As I sat down to play through the tutorial for Days of Doom, I had to ask myself – is Atari back? With the recent release of the anniversary collection and the loving playable Karateka game it feels like they are making the right moves. So far, they are leaning into the nostalgia from their past but with Days of Doom they have published an original title. So, is Atari back? The answer is a warm ‘kind of’.
Set in a zombie apocalypse, the player takes control of a group of survivors that are trying to make it from their tiny settlement to a mythological place called ‘Sanctuary’. This means going across a procedurally generated map with random encounters and fights to go through. The player can move freely between any two connected points but each move costs petrol that must be replenished through fights, purchasing it at traders, or through luck on choices in the random encounters.
The fights themselves are turn based strategy element with the player in control of their team. There are a variety of different classes from the tough melee Fighter to the frail but devastating Watermancer. Each unit has their own set of skills, and specials (that have cool downs) and 2 Action Points to spend each round. The enemies themselves range from mindless zombies, to hulking mutants, all vividly rendered in a hand drawn cartoon style, with the bloated zombies being particularly evocative in their gross shambling.
As fights are won, resources are gained and characters level up, there are also runes and extra items to collect. Items are one-off items that can be used such as mines, bombs, or even pieces of meat. Runes are passive abilities that can be slotted into one of each character’s three slots to supplement their skills, giving them the ability to hit twice with a 1o damage penalty, or imbuing attacks with certain element abilities for example.
There is a roguelike element to the run, if all characters die, or the truck runs out of petrol the run is over and the player can spend the meta-currency on upgrades to their settlement. The upgrades give the player an edge in going back into the zombie wasteland.
I really enjoyed my first few runs of Days of Doom it felt like there was a clockwork puzzle with the fights, trying to block the path of enemies with my bruisers, and detonating environmental hazards to give my attacks more power. There were also difficult choices to make, go to the event ahead and hope to get something good, or settle the fight that was going to reduce my team’s health but provide much need fuel?
The meta progression also provides plenty of cushions for the inexperienced players to get them through the run – extra team members on start, a selection of runes to go with and the ability to collect more currency are some of the options available.
Days of Doom ticks all the right boxes, the problem is that it was just a little too easy for me. The fights themselves, outside a small number of encounters, were largely won with the same tactics. The enemy variety didn’t do enough to make me break out of locking down my team and then funnelling the enemies through a gauntlet of my traps and then block them with my melee fighter.
The runes also will give maybe too much of an edge and the number dropped seems too numerous – normally by the middle of my run I was awash in runes and selling them whenever possible.
I finished the game on my 6th run through with much of the meta-progression unfinished and on starting a new run I could not discern an increase in difficulty.
There are also some quirks in the user interface – commanding a unit to guard requires highlighting the character instead of the icon snapping onto them. There also does not seem to be a decent way to gauge whether a ranged character will be able to make a shot until they have already moved.
So, is Atari back? Days of Doom is a good first step, I’d like to see a significant New Game + mode, and more enemies that mix up tactics required to win. That said, there is a good deal of polish in this game and while I was making inroads to the end of the game – I was hooked.
A solid beginner entry into Turn Based and Roguelike genres. Days of Doom doesn’t have enough for veterans but will certainly entertain while it lasts.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.