The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing, Xander77

Part 1: A Land of Bandits and Incoherence

A Land of Bandits and Incoherence

Welcome! Today on ATOM, we make our character.

A bureaucratic mistake by unnamed Soviet commissars has tragically left our hero's name recorded as "Bear Bearovitch", with a T. If enough goons object we can petition the Politburo.

More importantly, we have stats to allocate! A 10 in Dexterity is mandatory for every character because that determines action points, and the more AP we have the more we can make people taste our Cossack steel.

Which we won't be getting for a LONG time, mind you.

Luck gets dumped immediately. The build we're going for doesn't need luck, and you'll see why in a bit.

We end up with these stats for now, and I will end up lowering our intelligence to raise our strength so we can use high end automatic weapons (as backup) and because I'm not sure if that raises our sword damage or not.

Now we have two "distinctions" to pick. These are only available at the beginning of the game, and right away we can see the game is an unbalanced shitshow of poorly thought out mechanics. Here are our choices:

Black Belt: You were a martial arts enthusiast from an early age, but never liked firearms. +1 Endurance, +15 Martial Arts, +15 melee weapons, +5 to Dodge. -20 Pistols and SMG, --20 Rifles and Shotguns, -20 Automatic Firearms. Not great - there are several +2 Endurance distinctions and you can level up for more skill points or buy them with money. Dodge is also worthless. Next!

Cannibal: For reasons unknown, you have cannibalistic tendencies, and there is absolutely nothing okay about that. You can harvest meat from slain humans, +15 Survival, -2 Personality. Absolute trash. Meat is everywhere because you have to fight and kill the local wildlife, you can buy survival points with money, and you'll never get back those 2 points of Personality without extremely rare items better used elsewhere. Hilariously you can get temporary boosts from Perfume, so I guess if you want to be a crazy cannibal who smells like Axe Body Spray I can't stop you.

Sex Appeal: You are drop-dead, crazy gorgeous! The opposite sex has the yayas for you, but your own gender tends to be hostile. +2 Personality and +15 Barter with the opposite gender, -2 Personality and -15 Barter with your own gender. I see this get recommended for lady PCs all the time so you can drop personality to 4, but eh.

Child Prodigy: You were always way ahead of your peers as a child, but now you struggle to learn new things. +1 Intellect, +1 Personality, +1 Attention. -50% XP gain. You could probably make this work based on your tolerance for grinding bandits out in the wilderness, and everything scales to your level. Eh.

Anabolics Fan: You used weird chems to enhance your muscle growth, and it shows. +2 strength, +20 kg carry weight, -1 Intellect -6 Dodge, -5 radiation and toxic resistance. You might think this would be great for us, but that "melee damage" stat is just unarmed damage. That said, strength does give us more hit points, which is great for our endgame battle strategy of tanking damage in combat armor, then chugging ALL OF THE DRUGS to heal to full.

Technophobe: You never liked crafting or technology. Why go to the fuss of using a tractor when a shovel will do the same job?[ +1 strength, +1 endurance, -30 technology, -30 tinkering, no starting craft recipes This actually rules and you're smart to take it. Technology is a thoroughly useless skill (the one time you want it to be useful the game mocks you for trying) and the crafting system is a literal joke on the player.

Diplomat: You're a fearless public speaker and always prefer a peaceful solution. This is reflected in your terrible fighting skills. +3 Personality, +20 Speechcraft, -1 Strength, -3 Sequence, -10 to all combat skills. You could probably make this work, -10 isn't that much and you'd get a huge Personality bonus. Wiki seems to think you can use this to talk your way out of ongoing combats? Never tried this one.

Ascetic: You don't need to carry a bunch of junk around with you when you know how to survive. It takes twice as long to get hungry, +10 to survival, -1 Strength, -7 to carry weight. Absolutely worthless benefit, hunger is never an issue.

Slick Dealer: Money rules the world, and you'd make a bargain with the Devil himself if it meant turning a profit. +1 Personality, +1 Attention, +10 Barter, +10 Speechcraft, -5 Sequence, -1 Strength, -10 Carry Weight. Eh. You will never want for money in this game.

Savage Hunter: You love to lose yourself in the hunt, so much that you never got into the habit of bathing or shaving regularly. +35% damage to animals, you can skin animals without a knife. -2 Personality, -15 Carry Weight. Ignoring the fact that killing animals to presumably carry them around for food and furs and whatnot somehow makes you carry less, this perk sucks because animals are a complete nonthreat. If it was extra damage against people carrying firearms, you would want it, but as it you're a moron.

Morphine Doctor: You're a drug addicted intellectual. +1 Intellect, +10 First Aid. +50% Addiction Chance. Addiction is a complete nonthreat, and the first aid is not as useful as you'd think. It just increases the amount of healing you get from drugs, but due to the way combat works, you spend 4 AP to open the inventory and then you can shoot up as much as you want. In the end, it's a free +1 intellect and thus perfect for our friend Bear here.

Hobby Engineer: You always loved to tinker! Sadly, spending so much time on this hobby in poorly lit rooms was bad for your eyesight. You start off with basic crafting recipes, +20 Tinkering and Technology. -1 Attention, -1 Personality. It's shit. Don't trade characteristic points for skill points, you can get tons more skill points but very few characteristic points.

Glutton: The pangs of hunger hit you harder than your skinnier brethren, but your huge paunch offers additional proctection from danger. +2 Endurance. Hunger hits you twice as fast. This is basically +2 Endurance for free, and was on my practice run character.

Circus Education: An old carnie tutored you in his nefarious craft. +1 Dexterity, +10 Sneak, +3 Dodge, +10 Lock Picking and Pickpocket. -20 kg carry weight, -7 sequence. Sequence is initiative, which usually translates to "I can hit the bad man with my sword" vs "they shot me with a machine gun". There are worse choices I guess?

Cursed Sniper: An old gypsy cursed you for shooting her pet crow! +2 Attention, +10% to aimed shot chance. -2 Luck, -7 sequence, -10% to ordinary shot chance. I think occasionally rifle builds use this?

Lone Wolf: You're much happier on your own. A bunch of chatty sidekicks are nothing but a burden. (When alone) +2 Attention, +5 sequence, +10 kilos to carry weight. (When accompanied) -2 Attention, -20 Survival, -7 sequence. Mechanically, companions suck for reasons we'll get into, so solo runs are absolutely the way to play this game. We will be ignoring this for the LP because I suspect you all want to see the companions. We can't get them all together in one run, but I'll show off who I can.

Shooting Gallery Fan: You used to spend all your spare time at the shooting gallery, where you tried out all sorts of weapons. This, however, was at the expense of any kind of physical training. +15 to gun-related skills, +5 sequence, -15 to Martial Arts, -15 to Melee Weapons, -1 Endurance. The game heavily incentivizes you to pick one gun skill, so this distinction is yet another trap in the pile.

Lucky One: You've always breezed through life without even trying. This has its downside. +3 Luck, +2 Personality, +15 Speechcraft. -1 Endurance, -10 all skills except Speechcraft and Gambling. Maybe? I think Luck affects crit chance, but we are going to be picking up an automatic critical skill later in the game, so we're ditching this.

Leader: You've always been a natural leader. Too bad people need so much leading. (For every follower, you get:) +7 Speechcraft, +5 First Aid, +5 Barter, -1 Attention, -1 Dexterity. (Followers get:) +1 Dexterity, +1 Endurance. You want me to hand off my action points followers, who are under AI Control? FUUUUUCK right off!

Unlucky Optimist: You're unlucky most of the time, but when Lady Luck does take a shine to you, it's blinding! Critical hit damage up, +2 Endurance, -5 critical chance, -1 Luck. This perk fucking rules mostly because of the critical damage. Our luck can't go below one, so we get a nice dump stat, and we legitimately do not care about the critical chance penalty because we will study the blade and get automatic critical hits.

So the end result is below.

Mr. Bearovitch is a fiendishly fast yet unlucky Russian man who can take a beating, is fairly strong, and is trained in the ways of the sword and stealth. Let's get this game started! I'm playing on Normal difficulty, that's bad enough.

Um. What? The first time I played, I legitimately thought this was a Christmas tree, but only now when the screenshot is paused do I see the demons on the side.

I won't lie, the trees really make it look like a Christmas decoration. Also, I have the UI size turned up to 2.25, which I will realize is a horrible mistake and correct later.


: [You see nothing unusual. You're in the barracks for agents about to be deployed on field work. A man is standing near you. He looks worried.]

Lenin is our unofficial narrator for this LP, folks. As the ATOM Team freely drafted celebrities, this lets me draft Lenin. On a more serious note, I can't come up with another person who embodies the USSR nearly as well - when you preserve a guy to found a cult and study his "scientific brain" and slap his posters everywhere after he founds your government, he's gonna be known for the Soviet Union. Lenin was admittedly a pretty smart guy.

: That's the idea. Who are you again?

: What is my mission, though?

: Uhh... Where am I? Can't tell... Guess I overslept.

Ha ha.

: Okay. So what should we do now?

: I'll eat later. Let's head straight to the briefing.

I'm skipping the fighting tutorial for being uninteresting.

: Fine. Let me get something to eat first, though.

So we have a reference to a Seinfield episode that aired in...1995? In a game that came out in 2017?

: [Get a hold of your faculties.]

Any inventory tutorial occurs that I skip.

: This is a test of some kind, right?

: You're a weird fella, aren't you? Hold on. I'll see if I can find it.

We're given a tutorial on how to use items. Notably, the key (which is on the table under the window) needs to be equipped in a weapon slot for some fucking reason.


The reason I wanted to show this off is because ATOM has a fully functional army base, with at least one tank (offscreen, but on the map) and troop carrier trucks. Now we can finish the tutorial.

: It's not my first time. I'll cope. [Finish the tutorial.]

: That's what you all say. But if that's how you feel, I'll just follow you to the briefing.

: [Listen to the briefing and venture forth towards your destiny!]

Cutscene time!

A movie camera!


I have no idea what this says.

I honestly like this game's video segments.

As much as I'm tempted to quote Yeltsin in the supermarket, the USSR was probably better than living in the aftermath of a nuclear war.

My guess is that this is old Soviet propaganda footage, but I don't honestly know.

We'll be hearing this name on and off again in the future. This game's pacing leaves something to be desired.

The good general himself. A quick google indicates that there was a real General Morozov in the Red Army, who wrote a bunch of memoirs in World War II. Farewell, wallet, hello, Amazon bill.

It's tempting to point and laugh, but this is one of many hints that ATOM is not competently run. This will be a plot point.

This guy's a companion, who I ended up ditching after the Jay from Redlettermedia fight. What? That's in the game!

We're going to be doing a LOT of heroics regardless.

: The Wastes are a dangerous place.

Our protagonist throws the dossier onto the fire.

And we cut to an in-engine cutscene. I want you all to notice the AK-47 sitting by that log.

: Wait a second... What's that rustling sound?

So, yes, the protagonist of ATOM is a goddamn idiot who left all of his weapons out of easy reach in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the opening narration will not shut up about the struggle to survive.

Oh boy!

: Well, well, well. What do we have here? Hope I'm not bothering you, comrade.

So, yes, here's my problem with the scene: we're getting attacked by a pack of jackasses with brass knuckles and crowbars and shit, and we have a goddamn AK-47. I didn't play a lot of New Vegas, but the opening is similar - except that the Courier is shot by a gang of gunmen led by a distinctive asshole, not...well, watch this.

: You look like a tourist, man. Nice tent, clean clothes without holes or tears... and so much other stuff!

: [The man whistles at all your equipment.]

: It must be difficult carrying such a load of stuff around.

: [The stranger's face breaks into an enormous smile.]

: You know, me and my pals could help you... Well, not for free of course, but for a very reasonable price. What say you?


: Easy there, man. Maybe you missed it in the dark, but I'm not the sort to be stopped by some brass knuckles.

This sounds like some kind of opportunity for a trained Soviet soldier to maybe grab the AK, but what do I know?

Anyway. This fight. You can't win this fight. You used to be able to make a character build that crippled yourself personalitywise but let you grab the bag and gun and mow down the bandits, but according to the wiki, the devs patched that out. Of course, if you aren't strong enough the game has an undocumented feature where Cutscene Dipshit automagically wins initiative and one-shots you.

I miss the screenshot, but the bag is full of stuff including a Soviet combat knife that would serve us well until we got the sword. Unfortunately, grabbing the bag leaves us at three action points. I do have to acknowledge, even if you make it to turn 2 with the gun you still have to load the damn thing, because, again, our protagonist is an idiot.

We get the shit beat out of us by the bandits. The lying down animation is how the game handles being stunned, so the bandits beat us down to 16 hp and fade to black, running off with all our stuff. Note that 16 hp is a little less than half our starting health, but the developers are determined to show what an idiot the player character is.

Except the tent the bandit leader explicitly said he thought was nice.

Goddammit, ATOM.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: You are having a SPOOOOKY dream! There are a bunch of lights and evergreens, that almost indicate a Christmas tree, but there are also easily missable demons off to the side! Suddenly you are attacked by the black smoke monster from LOST! WoOoOoOoOoO!

: AAAAH! What the fuck kind of mishmash of incoherent imagery is this?

: Hey, it's me, Alf, I might or might not be some kind of a reference. Want a tutorial?

: Eh...sure....

: Now have a Soup Nazi reference! You like references you little bitch?

: You know what, let's just start the game.

: It's time for another tonal shift! We started with bizarre cosmic horror, then shifted to funny references, and now I will patriotically invoke the glory of the Motherland and ask you to go on an expedition to find the lost General Morozov! He was looking for Bunker 317, which had pre-war technology we could use to rebuild civilization. Go to the town of Otradnoye, but also look for our agent Fidel in Krasnoznamenny. No heroics! The wasteland is dangerous!

: I am a goddamn fucking moron and will adventure around irresponsibly leaving my AK-47 out of reach.


: Hello, I will soliloquy for three hours before leading my gang of men armed with improvised melee weaponry to attack you. See my brass knuckles? I'm super dangerous!


: Uh...shit...get him, men!

: Ha ha! This is a cutscene! We are beating and robbing you now!

: :(

So we've started this game with a bizarre tonal whiplash. We start with what is supposed to be some kind of horror but reads as farce with dancing demons, evil stars, and evergreens, then we transition into Alf and his land of kooky humor, then we have a patriotic briefing to restore the Soviet motherland, and then we are beaten within an inch of our life after the game jokes about us being an oblivious idiot. Parts of it almost work, like the briefing telling us to be careful contrasted with the sheer idiocy our protagonist displays, but the end result is just this weird whiplash where I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take the horror plot seriously the game...kind of tries to later? I'm honestly not sure if the takeaway from the ambush is supposed to be that the Wasteland is dangerous or that the protagonist is a complete idiot. Oh well!

Next time: One drug-loving man's quest to brick every rat in the Unity Asset Store.