– Keeping up the desire to play the current early-access version of Atlas after a series of unfair and costly losses, is more of a constant struggle than survival itself. While this fantasy pirate game nails the thrill of preparing for and undertaking lengthy voyages of discovery, it’s impossible to escape the sinking feeling that overpowered NPC ships, server instability, or annoying bugs are stalking you and your crew. Atlas is made by a sister studio of the creators of ARK: Survival Evolved, and it’s not hard to find the shared DNA. As with all survival games, you’ll spend most of your time mundanely grinding for resources and constructing elaborate bases, although in this case, you’re doing so in order to custom-build some impressive multiplayer-controlled ships. Dealing with survival elements like hunger and thirst is standard issue, but Atlas takes its chores too far by making you monitor your vitamin intake to avoid scurvy on top of everything else.But if malnourishment doesn’t get you, then there’s a good chance the many predators who rove about in large groups will finish the job. They’re not all that deadly alone, although Atlas’s awful ground combat makes fighting them annoying. Melee weapons feel floaty, and even the firearm perks hidden deep in the convoluted skills tree bring little relief, thanks to painfully long reload times. (gunfire) (gunfire) (gunfire) (gunfire) That leaves the rickety old bow and arrow the most effective weapon, even at high levels, but even so, bugs might leave you clipped into an enemy’s body and unable to fight back. The tedium of gathering resources is a bore, but the joy of ship building almost makes up for it. You can build four main types of ships that differ more in size than handling, but they’re never carbon copies of each other.You’ll find decent leeway for individualization in the placement of various stations and even the types of panels on the hulls itself. It’s especially rewarding to sail these ships, thanks in large part to the teamwork needed to complete a voyage without hiring expensive AI-controlled crew members. Exploring windswept deserts and tropical Edens never gets old, and there’s some excitement in working together to survive sudden storms. Boats handle much as they do in Sea of Thieves. Your controller rudder adjusts the sails for speed, all while working together with your friends for max efficiency. Combat at sea is satisfying as well, especially if you can manage to sink the menacing Ships of the Damned, which are a constant source of ire and target of patches.On more than one occasion since launch, a wonky patch made them an unstoppable force, but if you take them out, you’ll be treated to substantial rewards. Unfortunately, Atlas doesn’t provide much direction apart from building and sailing. You build in order to sail, and you sail in order to come back and build. In theory, you can claim land as a form of progression, but that’s been almost impossible since a few days after launch, especially on PvE servers, where you can’t fight someone for their turf. You can carve out a home in lawless regions, where land can’t be claimed and buildings decay after four days of no use, but even those are overcrowded. To make matters worse, larger companies of players on these islands spam building foundations to prevent solo players and smaller companies from building at all. Taken together these problems leave Atlas feeling unfocused. Worse, it’s an unrewarding time sink. Finding key elements broken after almost every new patch is routine, leading to overaggressive enemy boats or home islands where resources refuse to spawn.When you lose many hours of ship-building time to one of those bugs, it’s hard not to feel the whole game is a waste of time. In it’s early-access state, Atlas has only a few successes to brag about. Few other games capture the adventure of seafaring so well, but Atlas dashes most of that goodwill with everything from its poor ground combat to the unforgiving grind and the ease with which you can simply lose everything with little or no fault of your own.Each unfair loss begs the question, why should you keep playing? And as of right now, Atlas doesn’t have a good answer to that question. For more games with a touch of survival, check out our reviews of Red Dead Redemption 2, Below, and Conan: Exiles. For everything else, stick with IGN. .