After a month of Atomic Heart coverage as part of IGN First, we still had plenty of things we wanted to know about the upcoming shooter. So, we asked game director Robert Bagratuni just a few of the many questions we still have and learned plenty of interesting new details.
There’s lots of melee combat. Is this by design or are resources such as ammo limited?
Mundfish says that “every game needs balance, and Atomic Heart is no exception. We meticulously crafted each weapon so that it behaves uniquely in combat and is necessary for its way. Yes, melee helps to save ammo, because there are a lot of enemies, and it’s unlikely you’ll always have enough ammo to take them all out. That is why we have a special mechanic that allows us to accumulate energy in close combat, and later it can be used for shooting with special energy weapons.”
Many upgraded melee weapons also have special attacks that give you advantages range weapons could never do. The key is to combine weapon types and tactics because in some fights you have to deal with many types of enemies at once.
What difficulty options are there and what do you recommend?
Atomic Heart has three difficulty options as Bagratuni details: “Like most games, Atomic Heart has a story, medium, and hard difficulty levels. For those who want to focus on the story, for those who want to get through the game the way it was intended, and for those who are not afraid of anything in that world and have strong nerves. The difficulty level won’t affect the story, so it’s up to the player to relax in battles or work up a sweat.”
Are there other elemental attacks beyond lightning and Ice?
There are many more abilities available in Atomic Heart. Among them is the polymer bomb skill that allows you to cover enemies with a polymer substance that is very reactive to lighting, freeze, and fire. Director Robert Bagratuni says “you cover your opponents with polymer and then electrify them with a taser, they won’t stand a chance of winning. If aggression isn’t your approach, take a polymer shield and then freeze – protecting yourself from attacks with the shield, freeze your opponent at the right moment and quietly destroy them in safety.”
Mundfish confirmed there is no fire skill in the game, but you can use special weapon attachments that make bullets incendiary. So you can combine these skills and mechanics to create some unique in-game effects such as rings of fire, electrified or freezing traps, and so on.
Is there any stealth gameplay?
“It depends on how you’re going to play and what weapons you prefer”, the director states. “The game has mechanics that allow you to quietly get rid of both organic and mechanical enemies without attracting attention. There’s also an alarm system that will summon more and more robots, but even for that, there are actions to help you avoid unnecessary attention – an extensive facility ecosystem that links all the robots into a single communication network with a large number of nodes.”
He continues, “there’s no full stealth mode in the game – you can’t get through it the way some games can be played without fighting. You can greatly reduce the number of enemies, you can be cautious, not raise the alarm, and use tactics both in battle and when exploring the world. But you have to fight.”
What does Mick Gordon’s music bring to Atomic Heart?
The team says that working with Gordon was a joy – “Mick did an amazing job for us – he set the mood in a very stylish way. There’s a lot of his music in the open world – it’s literally filled with Mick. His music matches the high-tempo combat we see in the open world, it sets the mood and the emotion, and it’s like telling you what to do next.”
“But apart from Mick’s work you can find a lot of other compositions of the last century, from the 50s-80s”, Bagratuni continues. “Music is very important for immersion, especially in our case – when you create a retro-futuristic world in which history has taken an alternate path, but great musicians of the past still wrote their songs. Soviet-style pop meets juicy Doom-style remixes – it’s very impressive.”
How much driving is there in Atomic Heart?
There is only one car model that you can drive directly, to reflect the lack of options that existed in the real USSR. As for its uses, the director says that “It’s quite handy when you need to get away from a large number of enemies while squashing a few robots. Or if you don’t want to spend a lot of time exploring areas on foot. Of course, it’s not a game about daily life in a big city where you use a car to get from point A to point B, but it’s a wide world and a car is convenient. Maybe in the DLC, we’ll add more vehicles like buses and tractors – but that’s more for fun rather than what we should have focused on in this game.”
Is the world fully open from the start? How big is it?
The devs say that “the world of Atomic Heart is quite large, but creating a completely open world doesn’t always work well. We were aiming for more narrative consistency here, but not to turn it into a huge map with points of interest where you go from one issue to the next, completely forgetting about the story.”
“Beyond that, we wanted to recreate the mood of a “closed, secret facility” where the entrances and exits are carefully guarded. It is important to understand that laboratories and other buildings are not only above ground, but also below. If you imagine this world and try to compare it to something, it most closely resembles a mushroom tree, branching out and going in all directions.”
Bagratuni continues, “When the player exits the first underground complex, where he is just beginning to immerse in the story and understand the strengths of his character, an open world awaits them. There are many interesting territories in the open world and also carefully hidden optional locations. We are now seeing just one of them. There are quite a lot of such places, but you will have to make an effort to find them.”
“Apart from that you can walk, swim, drive in any direction, look for secluded places where you can find something valuable, and collect the stories of the inhabitants of the world and everything that will help you to understand the plot more deeply. There’s plenty to do in Atomic Heart’s world. Quite importantly, the journey through Atomic’s world is seamless – with no loading screens.”
Are there environmental story objects to find?
Atomic Heart is a story-focused game as Mundfish explains: “The narrative is the main driving force behind the game. The story is told both through the environment and the huge amount of dialogue between the main characters. This includes general reasoning about what is happening, getting tasks, the relationships between the characters, and a large number of cutscenes that immerse you in the world and the events of the game”
In Bagratuni’s opinion, the story in Atomic Heart “is the strongest aspect of the game”. As for influences, they were “inspired by many dystopia novels from the 30s~80s, by the great masters of science fiction. The story has both comic and deeply philosophical issues, drama, detective and twists.”
What is the balance between combat, story, and puzzles?
Bagratuni wants to keep players guessing throughout Atomic Heart: “We wanted to make a game that will surprise you all the time during the whole passing – to give new fresh sensations, events, and locations. It’s a kind of rollercoaster of emotions. At first, everything is bright and joyful, then it’s a horror where you’re scared to make a step, then when you’re stronger and understand how it all works, the game changes the pace, pushing you against new opponents and events.”
“The player’s experience will depend on what is more interesting to them. Some may spend a long time in the open world-destroying robots to build themselves a new super-powered gun. Someone will decide to unlock all the optional puzzles, where rare and valuable rewards await you. And some will follow the story without being distracted by the battles.”
What is your favourite build/loadout to play with?
Bagratuni shared that his perfect loadout is “Telekinesis and polymer bomb skills, Pashtet melee weapon with its flying blade special attack, and the Electro gun.” He prefers to use freezing ammo for close-quarters combat, and fire ammo for long-range combat. Saying that “together with the polymer bomb and telekinesis, it makes a great all-purpose set that can be used dynamically in combat. You can also make different traps for your opponents by creating a polymer halt in front of them, and giving them elemental properties.”
“Honestly, everyone in our team plays differently, some run through, some are more cautious, and choose a strategy with shield and enemy control. But I really like to see how other people play the game differently and use some cool combinations of weapons, skills, and upgrades, that I’ve never seen before.”
Hopefully, you’ve got an even deeper understanding of Atomic Heart after this and all of our IGN First features on Atomic Heart. If you happen to miss any, check out a history of the game’s alternate Soviet World or our exclusive hands-on preview.
Simon Cardy thinks we should stop trying to build robots that might turn against us. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.
Source: IGN Video Games All