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Atlas sets sail into early access's uncharted waters today

World of Rum-crafting.

After some delays and an embarrassing false start last night that left many of Twitch's biggest streamers and their audiences staring at a blank server list for hours, Atlas is live in early access. The ambitious player-run (rum?) fantasy pirate MMO from the makers of Ark: Survival Evolved is out at a slashed launch price for the holidays. Looking like a low-tech, mega-scale take on Ark, the developers (now flying the Grapeshot Games flag) hope to cram 40,000 or more players into a single huge shared world.

There will be separate PvP and PvE servers, and both will have NPCs to give quests, crew ships and monsters to fight, but the long-term plan seems to be for players to establish their own empires, built from the first bricks upwards. Check out the launch trailer below.

First unveiled during The Game Awards earlier this month, I'm honestly surprised to see the game launch just weeks later, given its sprawling ambition and the fact that Ark only just launched its final expansion. Matt interviewed Grapeshot the other day, and they boasted that Atlas's world is so enormous that it should take about thirty hours to sail from one side of its map to the other, as the crow flies, and exponentially longer to properly explore its land-masses. It is simultaneously wildly risky and exactly what a pirate MMO needs - forgotten, untraveled reefs and hidden coves are a core part of the fiction, after all.

If you're not particularly interested in the whole piracy and age-of-sail survival sim angle, Grapeshot have made it clear that Atlas should be just as moddable as Ark, if not moreso. Players will be able to create their own worlds with their own rules, technology, maps and servers. Grapeshot Games reckon this initial launch is the start of a long, hard journey, and estimate that Atlas will remain in early access for around two years. While I'm sure they've internal plans for the game, they state that they're going to have the game evolve in whatever direction its players feel it should.

Be warned that this is the first release of a madly ambitious sandbox MMO built on slightly wobbly foundations, so expect technical issues and server problems. Ark players should feel right at home - the basic survival systems look very familiar, as does the (largely placeholder) UI. The first major goal for many players looks to be building a raft and setting sail to new lands to settle on, as the newbie island doesn't allow construction or PvP. Of course, where you end up depends (literally) on where the wind blows - the sailing looks surprisingly intricate, and scurvy is a thing.

Atlas is out in early access now on Steam for £19.75/€20.74/$25, with the price planned to increase to $30 after the winter sale and grow to a full $60 by launch.

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