Atomicrops piqued my interest back when it entered early access in September 2019. The 2D top-down art style reminded me of some of my favorite shooters of the 16-bit era, like Total Carnage and Super Smash TV. These types of games featured relentless enemy waves while offering weapon buffs and character perks to aid in your survivability. Atomicrops draws inspiration from those games in areas like gunplay and visual presentation. However, where Atomicrops separates itself is in the depth it tees up even in its early stages.
The Farmers Almanac
On the surface, Atomicrops is a top-down shooter rogue-lite where you have to defend your crops from enemy waves. Each day, you’ll embark on your journey to the farm in an attempt to yield the best crops possible. A timer will start ticking at the start of your day, counting down the seconds until nightfall. This is when attack rabbits with cannons and swarms of flies will make every effort to destroy what you’ve built. When sunrise rolls around, all enemies will disappear, leaving you to salvage anything left before you’re whisked back to the village. That’s where you’ll exchange your daily grow for Cashews, allowing you to buy upgraded weapons, seeds, and other tools. Things like pickaxes help cultivate new land to plant on while bridge repair kits help you reach new lands to unlock and explore.
The overall goal is to construct a plot of land that you’ll be able to grow and fertilize and then take your bushels of corn, mega-size potato, or peas to the Mayor in exchange for new tools or perks. The better your crop yield, the more Cashews and items you’ll obtain at the end of a season. As you start to venture out beyond the farm, you’ll discover new perks, seeds, and abilities as well. As enemies become more relentless and complex, so does the gameplay. This depth continues to expand alongside your growing skill set.
Cash, crops, and enemy drops
During the early stages of Atomicrops, it’s fairly easy to get caught up in trying to fight for your land without making any real progress. You get so caught up in trying to survive each day that you don’t really bother to explore the open areas of the map or start to accrue variations of seeds that weren’t previously possible. But as the days march on, new tougher enemies and bosses will appear, and you’ll have to venture out away from the farm to discover new items to help you achieve survivability. At first, you can move to the left or right regions of the map. In doing so, you’ll find pockets of mini-camps where enemies are sleeping.
Generally, it’s essential to explore these regions for more seeds, roses, or Heart Beets — which are your life. Surprisingly, Atomicrops even features a relationship aspect with the use of roses. Once a rose is grown, it can be exchanged with love interests for both defensive and offensive abilities. As the levels continue on in difficulty, so do the cost of roses being paid to love interests. For example, early on, a Heart Beet may only cost two or three roses. As the season march on, you’ll find yourself spending three to four just for one single Beet. Once all Beats are lost, you’ll have to start right back at the beginning again. Although this might play into the rogue-lite elements of Atomicrops, there is some forgiveness/balancing when it comes to skill points and permanent upgrades.
The first playable character in Atomicrops is Lavender. They are more of a defensive character in that they start out with two bees (help nourish crops) with crops growing 20% faster. This places the importance on swift crop production over firepower. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to manage your crops any less. You start out with a standard “Pea Shooter” with new weapons costing anywhere from 35-90 Cashews to buy and around 100 to upgrade.
On a given day, you’ll yield anywhere from 200 to 300 Cashews based on your crops. So, you can see how easily your money can go as fast as it comes in. The challenge comes in finding new ways to get crops and which days to plant on. This is in contrast to Rye, the other character you’ll unlock, whose guns last a day longer (Lavender’s crumble when you return to camp for the day.) and starts out with a plantable turret. This is important as a boss battle will appear on the third day. So everything you do on the first two initial days — planting, cultivating, fertilizing, and fighting — will lead to that point.
The same, but different
One of the standout features I’ve enjoyed since playing Atomicrops is that no day is the same. Every restart on your farm leaves you to return to the battle with a fresh set of eyes and goals. Since health is scarce, I found myself trying to manage that as early on as possible. And that also means venturing out to find new items and, inevitably, new enemies. The more I did this, the more I discovered unique items and perks that I had never seen before. Pigeons, for example, are special items that can seed every plot or even fertilize all of your planted seeds. Others include fight skill upgrades and track pants that increase character speed. All of them are found on the outskirts of the enemy-plagued lands.
Some of the camps you’ll take down will produce farm animals, like pigs, chickens, and cows. Pigs help farm new land, cows act as a watering buddy for your crops, and chickens eat weeds and find seeds. This reduces the need to venture out, thus allowing you more time to plan for the relentless waves of enemies at night.
For a game that relies so heavily on vegetables, Atomicrops is a surprisingly meaty experience. There are challenges galore, but under it all, you’ll find a deep rogue-lite that finds balance in its characters, perks, and permanent abilities (once you unlock them). There were times where I made several runs back to back, only to realize that a few hours had passed in doing so. Atomicrops is as quirky as it is challenging, with tongue-in-cheek humor providing comedic relief to stressful runs.
Becoming a master farmer isn’t an easy task. But once you’re over the initial hump, you’ll discover just how feasible it is to live off the fat of the land while still pumping enemies full of blunderbuss blasts.
Atomicrops is now available on the Epic Games Store for $14.99 USD (currently on sale for $12.74).