Farming simulators and roguelites don’t have all that much in common. Farming sims allow players to move at their own pace and usually provide for a more peaceful gaming experience. It’s this laid-back attitude that has helped the genre grow a dedicated audience. On the other hand, the roguelite is extremely intense. Often challenging players with difficult enemies and harsh consequences for failure, roguelites appeal to those looking for something intense. The team at Bird Bath games had the cooky idea to combine these two genres in Atomicrops and somehow, it works.
Atomicrops takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a nuclear event has reduced much of the earth to wasteland, and mutated many of the planet’s creatures. After inheriting your uncle's farmland, players are tasked with rebuilding the farm, while defending it from pesky monsters. This is how Bird Bath marries both farming sim mechanics with roguelite gameplay.
In its marketing, Atomicrops encourages players to “Farm. Marry. Kill.” This greatly sums up what the core gameplay experience is in Atomicrops. Farming is the base mechanic of the game. Growing mutant crops is the only way to make money in the game, which is needed to get better weapons and expand into new environments.
I really liked the farming aspect of Atomicrops. As a fan of games like Stardew Valley, I dug the gameplay loop of planting crops, tending to them, and selling the finished product to earn money and buy better crops. However, in the early game you’re fairly limited on crop variety. I also felt like I didn’t have enough time to properly map out my farm and tend to my crops before I was forced to defend it from attacking monsters. This issue goes away as you get more resources and recruit others to help defend your farm.
Luckily, Atomicrops doesn’t make you fight alone. You can flirt with NPC characters from the local town, and eventually marry them. Once married, the NPC character will help hold things down at the farm, helping you to kill the mutants that are hell-bent on getting to your precious crops. The characters that are romanceable have different traits and abilities that come in handy during battle. Borage, for example, will provide you extra fertilizer and tend to your farm while you’re out fighting.
I appreciated the integration of this mechanic. So many simulators allow you to romance NPC’s, only for them to stand in a corner like some sort of trophy. Marriage in Atomicrops actually plays into player strategy in a meaningful way.
Marriage isn’t the only aspect of Atomicrops that eases the stress of managing a farm. Players can also acquire different vehicles and equipment to help them work efficiently. The different tractors allow quicker methods of watering crops, gathering seeds, and creating fertilizer. In addition to this, farm animals can be found out in the wild and brought back to the farm. The different animals have their own benefits and serve different purposes. Cows will water your crops while chickens pull wheat and lay eggs containing money. This is all meant to ease the stress of running a full-fledged farm, so the player can spend some time focusing on the evil creatures in the wild.
At its heart, Atomicrops is still a roguelite through and through. There is a wide assortment of hungry monsters looking to grab a bite at your crops. To protect what’s rightfully yours, players must take the fight to the enemies. Some will dig underground and pop out, others will charge you with blasters in hand. You can modify and upgrade weapons to be better equipped for opponents.
Players will have to venture out into the wild in order to find new seeds to plant at their farm. This means expanding into different environments and walking into the homes of some ferocious creatures. The foes in Atomicrops are tough, and I lost plenty of fights after being completely overwhelmed by monsters.
Ruling with a green thumb
Atomicrops is an unlikely meeting of two genres. Set to the backdrop of a post-nuclear apocalypse, Bird Bath Games finds a way to adequately weave together two styles of gameplay that typically shouldn’t work together. Although there are moments where the two primary modes of play feel like they’re stepping on each others’ toes, those moments are few and far between. Bird Bath’s Atomicrops is an excellent addition to PC and home console indie catalogues.
This review is based on a digital Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Atomicrops is available now on the Epic Games Store, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch for $14.99.
- Great combination of two genres
- Farming loop is fun and rewarding
- Challenging enemies and risky environments
- Marriage mechanic is new and original
- Some minor balancing issues early in the game