One of the first major thoughts I had during my first botgame was "I feel like I'm playing on HotS' Garden of Terror map more than I am playing a RTS". Even after playing a couple more games that feeling largely hasn't changed. While I did "rediscover" some of the more key RTS elements, such as upgrading units and the ability to take macro back into your own hands, this didn't really make me feel like I was playing a different game, I was just simply doing more stuff manually rather than letting the AI handle it.
I am largely playing around predetermined objectives on the map and my goal is to destroy a specific building, rather than a more general "destroy everything your opponent has" that is a big part of RTS games. To do this I have to go through meaningless buildings (towers) that, if lost, don't really mean much to the player. More on this a few paragraphs below.
When it comes down to it I feel like I'm playing a MOBA, which wasn't at all what I was expecting of a game often talked about as a RTS. Let me attempt to break some of the reasons down (as well as just general thoughts about the game):
One of the defining features of a RTS – for me anyway – is the ability to construct buildings that allow you to do new, cool, and interesting things in the current match. It was very disappointing when I found out that this was missing, it feels like such a fundamental part of the genre that this (and by extension, the ability to expand) not being a part of the game makes it very much not a RTS to me personally.
Building your own base creates an interesting sense of investment and connection. If one of my Stargates in SC2 gets destroyed, that sucks, not only because I lose the ability to create air units (or that ability is reduced), but also because I was responsible for its placement, and it was built there because of me. I played well enough to be able to get that building up and running!
I don't have this connection with anything in my base in Atlas. Towers don't mean anything to me. I have no real sense of connection with them, and if I lose them nothing really happens. I also never have to worry about my production or my upgrade facilities. They're never in any danger. In a weird way, I don't even really care about my warp in points and my nexus.
Unique bases/art styles also help establish an identity for the faction you're playing as, but right now the buildings on both sides of the map seem fairly generic and aren't a representation of the players.
Resource & Supply generation
The current method of resource generation, does not feel very interesting or engaging. In other RTS games you can see your worker unit (whether thats a probe, a peon, or a harvester) go to a location, gather the resources, and then come back to deposit these resources. That is cool, I like seeing my workers do their thing, I like that my goal, aside from destroying my opponent, is to protect those dudes at all costs. They are important to me! In Atlas this entire process is just kind of relegated to an icon and a progress bar filling up, and there are no workers for me to protect. : (
One of the other issues is that this current system doesn't allow for cool harassment. Sending in a squad of units to snipe a critical building or deal economic damage unfortunately just doesn't exist, because there is nothing to snipe. This is something I'd really miss having in the long run.
I really don't like having to decide between building supply or creating resources. Having 3 or 4 resources (counting production slots) all fighting for the same production slot feels like it's too much. I got supply capped a couple of times, and whenever that happened it just felt like all of my production ground to a halt and all of my momentum vanished with it. In other games you could at least continue to collect resources and invest those into either upgrades, or additional tech buildings, or expansions, and then when you had available supply again you could immediately restart unit production. This doesn't really appear to be possible in Atlas. You could theoretically invest in another upgrade if you have spare resources, but you're not gaining any new resources while you're waiting for your supply to get uncapped, so any spent on upgrades means more time waiting for unit production to start back up again. I would much rather be able to upgrade supply on my nexus at the cost of some resources!
Automated & Centralized production
So in a lot of ways I kind of like the automated production. It allows players that aren't necessarily strong macro players to still play the game and build units and keep on pace (ish) with other, more experienced players.
That said, some initial concerns appeared, in particular I'm concerned that newer players will see the automated production and then not learn anything about their units. When you make players create their own units they're more or less required to look at them (at the very least they'll look at an unit card to see what it does). When things are automated you aren't pushing your new players to check out their units, they just simply warp them in and then they'll see what happens. This is a "trap" that I fell into as well, until during one game I realized I had lost tons of resources because the autoqueue was building far too many (useless at the time) Sentinels.
Titans & Points of Conflict
The titans (as well as neutral camps, more on that later) are definitely one of the biggest mechanic that is making me feel like I'm playing Heroes of the Storm again, rather than a RTS. While they create interesting points of conflict to contest and force engagements between players, I feel like they actually detract from the gameplay (and by extension, the map). As a player I don't decide that I want to get a titan spawn, but rather I am forced into these locations (or engagements), because if I don't I'm falling behind. There's no decision for me to make, it's already been done for me, "You must go here or you at the very least significantly handicap yourself".
I'm not sure I understand the purpose of the neutral camps. In the games I've played I haven't seen them to be of any vital importance. Interestingly they also seem to kind of detract from the core goal of the game: to engage your opponent players. Instead, neutral camps provide PvE content in which you do not interact (or interact very minimally) with your opponents.
The UI feels like a bit of a mess right now to be honest. A lot of information is being displayed, but it's all in tiny UI boxes that have small font sizes and aren't very easily understood. This makes the game appear very complex, and confusing to me.
The top part of the UI remains a mystery to me. While I understand that the top bars on either side represent the health of my warp in points and my nexus, it wasn't until I watched an old intro video that I realized that the small numbers with the swords was the number of units lost (why is this information presented here? Am I missing their importance?). The big, central numbers? I'll be honest, I still have no idea what they mean.
More feedback may (or may not) come to this space. I wanted to get this posted before the end of the day, but it doesn't cover everything I want to cover yet.