Why do something yourself if you can get others to do it for you? Better still, why even consider it if you can get a bot to do that dirty work, as you instead kick back and reap the rewards.
That’s the basic premise of Atrio: The Dark Wild, as you drop into a strange world full of automation, all in hope of finding the key to unlocking Project Human.
A strategic, survival simulation, Atrio: The Dark Wild tries a lot of things. Most of them come off too as you take control of an android army, intent on proving yourself in a world of randomness. It’s a game that will see you intrigued, interested, as you work through comedic elements in hope of fully understanding what it takes to bring success. A game that constantly runs the same lines over and over, all until things click, Atrio: The Dark Wild can, at it’s best, feel utterly wonderful. And even when it’s not, there’s still plenty to involve yourself with.
Atrio: The Dark Wild is about creation, as you take a little android on a journey of self discovery. Project Human is in the works and you’ll need to get to grips with what is required in hope of finding a better life. You’ll do that by creating the bits and bobs you need, crafting and then automating processes to ensure you discover the easy life.
Much like any game of this nature, it’s about the tools you are given in which progress and success are felt. Away from the playfield and a rather cool background narrative plays out, one that is fairly unique and a ton of fun. It’s not quite Backfirewall_ or High on Life levels of humour, but there’s a decent amount dropped in.
But it’s what happens in the game proper which is of most concern; something you’ll get to whether you decide to try and work through the rather convoluted tutorial or not. For us we wanted to get down to working the systems at play as fast as possible, finding the tutorial moments just a tad too unfriendly, but there’s certainly enough there to help you get a leg up on things.
And getting on is what Atrio wants you to do. At the heart of the action is a Heartbox; the beating centre that guides you on your way. It’s here where missions and objectives crop up; following these will be your best course of action. There’s no rush to carry these out, ensuring that if you wish to just head out into the darkness and experiment, you can. In fact, to get the most out of Atrio, experimentation and the more than occasional failure, will all be part of the game experience.
For the most part Atrio deals with light, with placements of your lightbulbs and – latterly – use of a torch, delivering prime moments. Yet in order to cement anything in Atrio, you’ll need to discover the processes and crafting mechanics behind it. Blood-Ore comes from the collection and harvesting of Block-Rock for instance, needed to make Blood-Ingot and then, in turn, smoke bombs. Lightbulbs need a source of Glass combined with that Blood-Ore, Spring Boards need Quartz-Ore and Grav-Ingot, whilst Electrolyte-Paste uses a combination of many materials so that you can make batteries, powering your little android guy for longer.
Honestly, there’s a ton of crafting to get your head around in Atrio, but it feeds in fairly well and rarely will you ever be left wondering how to craft a certain item, or why you would need it. With a limited backpack that slowly increases in size as research becomes more advanced, you’ll need to think of a variety of ways in which to store everything you own.
It’s a slow opening process in which you’ll initially be left to do everything yourself, but discover and open up Stations, harness the power of Supply Pods and discover what is out in the world and you’ll find that Atrio can deliver in spades.
That is no more true than when automation really kicks in. Ore Harvesters, Picker Pals (your ever-friendly robot friends), factories, flippers, kickers and more fast come to the fore, working alongside all-important conveyor belt systems to ensure you get what you want, where and when you need it. Of course, laying the groundwork takes time, and android battery levels will no doubt deplete multiple times before you start understanding battery sources, but ever so slowly you’ll find the glorious auto-world opening itself up. And of course, as you’re an android, death is just the start, with a whole army waiting to fill your boots as things go wrong.
The sheer depth of Atrio is astounding, and we could sit here and go in-depth into the finer points for hours. Yet that may well spoil the magic of the journey and discovery you are on; keeping vague in a land of detail may well be the best course.
And of course, the more that opens, the more frantic certain elements of Atrio become. That is no more true then as you stumble upon the weird inhabitants of this tech-fuelled world, fighting back as you look to make a dent on things.
Atrio works on many levels, with the visuals and sound complementing the mechanics. We guess you could describe the graphical look as somewhat polygonal, but there’s tons of detail in not just the moving parts – android, Picker Pals, conveyors and enemies – but also the more static elements and backgrounds. Granted, much of Atrio’s play space is darkened until light opens up the way, but it all works well.
It’s similar in terms of the audio with some lovely clatter and chatter of autonomy getting to work. There’s nowt to be wowed by, but again, fitting the scene is the main objective.
For as deep and detailed as Atrio is though, there are some issues. Menu systems can occasionally feel fiddly, inaccurate when trying to move between creations, whilst in-game actions can feel equally finicky. Zooming the camera in and out, manoeuvring your android around as you try to pick up or harvest certain items, or place tools on specific tiles, can be more trouble than it’s worth, especially as progress is made and on-screen items become plentiful.
There’s also a severe lack of direction in the opening hours. In fact, we probably spent a good five or six hours wandering the lands, creating, dying, rinsing and repeating before we really got to grips with the mechanics and rulesets at play – and even then the ideas only really ticked as we went in hunt of a Youtube walkthrough.
Move on through the opening hours of confusion and occasionally inaccurate controls and you’ll find loads to love about Atrio: The Dark Wild. It can be funny, it can be tense, it can be easy and it can be complex. Ultimately though, Atrio: The Dark Wild is a game that will have you spending hours looking for answers, as Project Human slowly becomes a reality.
Atrio: The Dark Wild is on the Xbox Store