First Days of Atlantis bills itself as a card based city builder – crossing two genres that I love an awful lot. I might not be great at them but I enjoy the challenge. This is an important point I wanted to make up front as part of my beef with the game is around its difficulty curve. Full disclosure – I don’t feel like I’ve got anywhere near to its ‘end game’ but judging from the online leaderboards – barely anyone else has either. Do I need to get gud or is there a balancing issue that needs addressing? Let’s dive in…
Each game sees you start with a randomly generated map of hex tiles. From here you’ll build Atlantis, one card of resource at a time. Cards usually fall into settlements, agriculture, commerce and entertainment and each building within that category has its own attributes. These attributes determine how much gold they will generate for you every turn. For example, place down a field on fertile land, they’ll generate double their gold. Place down a mill next to three fields and it’ll generate three more gold than standard. Place a bakery next to a mill and it’ll gain a boost too. Everything interlinks and placing buildings inside the sphere of influence to boost the gold is vital for survival.
As the game progresses, you start to see chains of buildings work perfectly together. Placing arenas and theatres in the centre of houses and villas are big boons. Food production lines boost gold hugely and utilising the fertile coastlines for crops is essential. Platform tiles can be placed on water to place buildings around the edge of the coast too. One interesting trick is that you can place buildings pretty much anywhere on the map so you could in theory have multiple small towns on the go at once although I never found this to be a better strategy very often.
The game keeps going as long as you have cards to play. You gain new cards by completing side missions and crossing gold thresholds. It is here where the random nature of everything starts to cause issues and problems – for me at least. When you complete missions or gold challenges you are asked to choose from three packs of cards. The cards you need to continue with missions are often split up across multiple decks and as they are randomly chosen (with some parameter ranges it seems), I couldn’t always complete missions after the initial set up. I’d get to around 17,000 gold and find I was never given either enough harbours, houses or specific industry to continue. Only once did I ever get beyond this point by avoiding missions and focusing on choosing houses over everything else but again, the same issue stopped me progressing at the next gold challenge.
I wondered if I’d missed some hidden gameplay mechanics with First Days of Atlantis but judging by the online scoreboards, I’ve actually got further than most. The map is barely a third full. Maybe I’m expecting the game to last longer than 15 minutes each run or to have more going on but it seems strange that so many players drop off at around this point.
Putting that to one side, the core gameplay loop is actually quite fun to play. The ancient lute music reminds me of Tomb Raider I and keeps you calm as you mull over your next choices. I also enjoyed the feedback of a wave of coins sweeping your Atlantis after each card placement. It may not look the most elegant or beautiful but the gameplay is here. It just needs a bit of balancing or a more detailed tutorial for things we all may be missing!
So do I recommend First Days of Atlantis? Kind of yes. I think if you enjoy a breezy, card and resource placement game, this will keep you amused. I do think it needs some rebalancing work to be a solid title though. Tread with caution.
Review copy provided by developer.
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