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Ah, the blissful American countryside! The soulful life of a farmer away from the mundane hubbub of the city and its intoxicating pollution where everyone is embroiled in a never-ending rat-race. Life out there on the farmland is utter bliss if you’re willing to see it, because you get first-hand experience of the pristine nature without too much human intervention. You get to till the soil while breathing in fresh air, you get to water the patches from cool streams and you get to farm mutated crops on the last farmland on earth located in the heart of a radioactive wasteland (wait, what?)

Presenting; Atomicrops.

Story & Setting

“Oh, what a day, what a lovely day!” These are the exact thoughts that cross your mind as you arrive to take ownership of your dead uncle’s farm, as mentioned in his will, and are greeted by its battered caretaker (who appears as if he might replace Scarecrow in The Batman). You instantly forget that you’re holding your uncle’s ashes and run amok across the farm examining all that there is until you discover a bomb shelter hatch on the ground. Curious, you head inside and beckon the caretaker to follow suit to which he denies saying that it’s useless since nothing bad has ever happened in the countryside.

This is literally seconds before a nuke goes off turning everything into a smoky, radioactive byproduct straight out of a Fallout game. Coming out of the bomb shelter, you realize that you now occupy the last farm on the earth and your job is to keep harvesting crops in order to ensure a bountiful supply of food to the local town lest the few remaining survivors die of blatant malnutrition. So pick up that pail of water, gather those ultra-GMO seeds and start hoeing, for, you now need to sustain mankind itself… and earn a great deal of profit while doing that.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Atomicrops is a farming simulator at its core – reminiscent of Stardew Valley, albeit post-apocalyptic. But there’s a catch – it’s also a roguelike bullet hell shoot’em-up where you scour the adjacent badlands for resources battling against rabid animals and raiding their camps while staving off the mutated pests from feasting on your crops at the same time (sorry Stardew Valley fans if rummaging through bushes and bantering with neighbours was your kick).

Since the start of the game, you’ve got only a limited supply of seeds which you need to plant on a tad small patch of soil that can be expanded later by collecting pickaxes. After the sprouts appear you’ve to water them for quite some time and this is where you’ll feel the action kicking in a bit. Atomicrops allows you to water your crops from afar (though not much far) which means you’re free to move around the patch shooting up the annoying fireball-spitting moles that burrow through the soil and pop-up like Digletts. On the bright side, some enemies in Atomicrops drop goodies including, but not limited to, fertilizers, which you can use to nourish your crops. Then what? Harvest season! But you’ve to do all this while still under fire from the mutants.

That done, you’re free to explore beyond the boundaries of your farm into hostile realms, foraging for additional seeds, antique gardening tools which give you special abilities and advanced farming equipment to increase your farming prowess; this is where the real heat of the battle begins. Enemies are cute-looking, ranging from frolicking pink bunnies to the happy-faced Taurus, but once you’re in their sights, they stop at nothing to stop you, storming you from all sides following no strict pattern of approach even though their attacks are in the form of strict avoidable patterns. Couple that with an overwhelming number of enemies and Atomicrops instantly transforms into a bullet-hell gore-fest where you need to be as quick on the cursor keys and mouse button as a seasoned DoTA player because one misstep can be the difference between life and death. And remember, you have limited lives because a Health Bar is for pansies.

There’s a time-progression mechanism in Atomicrops where the daylight lasts for a minute before dusk and ultimately nightfall. And this is where the game goes full Plants vs Zombies as it sends waves of hungry baddies to feast on your immensely exposed bubbly, three-eyes dancing potatoes if you’ve not harvested them yet. So if you’re away from your farm while the slugs come out of the woodwork to munch down on your GMOs, you better get those legs moving, even if it means abandoning your impromptu quest for additional loot because those crops, no matter how bizarre they are, are the townsfolk’s bread and your butter. This puts up for some great challenge as the critters inhabiting the badlands won’t give up without a fight. Just don’t forget to pillage their camps as those are literally treasure troves, containing maps to guide you to actual treasures within their location. Do all these without sacrificing your plants, however.

What more? There’s no telling when you’ll run into a boss amidst your pillaging. However, defeating them is rewarding in itself, in addition to the ample loot you get to up your farming ante. Atomicrops won’t treat you kindly if you fail to deliver what you signed up for but will shower you with gifts if you succeed. For starters, survive three nights on the farm and the town’s mayor will congratulate you himself while a rewarding score plays in the background.

Now in order to survive and earn moolah simultaneously, you need high-end farming tech so that you can outwit the enemies before they know what you’re up to. Therefore, sell your harvests in town and purchase some better firepower or better tier seeds to get going. Atomicrops also allows you to hire pigs, chickens and cows to automate your farming procedures in addition to allowing you to impress and marry some townfolk to assist you in your farming crusade (as revealed in the trailer) by becoming your shooting partners. But for that, you need to grow and harvest roses, like always (sigh!)

Graphics, Sound and Level Design

Atomicrops has this sweet 8-bit aesthetic that if you stand idle for a second you can get a cool desktop wallpaper. Though its post-apocalyptic premise constrains it to have far less greenery than Stardew Valley, something is better than nothing, right? Since the game’s chapters are based on seasons – spring, summer, winter – you’ll notice the flora change over time adding some greenery and snow to the same barren farmland. Couple that with funky, looping soundtracks and Atomicrops cranks up the pleasure factor by a few notches. As for the level design, the areas are all wide open for you to walk and explore in all eight directions, though to access new regions you’ve to fix the bridges by purchasing required materials from the shop in town. Don’t expect any performance drops in Atomicrops as even a potato PC can help you plant those…ahem…potatoes.

Final Impression

Atomicrops has so much to see and do and is quite cheap on the Epic Store, at about ₹253, that you won’t resist purchasing. For anyone who’s a fan of bullet-hell shooters and farming sims, it is highly recommended to give Atomicrops a try. A strong start as far as Early Access games are concerned.

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