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Atlas Reactor’s Free-to-Play Model Is Dramatically Underpowered

I’m going to start talking about Atlas Reactor by talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Deservedly so, SWTOR has gotten a lot of flak for its free-to-play implementation. From hotbars to head slots, SWTOR lets you know very quickly that you’re playing a subpar version of the “real” game, and you’ll have to pay real money to get something resembling the full experience.

That being said, you can play for at least a few hours in SWTOR without encountering something that resembles a pay gate. I talked a little with Massively’s SWTOR guru, Larry Everett, who tried “starting over” with a free account, and he said the restrictions didn’t really bother him until around level 40. For me, I think the hotbar restrictions would bug me a lot sooner, but in any case, you can play for a good while before feeling heavily restricted. Once you do, you can buy a few things piecemeal to make your experience more enjoyable. It’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but it at least doesn’t make you feel like a second-class citizen right out of the gate.

That’s not the case with Atlas Reactor’s free-to-play mode. Trion Worlds’ new tactical PvP game lets you know after your first match that it wants you to pay up. In my case, I gained two levels after that match and got two Loot Matrices, similar to the loot boxes you get for leveling up in Overwatch. I opened one and then was hit with my first barrier: Sorry, but as a free player, you can’t open another one until 36 hours have passed.

In the world of pay-to-win mechanics, this is hardly the most egregious sin ever. But it gives Atlas Reactor a feel not unlike mobile games, with their timers that you can circumvent for a small fee. But wait! There isn’t even a small fee I can pay! It’s buy the full game – currently $26.99, discounted from its full price of $29.99 for the least expensive package – or nothing. No $2 loot keys, no way to grind up currency to unlock, nothing. Those games at least give you a way to keep playing. Atlas Reactor just makes me want to log out and wait, which is exactly what I did.