have to worry with a large roster of weapons to farm for that not only increase your actual farming potential but your combat potential, too. As well as Turrets! Carrot Turrets! and Scarecrows! to help you defend your farm. You can also come across a roster of farm animals which are just adorable by the way, providing utility the aforementioned cow can water crops, pigs dig farm plots, chickens do things. So without further stalling I present to you the action roguelike that’s taken up to much of my life: Atomicrops!
Starting out in Atomicrops is very challenging the first thing to get across is: “If you don’t like micro resource management, you won’t like Atomicrops.” When I look online, this is a common problem people have with the game. What resource management specifically? I am referring to the three to four potential resources you’ll manage when growing your plants: seeds, water, fertilizer, and scrolls. So let’s start from the seed, at the start of each run you start with a basket of random lower tier seeds. When you pick up the basket, the best thing to do is just run to the desert just to the left. The desert is one of four different biomes branching from your main little island and we will get into these later on. Once there, you’ll come across camps of enemies that when cleared of the key enemies associated with that camp, you are given upgrades based on the camp type, so let’s briefly talk about the upgrades because they do change how the core game loop is experienced.
The upgrades in Atomicrops are handled very plainly I would say but do come with some minor spice, you have your standard upgrades like “Improve X stat” but what makes it different with Atomicrops is you have to choose to either upgrade yourself and fighting ability or improve your economy through your farm. Upgrading your farm includes liberating various farm animals, as well as deploying turrets scarecrows to defend your farm or provide utility. So you clear some camp, and get a notification that you must defend your farm of the terror’s of the night. Sprint your way back to your farm to find it covered in weeds! You get to have the joy of cleaning up your weeds and as night time finally falls as you till your soil, suddenly you are under attack by a flock of rabbits and grubs trying to destroy your crops! This is where the micro discussed previously you have to dodge bullets, plant crops in specific patterns, and manage resources you’ve accumulated so far. It’s a lot to take in.
How do I play this game?
The act of playing Atomicrops is a beautiful balance of bounding brilliance on display, cramming so much into such a small package. Simply playing Atomicrops is rewarding an experience I cannot convey easily without having someone experience it. So let’s take it one step at a time: the most important thing to know when playing is your crop formation as it directly effects your economy, if you have a bad economy you’re going to have a bad time. Plant every plant you can do so in a 2×2 formation, and giving the plant fertilizer will grow it to a super crop giving you more money when harvested; however, it takes longer and more water to grow. So to put it in Starcraft terms, double hatchery before pool as Zerg in a ZvZ. How many people will get that one I wonder. Anyway, after you defend your farm you’re taken back to town and if you’ve farmed enough you can perhaps buy a gun, more seeds, scrolls, or perhaps you grew enough roses to tempt someone into marriage to exploit them for labor!
All jokes aside the way you play this game is actually really thought out. Even on a controller all of this micro feels better and easier than on a keyboard and mouse setup. To the point I don’t even know the controls on keyboard and mouse! I think I’ve rambled on about how complex but rewarding the game is to learn and play shall we move on to the biomes and world of Atomicrops.
Better biomes than Minecraft.
Each biome in Atomicrops presents a slightly different challenge most apparent are the bullet and enemy patterns these combined with a splendid grim and expressionist vibe enemy and world design. With the same camp layouts present in every biome the difference in enemy and bullet placement and pattern are essential to keep these areas feeling individualized from one another while still providing great skill expression. The year system as well ads to this with every year being a completed run up to year 10 the difficulty scaling this provides is basically how many bullets and projectiles are on screen at one time. Which is a fine method to use, I would just add more than just bullet patterns in terms of difficulty.
The biomes also hold various upgrade ants which are your persistent progression paths that upgrade your farming ability, combat ability, and various other things like the starting gun and other bonuses such as extra fertilizer when starting a run etc.
The downsides to this game…
One major downfall I believe Atomicrops has it holding itself back is its ease of access and skill gap. While this makes skill expression apparent and the game overall challenging for players who like that style of gameplay, the farming and simulation aspects of the game are largely marketed as a more casual game genre, throwing a bullet hell on top of that will sway more casual players away from the game in my opinion. What would I add to the game that would maybe address this issue would be a kind of blank from Enter The Gungeon, and their is a upgrade you can find for this in Atomicrops but its pretty rare in my experience.
The blank in Atomicrops would function like any other plant being able to be grown and harvested but also defended. You start with a single seed which when harvested just deletes bullets on the screen. These would be rare, only bought in the shop past the one you started with, and I think it would just add a get a of jail option for players feeling overload when there’s legions of killer bunnies and grubs after you and your plants, as well as doing all the micro as before.
Is it worth your money though?
All in all I think Atomicrops is a great game with a high learning curve that could send mixed messages to players looking to pickup the game on steam at $14.99 USD if they want a more typical ‘farm’ experience. That aside, overall, the mechanics are splendid and controls are amazing once you get the hang of them, he world design is playful and uncanny and is very inspiring, and I really would highly recommend Atomicrops if you like action roguelikes, or just a new challenge if your already bored with mainstream games like I am.