Hey, so you’re new! Or new-ish. Lots of new folks coming in from the summer sale. Or maybe returning after a while — after all, it’s player appreciation weekend. Or heck, maybe you’re an experienced player. In any event, you either know or will soon find out that Atlas Reactor is a really awesome game! Here’s some information and tips that I think will help you be a better player and be more knowledgeable about the game.
I’m not going to say “don’t run out of time and not do anything” because that’s kind of obvious (but actually, don’t). As a new player, you may find it’s hard to get your move done within 20 seconds. There’s a lot to take in. Don’t worry — that will come with practice. Do your best to get something locked in. Playing against the AI is a great idea, but be advised that as there is no turn timer you may develop bad habits. I recommend also playing a few custom games (and adding bots) to let yourself practice with a 20-second or even 15-second turn timer.
Below, we have the following categories:
1. Vision. Characters can see 6 squares. If you can see someone, they can see you, and vice versa (assuming no one is Probed or Revealed). To find out what characters can see you, hold down the “V” key. This will hide vision from your allies and show only what your character can see. Can’t see any enemies when you do that? Great! They can’t see you either. So you’re probably at least somewhat safe, but bear in mind that they can see the spot they last saw you and may be able to guess where you are in any event.
2. Enemy Abilities. You can see what abilities the enemies have available by holding down the “Alt” key. It’ll appear over their heads. Of course, you may not be immediately familiar with each of these moves, but as you get more familiar with the game you’ll learn to identify important cooldowns and play around them. Additionally, you can press “Tab” to bring up the score screen, and then hit the tab at the top labeled “Ability Mods” — this will show you everyone’s mods. It’s good to check this at the beginning of the game, after you lock in your opening move, just to see what people are running so you know what to play around. You can also see cooldowns and ultimate availability on this page, even if you can’t see the actual freelancer.
3. Powerups. Powerups spawn when the little lights around them reach 4. However, they spawn at the BEGINNING of that turn. That means you should ideally move onto the powerup square with your movement on the turn it shows 3 lights, so that at the beginning of next turn you will automatically pick up the powerup. Rough order of powerup priority: Health > Might > Energized / Haste. It’s often good to take a powerup even if you don’t need it, to deny it from the enemy team, but try to make sure you aren’t taking it from an ally who (a) needs it and (b) can actually reach it before the enemy.
1. Lock in your move early. This is so that your team can react to what you’re doing, and vice versa. For example, a support can decide not to shield you if he sees you’re dashing. Or, if he sees your movement, he can move somewhere so that he can heal you next turn. You can more easily coordinate with allies to confirm kills on a target, etc. Basically, this promotes good teamwork. Lock something in as soon as you have a good plan — try to do it with at least 5 seconds remaining in the turn. (You can always change last-minute but do be advised that it may throw off your allies and you may end up accidentally cancelling your entire move.)
2. Be safe. Ideally this tip is “don’t die,” but there’s only so much you can do when you take 80 damage in a turn and are just chilling at like sub-30 hp. It’s best to avoid situations where you can take significant damage, or, if you get into such a situation, recognize it. Use a dash proactively or a catalyst, ask for help from a support, etc.
3. Conversely, don’t be afraid to take the death if you’re going to die anyway. If it’s Turn 19 or something, obviously try your best to stay alive. But if you got into a dangerous situation and didn’t dash and took a lot of damage, it’s not necessarily worth trying to stay alive unless your healer / powerups / etc. can pick you back up. That’s not to say you should be reckless or suicidal! What I mean is, if you’re at 20 hp, a single attack will kill you. If you use your dash catalyst, it was worth 20 hp to you. And you’ll probably die a turn later anyway. Whereas if you save your dash catalyst and accept that you’re going to die once this game, you could potentially use the dash catalyst to avoid much more damage on your next life. A good rule of thumb is “if you’re low, then unless you think there’s a good chance you won’t die before Turn 20, don’t waste important cooldowns trying to survive.” Additionally, you may be able to stay in and do damage and secure a trade kill for your team.
4. Just because you CAN use an ability doesn’t mean you have to. This especially applies to free actions, ultimates, etc. where it’s very tempting to mash the button as soon as it comes up. But pick and choose your spot. Obviously you want to use it sooner so it’ll come back up faster, but it’s better to save it and get more value. Simplistic example: what would you rather have, two Mending Swarms that each heal for 20, or one Mending Swarm that heals for 60?
5. Sprinting. In general it’s best to try to do something “productive” (i.e. shooting or healing) each turn, but sprinting is very valuable if you need to get away from a frontliner, get into a better position, snag a powerup, or (as a frontliner) catch up to an enemy. Suppose Asana dashes me (and suppose she doesn’t have her Root available). Next turn, I could shoot her and she could hit me, and then I’d run 4 squares and she’d probably follow me and be next to me again. Repeat ad infinitum. But if I spend a single turn sprinting away from her, she’ll never catch me unless she also sprints, which gives me at least one free turn to shoot her and a lot more flexibility to do other things without having her in my face. If you are deciding whether to take an action or sprint, ask yourself if sprinting would accomplish something useful. Also, if you are planning to take an action that is effectively a wild guess or just not a great move in general (e.g. Gremo dropping mines on some random location because enemy lancers are far away), it’s often better to sprint.
6. Listen to your team, and communicate with them about what you’re doing. Pay attention to their special pings (particularly DANGER – yellow, and FOCUS THIS TARGET – red.) Atlas Reactor is a game that rewards communication and teamwork. Need your teammates to line up so you can get a good Finn or Aurora heal? Let them know! Placing a trap? Tell Rask to knock an enemy through it. Need to sprint for a couple turns to survive? Let your team know. Want that heal powerup and think you can sprint there? Tell the respawning Tol-Ren on your team not to path through it with his initial move. Make a mistake? Amazing how far an apology can go.
7. Dashing. Obviously, predicting enemy dashes is a key part of Atlas Reactor and far be it from me to get into the psychology behind that. But two basic tips. Dash BEFORE you take damage if possible (I know I said this one above). And expect obvious enemy dashes. This depends on a lot of things including player skill level, but what I mean is, if the enemy is standing in an Ion Cloud or a Zuki Big One during decision phase, it’s a decent bet they might dash out of it. So, just sort of be aware of that when you’re thinking about whether to blow an important cooldown on them.
8. Endgame. So often I see a game lost because players didn’t know what to do at the end of a game. As Turn 20 approaches, check the score. Do we need a kill or multiple kills? How can we get them? Do we need to take risks? Are we ahead? Can we play safe for a few turns? Specifically, if your team is ahead and you have dashes available, you and your team can dash away on Turn 19 or Turn 20 and avoid death to secure the win. Let someone know if they’re not dashing and they should be. Alternatively, make sure you pick a good target to try to focus if you need a last-minute kill. Everyone needs to be on the same page. And keep this in mind as early as, say, Turn 15. Damage on that full-health frontliner often isn’t very useful (unless you need the energy or they really have nothing available and your team can focus them) — so maybe sprint instead if that’s your only option. Just be aware of the situation and identify which kills your team should try for and which teammates are in danger.
9. Don’t move next to a teammate. If you’re following Tip #1 (lock in early), this should be avoidable. But basically find somewhere that you can help them without being right on top of them — why give your enemies free AoE? Possible exceptions are Khita and Meridian, where you do want to stick close to benefit from their AoE shielding, but even then you don’t need to be literally next to them.
10. Taunts. Taunts are fine, but I want to specifically call attention to taunting when the enemy cannot see you. If you’re in fog, or invisible, or whatever, DON’T taunt, as it will give the enemy vision of your location. For example, if you are Grey and you run Unseen Huntress on your dash, don’t taunt it (I mean, if it’s the game-winning play on Turn 20 and you want to BM, go for it, but don’t cost your team games by taunting).
1. Provide Vision. A lot of frontliners don’t realize the importance of their role. Sure, soaking damage and applying CC and dealing some damage and maybe protecting allies are all part of a frontliner’s job, but possibly the most important thing that a frontliner can do is provide vision of the enemies to his team. Don’t chase the enemy support into a corner (I mean, occasionally this is OK — there are always exceptions). Don’t peel off onto the enemy frontliner (unless you’re sure it’s the right move). Reason being that these moves will put you in a position where your team isn’t getting any vision from you. It’s dangerous for a squishy firepower to move into a region they can’t see. And it’s extremely frustrating as a firepower to have enemy firepowers shooting you but be unable to see them back. (Vision range is 6, typical firepower range is 7+.)
2. Chasing. Especially if you’re new, it’s often best to chase the enemy instead of trying to guess where they’ll go. I mean, if you’re sure you know where they’re going (or are aware of any number of other factors that might make chasing a bad idea), you can position behind cover or something instead of chasing (which can leave you vulnerable), but chasing is generally fairly strong and reliable. Just right-click the enemy you wish to chase, and you’ll chase them with your movement. One caveat in particular: Do not chase if there are enemy traps on the field or if there are likely to be some.
1. Play safe. If you can’t do damage every single turn, it’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world. What sucks is getting killed quickly because you were in a bad position, or getting so low on health that you can’t do your job because a single attack could threaten your life.
2. Consider where the enemy will move. In hockey, it’s often helpful to watch how the players move for a while instead of watching the puck. Similarly, thinking about where the enemy will move and where you can best position to shoot them is often better than simply moving to a spot in cover and hoping for the best. (Though, like, when in doubt, cover is good. See Tip #1 — Play safe!) This is a bit more of an advanced tip.
3. Target choice. Think about the impact of your damage on the target. Is it relevant? Is that Asana going to shield? Does she have Watchful Defense? Do I care if I’m revealed? Am I the only one hitting her or will we get hp damage through her shield? Can we confirm a kill?
1. Play safe. See firepower tip above. As a support, you are fairly likely to die at least once, but do your best to help your team without getting yourself into trouble.
2. Remember your role. You’re a support, not a firepower. I mean, don’t pass up great opportunities to do damage. But in general you should try to utilize your defensive cooldowns whenever you have a good opportunity.
3. Don’t waste cooldowns. I don’t see much of this from support players, actually, but the one example that comes to mind is Khita shielding her teammates on Turn 2 when nobody’s actually in danger. Then Turn 3 or 4 rolls around and oh look Khita doesn’t have her shield available.
4. Don’t chase. I often see supports chase their allies, especially a Quark. Don’t do this. Assuming they lock in fast enough (and ask them nicely to do so!), you can see where they’re going and pick a safe spot that will put you in range to help them. Chasing can leave you vulnerable (out in the open, no cover), and often puts you right next to your teammate (vulnerable to AoE). You should basically never chase an ally.
Tips for Ranked
1. How do I know I’m ready for Ranked? I get asked this a lot. There’s no right answer, but here are a few guidelines. Awards — are you consistently doing extremely well in your PvP games? Highest damage, for example? Ultimately it’s kills that matter as opposed to damage, and who really cares who got devastator, but if you’re doing that consistently it’s still a signal that you’re ready to take your game to the next level. Comfort — you should be comfortable on at least two characters for each role, and be extremely comfortable on at least one. Freelancer pool — if you don’t have every freelancer available, it limits swap options. It’s OK to play ranked even if you don’t have that many freelancers, but it’s important to let your team know up front. Knowledge — you should be aware of what every freelancer does. What every mod does. You should be familiar with every tip listed here and have started to incorporate them into your game. Finally, be aware that the player pool is small enough that there isn’t really a Bronze to speak of. You’ll be matched with high-level players almost right away. Bring your best, and communicate with your team. It’s better to say “hey, I’m new to ranked but I feel very comfortable on Brynn” and listen to their advice than, say, to just feed when your team forces you to play support. It’s OK to apologize for mistakes. An “I’m still learning” attitude will make players much more receptive to your play, and they may help you improve.
2. Communicate with your team. We touched on this above if you’re new, but there’s even more you can do, and this applies to experienced players as well. I always like to ask “any pick or ban requests? What freelancers or roles do you guys feel comfortable with?” During the game, I’ll let my team know my intentions as far in advance as possible. “Hey guys, cool if I split from the team and flank around?” “Hey Garrison, I have Bubble for you next turn.” Etc. Again, it’s OK to apologize for mistakes. “Sorry, I really thought he’d dash!” “My bad, I positioned really badly last turn.” Etc.
3. The meta is flexible. Even though a typical comp is 1 frontline, 2 firepower and 1 support, that’s not set in stone. There are plenty of other comps that can work. It’s probably more important that players have freelancers they are comfortable with. So, be open-minded. Obviously, a bad comp will often end in disaster (though there are relatively few truly “bad” comps), and there’s a reason the typical comp is what it is, but don’t flame someone JUST because they didn’t pick what the meta dictated they should.
4. BAN ZUKI QUARK. Zuki used to be the must-ban, but she got nerfed in a recent patch. QUARK is now the must-ban. His insane healing is very difficult to play around without a coordinated team, and he’s even very high priority in competitive play.
Thanks for reading! Feedback, as always, is welcome. I hope this article serves you well.