Atlas Reactor 101: Phases & Simulating Simultaneity

Welcome to Atlas Reactor 101. Over the past few weeks these articles have discussed a number of different game mechanics such as movement and stats, cover and concealment, buffs and power orbs. In this session we’ll see how it all plays out in the game’s phases and how the phases create a simulation of simultaneity.

Decisions

When you’re first dropped into a match, you’re asked to make decisions. Your very first turn, and first decision, is a move. It’s the only thing you can do for the first turn, yet it’s just as important as every other decision you’ll make during the subsequent turns of the match.

As the match progresses you’ll get a decision phase at the beginning of every turn. Even if your freelancer dies, you’ll be allowed to choose where they’ll re-spawn during the next decision phase that comes up.

For each decision phase, you have 20 seconds to make up your mind. During these few seconds (they will fly by) you need to choose from your freelancer’s different skills that will play out during the resolution of the turn, line up those skills on the map as necessary, and then “Lock In” your decision.

Su-Ren’s skill bar during decision. Two Time Banks remaining.

Time Bank
Should you need to change your mind, or want a little more time to work out your decision, you are given two additional time banks per match. These allow for an additional 5 seconds to help you finish your decision, setup a difficult shot, or quickly change your mind to perform a different set of actions. A time bank can only be used once per turn. You cannot use them during the same turn to grant yourself 10 additional seconds. It’s not wise to burn time banks early, though, as you may discover later in the game you really needed those five seconds!

Lock In/Cancel
Your decision, while limited to 20 seconds, isn’t set in stone once you lock them in. You can unlock your decisions and change them. The ESC (Escape) key on your keyboard will unlock your decision. If you hit ESC a second time it will remove the last decision you made from the actions you’ve setup for your freelancer. For example, if you setup an attack, then setup a move, hitting ESC would unlock your decision and hitting ESC a second time will delete your move from your freelancer’s actions that would take place during resolution. You’d have to choose another move. On the other hand, if you chose a move location first, then an attack action, hitting ESC would unlock your decision and a second ESC remove the attack from your actions during that turn. You can continue typing the ESC key to delete every choice you’ve made.

More than one method for deleting or changing your decision phase exists. You can mouse-click on the Lock In/Cancel button in the interface to enable or disable your Lock In at any time during the 20 seconds (or more if you’re using a Time Bank) of the decision phase. Skills can be deactivated by clicking on the skill, or typing the skill’s associated keyboard shortcut as well. Some methods of enabling and disabling skills, should you change your mind, may be faster or slower for you than others. Finding what works for you can help a great deal when tweaking your decision phase.

The Four Resolution Phases

During the resolution of the turn, there are four phases in which actions you have chosen occur. Each of these phases also has an associated color, so that you can see which skill’s action is related to a particular phase at a glance. Lastly, there is an order in which the phases play out during resolution; Prep, Dash, Blast, and Move.

Prep


Prep phase occurs first during the resolution of the turn. Prep phase skills and catalysts are colored green in the game’s interface and typically involve skills that provide healing, set out traps, grant shields or protection of some sort, or apply buffs or debuffs. This is not to say that there aren’t some freelancers with skills that can do these things during the other phases, so be sure to read your chosen freelancer’s skills carefully and keep an eye out for the color coding so you’ll know when a skill’s damage or benefits play out. Prep phase always happens first during resolution.

Dash


The Dash phase is when most freelancer’s evasion related skills happen. Skills and catalysts with yellow indicators provide dash actions and move your freelancer to locations before Blast phase actions occur during resolution. If you need to dodge a dangerous attack, Dash. Just be careful you don’t dash into more danger. Dash phase plays out second, after Prep phase.

Blast


Skills and catalysts with a red color bar are Blast phase related skills. This is the last colored phase to play out during resolution and involves two parts. Damaging attacks or skills activate during the first part of the blast phase. Movement impairing skills that perform a knockback or pull, activate during the second part of the phase. This is so that any pulls or knockbacks won’t throw a freelancer out of a damaging attack skill, preparing freelancers for the final resolution phase.

Move


Resolution’s movement phase doesn’t have an associated color, and appears grey during resolution. If your freelancer wasn’t knocked, pulled, rooted, or slowed, they’ll move to the location you set during your decision mode. Or, in the case of Slow, possibly move some amount in the direction you had intended.

Simultaneity

The resolution of a turn is intended to simulate simultaneity. By that, everything you see happening throughout the Prep, Dash, and Blast phases are actually taking place at the same time, even though the game animates the actions of each freelancer individually during each of the phases. This may look strange, but once you get used to it, you’ll have a greater understanding of the game and how to choose skills to ensure a win.

Because of this simultaneity there may be times when you might expect damage to happen, but it won’t. For example, since dashes actually occur simultaneously a dash skill that also deals damage can be avoided by another dash. Also, as mentioned previously, knock skills appear to happen last, so that other damaging effects can play out before the target is knocked. This can be helpful once you get used to it. For example, if you’re in range of Elle’s ultimate skill, knowing that it also knocks, you can tell that Ell is activating her ult during the turn because her attack will go near the very end of the blast phase. You can estimate where you’ll end up from the knockback effect, and plan accordingly for when you’re allowed to make your next decisions. Watching how the resolution plays out can buy you some time to make decisions prior to the 20 seconds the game gives.

Damage Types
Two damage types exist in Atlas Reactor, direct damage and indirect damage. Freelancers boast a myriad of skills that can apply either type of damage, so check skill descriptions to see which type of damage it applies. Knowing the two damage types helps in applying other effects. Some freelancers have skills that apply a timed effect that can only be triggered by direct damage.

A general rule of thumb is that direct damage comes from targeted attacks or skills, while indirect damage comes from secondary skill effects such as traps or drones. But there are exceptions to this. Oz’s Zap Trap applies direct damage for its entire duration, despite its name, while Aurora’s Ion Cloud changes its damage type from direct damage to indirect damage on subsequent turns.

The Thread of Life
Due to the simultaneous nature of the resolution phase, you will often times see a freelancer’s health drop to seemingly zero, and the health bar above their head change into a sort of heart monitor indicating a pulse. Again, what you’re seeing is happening all at once, so even though they may take enough damage to die, something still needs to play out. This can be their action, the action of another team member, or a knockback that hasn’t occurred yet during the blast phase. Sometimes, through a well placed heal skill, it can be enough to save their life.

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