Mini-Review: Atomic Robo

Atomic Robo is a great webcomic. Fate Core is a great RPG system. A Fate adaptation of Atomic Robo should be a slam-dunk, but the result is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Most of the Robo-specific rules innovations don’t work properly, and whilst the core system at its heart works just fine, I couldn’t really recommend this product over Fate Core vanilla even if someone was specifically running an Atomic Robo game. Which is a shame.

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The easiest way to criticise this game is to dismantle each of the new rules systems in turn – all of which are great ideas that fail in execution. Skill modes are supposed to speed up character creation, but skills were never the bit of Fate chargen that took a long time: stunts and aspects were. They also introduce blatant balance issues, and if you’re not using one of the sample modes provided, take longer to build than skill trees do. Brainstorms are a great notion for letting players decide the plot together, but for some bizarre reason the process is competitive, convoluted, and offers weird disincentives to succeeding too well. And inventions, which could probably be handled just fine with mundane create advantage actions, are instead usually a prelude to a five minute row with your GM about stunt balance… assuming they don’t just accept whatever game-breakingly overpowered creation the system has no problem providing its players.

There are things that I like. Collateral consequences are a great way of representing the ramifications of explosive pulp action, many of the example NPCs make me laugh, and the rules for building your own organisation are fine. But these are less prominent systems than the ones listed above, and whilst all the best aspects of Fate are still represented in the game, there aren’t enough new ideas worth buying Atomic Robo for. Similarly, it’s great to read extracts from the webcomic as you flick through the rulebook, even if it can be a bit distracting – but that’s a lesser experience than just reading the webcomic itself. My advice is to stick to the webcomic and Fate Core, both of which are available online for free. Save your money and don’t buy this game.

(I never review a game I haven’t played or run.  Check out https://michaelduxbury.com/category/reviews/ for more RPG reviews.)

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