There’s a menu screen from Ark in pirate successor Atlas

After a rocky launch, the suspicious Ark asset has players questioning Atlas's provenance

Atlas is a pirate-themed survival MMO, released into early access on December 22 after multiple delays. And it’s not off to the best start – in just a couple of days, user reviews on Steam are only 24% positive. Moreover, a menu screen from Ark: Survival Evolved has been found in the game, raising questions about Atlas’s intended scope.

Atlas is made by Instinct Games and Grapeshot Games, an offshoot of Studio Wildcard. Both Instinct and Wildcard helped to make Ark, so you’d think they’d know a thing or two about both the design of a survival MMO and the importance of optimisation and good netcode. Those Steam reviews suggest otherwise: one of the most upvoted, from FreddyBoi, cites problems with loading in, connecting to the host, and problems with lag affecting everything “including waves in the sea”.

Just getting to play is a consistent criticism. One player claims a wait time of 72 minutes, which only ended because they gave up and refunded the game. Even those who got past this have some stern words for the game itself. FreddyBoi claims to have been killed by an over-levelled baby monkey who attacks by throwing its faeces, while others are struggling to get into crafting due to resources being scattered widely across a hazardous world. One reviewer with 35.3 hours of playtime clocked says they’ve got only one raft to show for their efforts.

There’s also the widespread concern that this is an Ark reskin, and may even have once been conceived as Ark DLC. It’s certainly suspicious that a menu, straight from Ark, was found in Atlas’s own menu screen, as some reviewers and streamers have discovered:

With all of this said, Atlas is in early access, and has a price tag to match ($24.99/£23.79, with a further 17% off until January 2 – that’s about as much as you’d pay for an Ark expansion).

Related: check out the best survival games on PC

According to AltChar, the game was once rated at only 22% immediately after launch, so 24% is an improvement – albeit a teeny one – that likely reflects more recent reviews, which say the game is now in a consistently playable state. So it might be worth a go… but double-check Steam’s refund policy before you splash out.