Preview: Atomicrops – The Last of Us Farmers

I didn’t really know much about Atomicrops before I got the chance to sit down with the game’s creator and have a play around with the game. It had managed to pass me by, despite my occupation. Hey, it happens. But it’s alright now, I know all about the game and I’ve sat down and played a good half an hour of it. You know what else? I bloody love it!

Atomicrops is Stardew Valley on coke. Which kind of coke is something I’ll leave for you to decide once it releases. What I can tell you is that it’s a damn fun game that deserves a bit more attention than it’s currently getting.

I sat down with the game’s creator at a fancy downtown hotel in Los Angeles during E3 2019. Danny Wynne, who was just full of beans, couldn’t wait to start telling me about the game. Honestly, I was impressed just by his enthusiasm. He must have gone through the whole routine at least a dozen times already by this point, but you wouldn’t have known it. While I was sat there trying my best to keep it together, but struggling due to the amount of alcohol that had been pushed my way and California’s relaxed recreational weed laws, Danny was practically jumping in his seat with all the enthusiasm of a toddler on Smarties. His enthusiasm was infectious, mind you, and I was soon hanging off his every word as I tried out his weird and wonderful little game.

Once the controller was passed over to me, it was time to see what Atomicrops was all about. I gave the joystick a little wiggle to get myself accustomed to moving my character around on the screen. I don’t know why, it’s just something I always do when playing a new game. Within a few moments I was roaming around my very own farm, though it didn’t look very farmy at this point. Danny explained that I needed to plant some seeds and get them cultivated, but I also had to go and find those seeds. Oh, and that to get seeds you need to fight off enemies. Whut?

Atomicrops takes place after the earth has been ravaged by nuclear disaster. Your farm is the last one on Earth, and you must defend it against the evil monsters that have come about in the aftermath. It’s silly, but it explains the game’s name.

On first glance Atomicrops¬†seems a little bit like the hit indie life-sim Stardew Valley. I asked Danny if that was an inspiration and he said yes, unashamedly so. He explained that he’d played Stardew Valley and enjoyed it, and that one of his favourite aspects of that game was going to the caves and fighting the baddies found within, but he wished there was more of that in the general day-to-day gameplay, so he decided to make his own game in the way that he wanted it. Fair enough. This is a man with ambition. He doesn’t write in to the TV show to tell them how to do it better, he goes ahead and recreates Game of Thrones in his back yard with a few mates.

Honestly, I was rubbish at the game. Maybe it was the nerves, or the loud noises, or the heat, or the sofa being a couple of inches lower than I would have liked it. Danny, ever the nice chap, was constantly reaching over to the laptop’s keyboard to respawn me. He was also too kind to say that I was total shit, but he did reassure me that others had done far worse than I had. That made me feel better, somewhat, until I died again while he told me this.

So I’d gone on something of a rampage, shooting up evil bunnies and the like, and I’d gotten my seeds. It was time to plant them and reap the rewards. Except it wasn’t. You need to water your crops and then fertilise them, and then at the end of the day you’ll harvest your goodies and take them down to the village market to sell them. This is how you earn some valuable coins which can be spent on upgrades, such as more powerful weapons and other oddities to help keep your farm producing the goods.

You can also recruit a wife to help you out. I’m not kidding. You collect roses and then hand them to the lady of your choosing down at the village. Once you’ve swooned her enough you’ll be able to get married. Once that ring is on her finger, she’s your fellow farmer and combatant. Til’ death do us part, right. I had it easy during my half an hour of playing as Danny tapped on the keyboard and magically gave me a wife without having to go through the full effort. If only he could work his magic here in the real world…

Farming is an essential part of Atomicrops. It’s not an optional side activity that can be ignored, but is the core that makes up the gameplay. You need to keep your farm going by collecting new seeds to plant. You do this by exploring the game’s map which is split into several different areas, each containing their own bounties as well as monsters and even some perks. Some are best left alone until you’ve gotten yourself a specific weapon upgrade, whereas others are doable from the start. Challenging, mind you, but doable.

The combat is fast and furious, taking on the controls similar to twin-stick shooters. Accuracy is a virtue, and one that I’m not blessed with. Once I got the shotgun, however, I was roaring and only dying every five minutes instead of every three. That’s improvement.

Something I noted early on in my sit down was that the game’s graphics looked a little familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it but Danny was all too happy to tell me that he had Joonas Turner doing the game’s graphics. If that name means nothing to you, he’s one of the guys who made the dastardly difficult Nidhogg.

I had a great time playing Atomicrops but I was disappointed to learn that the game wouldn’t be coming out until 2020 on consoles, though it’ll be releasing sometime this year on PC. I hate to say it here on Pure PlayStation, but I think I might have to bite the bullet and get this one on PC.

It’s a devilishly addictive little game. It’s very fast-paced and the moment-to-moment gameplay is a joy. Difficult, sure, but fun all the same. And there’s something about seeing how many crops you can get at the end of the day in exchange for some sweet, sweet coin that just appeals to me. It was never that easy back on the farm growing up…

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