Have you ever wanted to play Farmville with a Diablo 3 skin? Try WeMade Entertainment’s Heroes of Atlan. Atlan has all the trappings of an RPG, but the pesky combat has been removed.
To clarify, in-game combat still happens every other screen or so, but you have absolutely no control over any of it. At first, I thought I had to tap on the goblins in order to get my hero to kill them. Soon, I realized I didn’t have to. Whether or not a goblin or a demon or a centaur warrior dies at my hero’s hand depends entirely upon an invisible roll of the dice. All I had to do was sit there and watch my guy fight. As I realized this, I also noticed that there was a “SKIP” button at the top of the screen for every battle — except for the fights against real people in the arena (which you can pay money to skip), or the plot-related battles (which you can’t skip, ever, but here’s hoping they make a patch for that). The bulk of this game centers around your load-out screen, where you customize your armor, your potions, your “spirit” guides, and so forth.
The lack of combat would be fine by me if Atlan had the narrative weight of a Dragon Age or even if it had the enjoyability of character customization that, say, Diablo II had. But Atlan’s story is a piss-poor Diablo III knock-off; just replace “Diablo” with “Beelzebub” and make the characters repeat themselves a bit more, and you’ll have an Atlan cut-scene. Even me, a person who painstakingly read all of Diablo III’s dialogue, gave up on Atlan a few scenes in and stopped reading. I wanted to get to the game.
Yet, the “game” of Atlan is little more than a pretty slot machine, albeit one that requires you to rely on your friends (or, at least, your frenemies). Just as Farmville friends can help each other out with farming supplies, so too do you need your friends to enter the virtual world of Atlan and help you out. But Atlan also encourages you to fight against other heroes regularly, which is a particularly baffling choice in a game where the only way to “win” is to be a higher level than the other character. There’s some lee-way there in that you might technically be a lower level but have slightly better armor or gear, but if the other fighter is level 23 and you’re level 18, you’ll die for sure. The leader-board of Atlan is basically just a list of all characters in backwards order by level. This isn’t what a “hardcore” gamer would call a “skill-based” game … so why is there a leader-board at all?
I found myself wondering again and again who Atlan could possibly be for, and I’m not sure I have an answer. The game is packed with busty beauties, which seems to imply it’s for the stereotypical heter-bro-sexual “hardcore gamer”, plus it’s got all the aesthetic trappings of Diablo and Dragon’s Crown ... but there’s absolutely nothing to do in the game besides click on sparkly buttons and watch numbers get higher as a result. There isn’t an organizational or tactical component to these buttons, either; you just wait around until the buttons light up, again and again, or you can pay money to make the buttons light up even faster. This is the kind of game that, stereotypically, only a soccer mom (sigh) would be gullible enough to play … except everything on offer is as male gaze-y as it gets. I’ve got a full-breasted pirate goddess giving me an airship “for free” and then telling me I should pay money to actually do anything with it (or I could just wait around for five hours).
I do give Atlan credit for committing so hard to its bizarre blend of inspirations, and also, for making me laugh out loud at least twice – both times due to the game making a joke at its own expense about its monetization elements. I guess free-to-play has truly arrived now that a beautiful virtual babe hawking virtual gemstones can joke around with me about how awkward her transaction feels. Her jewels didn’t tempt me—but, I’m just not Atlan’s audience.
Heroes of Atlan was developed and published by WeMade Entertainment. It is available for iOS and Android.
Maddy Myers is Paste’s assistant games editor. Her work has also appeared in the Boston Phoenix, Kill Screen and at the Border House. She also blogs at her personal website Metroidpolitan and tweets @samusclone.