By Nick Benefield / April 17th, 2019
Profit is indeed an item of great concern in Neo Atlas 1469. Employing admirals, upgrading/repairing their ships, and establishing new trade routes all costs money. If your expenses ever exceed your revenues, your company will go bankrupt and the game will be over. Therefore, it’s important to monitor the condition of your ships, make sure that you use the correct types for the correct types of voyages, and keep track of how much profit is being handed over to your admirals. Depending on who you choose to send out with a fleet at any given time, some admirals will cost you more than others. Some of the earlier admirals that join your company will have fairly low salaries. The salary of each admiral is actually based on a percentage of your total profits. In the case of the earlier admirals who charge 4% a piece, their salaries are among the lowest. These salaries will continue to climb though as you rake in more profits. If you want a quick piece of advice to help alleviate any money troubles, I’d suggest sticking with two specific admirals through the majority of the game. Those characters would be Maria Almeida and Francisco Peres. You may need to involve more combat-oriented admirals at points, but Almeida’s abnormally high charisma and Peres’ knack for observing across long distances will help you chart the world map much faster.
Those last few sentences really segue me into another neat aspect of this game: the character stats for the admirals. Different admirals will be good at doing different things and can use those skills to help you in different situations. Admiral Almeida should really be your go to for visiting distant locations where the locals distrust outsiders. Other admirals will be barred entrance into such locations if they lack decent charisma. Admiral Baldi on the other hand is a superior combat expert and is great in situations where pirates or monsters need to be dealt with. As you send different admirals on different voyages, their skills will increase depending on what actions they took and how far that they traveled. By the end of my game, I was able to transform admirals Peres and Almeida into well-rounded exploration/combat experts (with some additional help from stat-boosting items). Despite each character having his or her own strengths and weaknesses, those can be overcome with enough time and gained experience.
One of the final pieces of gameplay comes in the form of story missions or “episodes”. The game has some loose overarching stories related to completing the world map and discovering Zipangu, the “land of gold”, but these are really just small pieces of the overall story. Peres for example has a goal of proving that the Earth is round despite the prevailing idea at the game’s onset that it is flat. Admiral Gomez on the other hand is bent on searching for his missing friend, Admiral Solis. Every admiral has his or her own big objectives, but there are also a number of random, seemingly unrelated ones. These pop up from time to time as different episodes are completed and new areas are discovered. Most of the events in this game require the use of one particular admiral, but the game won’t always tell you which one. Sending different admirals to investigate will often provide different results. No matter how you handle them though, these little side-segments offer a nice change of pace and are very enjoyable to watch unfold.
So with all of those positives, I did have one minor concern towards the end of may time with Neo Atlas 1469. Namely, the gameplay started to feel a bit repetitive at that point. The episodes and different treasures spread throughout the world continued to entertain me right up to the end, but the world exploration piece started to drag on a bit. This issue really only existed once I had mapped the basic structure of each major continent. At that point, it was just a matter of repeatedly sending out each admiral to explore any residual dots of fog spread out across the map. While this wasn’t a huge deal for me, I think that it’s an important note for players who may be looking for constant engagement.
In terms of sound design, I haven’t much to say. On the whole, the music was nothing to write home about. I can’t say that I walked away with any strong feelings towards any of the tracks, but I will say that they all complimented the gameplay quite well. Each major landmass that you uncover (including some that don’t exist on the real world map) unlocks at least one additional background track for you to listen to. These tracks loop constantly in the background as you traverse the overworld and I honestly never found them repetitive. You can change currently playing tracks at any time via the menu screen, but I was content to switch between them pretty sparingly. This is because the other gameplay segments include music of their own. For example, each admiral has a different track specific to them that plays as they recount the results of their exploration voyages. Any investigative voyages that are taken also have their own music. I don’t believe that Neo Atlas‘ soundtrack would make for a good CD release, but it certainly works well here.
The last topic of importance here is the one that made me pick this title up in the first place. Let’s discuss this game’s rather unique art style for a moment. Right off the bat, the assortment of different styles here is incredibly eclectic. With the exception of Miguel, the character portraits are all really detailed and have an almost hand-drawn look. These contrast with Miguel’s portrait which is notably more cartoon-like and exaggerated. Both of these styles contrast further against the style of the world map and the game’s HUD. The map itself is nothing to write home about, but it looks nice and is meant to somewhat resemble an atlas of the era. The HUD though is a bit strange. I’m sure that this too was meant to take inspiration from the illustrations often found on old atlas’ of the time period, but it can seem a bit jarring at first. There are multiple little cupid babies adorning your screen at any given moment of time. Perhaps the most unsettling part of this is the fact that they are animated to move ever so slightly and have a really uncanny, semi-realistic look to them. After my brief reservations with these though, I came to find them both charming and funny. It’s worth noting that this Neo Atlas 1469 is actually based on Neo Atlas II, but it does appear that this is the first time that these graphics are being used.
If one were to judge Neo Atlas 1469 on its title and cover art alone, it might be tempting to categorize it as just a generic eShop title. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. In my roughly 27.5 hours playing though it, I found it to be a very enjoyable and entrancing game. The core gameplay was admittedly a bit repetitive at times and lacked much difficulty, but I found myself on multiple occasions thinking “just five more minutes” only to find myself saying the same thing five minutes later. With its procedurally generated world mapping system, it’s weird clashes of different styles, and its ability to prey upon my completionist instincts, I walked away feeling very satisfied. Without having paid the full $49.99 price tag myself, it’s hard to say if that is a reasonable price or not. What I can say is that this is one of the more unique titles that I’ve played in a good while and it offers a great deal of replayability. Everyone has different tastes, but if you enjoy mapping things out or playing games that involve a fair bit of micromanagement, this one’s worth taking a look at.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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