Title: Neo ATLAS 1469
Developer: Studio Artdink
Publisher: Arc System Works
Genre: Adventure, Simulation, Other
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 3
Release Date: 19/04/18
Price: £37.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
It is 15th century Europe, at the height of age of discovery. Back when the very shape of the world was still unclear, and believed to be flat. Searching for what lies at the ends of the Earth, collecting information about the world, creating their very own world map – but only the finest Admirals may take off on these adventures. You are a trader who charters a boat to take on the massive venture of creating a world map.
Are you ready to reveal the true shape of the world?
You listen to the reports of Admirals returned from their explorations and use them as a basis for creating a map. The reports from these Admirals range vastly, from the authentic to somewhat dubious tales of monsters. Thus, depending on what you approve or disapprove, the shape of the world can change greatly.
Perhaps the continents we know now will not exist, while Atlantis and Mu take their place on the map. The only finished map of the world will be a ‘subjective world’ that reflects your values, and one where only that which is approved by you becomes the truth.
Portugal’s Empire of International Colonial trade starts from Lisbon with you at the helm to lead your admirals and trading fleets to profit. Set in the year 1469 (obviously), Neo Atlas…1469, opens with the loss of one of your Admirals to a group of marauding pirates. Through a series of cut scenes and text-based dialogue, you manage to recruit a new Admiral and set out to find your lost Admiral plus a horde of gold and new landmarks.
Based on an older title (of the same name), Neo Atlas (NA) uses a world map in which the player explores and shapes how the world will look. Alongside this, the player sets up new trade routes between cities and can help establish some of the empires and countries of the world. Developed by Japanese game developer Artdink and published by Arc System Works, NA is tagged as a simulation game with a heavy focus on trade. Available on PC and Switch, Neo Atlas is a game that had some genuinely great moments but unfortunately, in my opinion for this type of game, these moments were few and far between.
Audio & Visual
When considering the visuals in NA, Artdink uses a world map that the player can zoom into and explore. The game starts with a view of Europe and expands through the fog of war as players progress through the game’s story. Upon loading the game, the menu and UI seemed somewhat dated for a recently released game (April ’18), and the truly terrifying (and rather unnecessary) cupids drew my eye to the poor textures. As the game is mostly the player’s interactions with a map, I feel like a little more could have been done to address the poor textures of the sea and land, but some of the icons and objects were a tad more polished.
Generally, once you get stuck in, the graphics quality doesn’t distract from the game’s features although to most they will continue to glare out as you establish trade routes and watch the world start to take shape. In addition to this, the developers of the game are based in Japan, and therefore the art style reflects this, particularly in character interactions, and again, depending on your taste, this is not for everyone.
The audio of NA is from a blend of different cultures, and I enjoyed the idea that in each new part of the world, you discover a new song appears for you to listen too. Unfortunately, the songs are found in treasure chests around the map, and you can only hear more of the soundtrack through exploration. I had no issue with this, but it can make the player feel like music is a ‘reward’, and it can be disappointing to find a part of the soundtrack instead of a landmark or something more valuable. About sound effects and dialogue, the developers utilise a text-based dialogue that fits well with the style of the game, and the sound effects were also fine except perhaps the characters constant laughing and cheering, which gets tiring pretty quickly.
Gameplay & Replayability
Neo Atlas is marked out as a simulation game based around trade and building a trading empire across the globe. The controls are essentially scrolling and clicking, and many of the features are pointed out throughout the game’s opening tutorials. The tutorial, unfortunately, takes around an hour to get through, and there is no opportunity to skip past the walls of dialogue you’ll encounter. On top of this, around about the hour and a half mark, I was given the option to access the main menu, which unbeknownst to me, meant you could not quit or save the game until you had reached this point. It is these tutorials and unlockable menus interspersed with inescapable character dialogue that drew me away from some of the more positive aspects of the game.
In regards to the simulation genre, unfortunately, NA is not a strong game for trade simulation. The trade routes are just clicking on two cities and sending a boat between them, and as long as the route makes a profit, then your empire will succeed economically. I would have said that NA falls more squarely into a point and click or a visual novel rather than simulation and this disparity will likely confuse some players who brought this title hoping to find something similar to indie game Trade Empires or even something in the vein of Sid Meier’s Pirates.
That being said, the exploration element of the game is by far the strongest area and kept me playing to discover new land and see how the world finally formed on my map. Rumours and hints from the admirals was a great way to encourage the player to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each of their admirals before fully trusting their exploration reports. Monsters and strange lands popped up more often as I accepted every report my admirals gave me, but I found the map taking on a truly alien appearance. This was a real strength in the game as it invests the player into the story and makes each play through more unique and exciting.
Although I enjoyed the exploration within NA, for me, the replayability is in the world map and how it forms throughout the game as each playthrough would have different scenarios and lead to different reports. However, the often pointless dialogue and the lack of a real trading simulator means this is a game that many will find challenging to progress through and therefore its replayability is very limiting except for real die-hard fans of the title.
In conclusion, Neo Atlas is a game that I found challenging to continue playing. Its area of strength is not as developed as it could be and is not enough, in my opinion, to keep players entertained. Include all the other issues, overwhelming dialogue, annoying narrator and shallow trade system. Neo Atlas does little to make me want to dive back in and start anew. I believe this game does have a market with casual gamers who enjoy visual novels from Japanese developers, but as it stands, there is not much of Neo Atlas 1469 that I can recommend.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Neo ATLAS 1469 on the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Neo-ATLAS-1469-1364459.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.