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Atomic Heart Beginner’s Guide: 10 Tips You Need to Know to Survive

After many, many years of waiting, Atomic Heart is finally in our hands, and we got tips and tricks to help you navigate this bizarre world! While the game is certainly flawed, I think most players will agree that the game was well worth the wait. The game is incredibly popular right now, with tons and tons of new players diving into this Soviet robot utopia-turned-dystopia.

If you are one of these new players, then you may need some help on how to make the most of your time with the game. The game can be pretty challenging–especially on harder difficulties–so we’re here to soften the blow a bit for you in this Atomic Heart Beginner’s Guide: 10 Tips & Tricks.

The Top 10 Most Important Tips and Tricks for Atomic Heart

So with that introduction over, let’s jump right into the guide!

1. Side-Strafe During Melee

Keep strafing your enemies when engaging in melee combat.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

Probably the first and most important tip that I can possibly give you, when it comes to melee combat, is to make sure that you side strafe when engaging enemies. When I first started playing Atomic Heart, I did what a lot of players do when engaging enemies with my axe. I would approach them with them facing me, get off one or two light attacks, then dodge back when they swung their fists at me. Rinse and repeat until they died.

This type of melee combat may work in something like Cry of Fear, but it is not that effective in Atomic Heart. Even if you have a high-damage melee weapon, it can take you some time to finish off an enemy using this strategy. At first, I thought the melee combat was terribly under-powered, and I considered switching up my build to use only ranged weapons. Then I realized I could side-strafe around enemies and the melee combat got MUCH better.

In case you don’t know what side-strafing is, here is how I do it with melee weapons in Atomic Heart. When faced with an enemy, I will circle around them continuously, all the while spamming light attacks at them. Doing this allows me to repeatedly do damage to them all the while avoiding their melee attacks. This method makes melee combat MUCH more effective, and it’s incredibly satisfying to pull off.

2. Refund Powers Occasionally

You can refund your powers in Atomic Heart if you want to mix up your playstyle.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

Did you know that all of the powers/abilities you unlock in Atomic Heart can be refunded at full price? You probably do, the game tells you shortly after starting the game. But many players forget that you can do it or don’t bother to do it at all. Unless you have a specific build in mind that requires certain powers, it is very beneficial to play around with all of the different abilities that the game offers you.

And the best way to play around with all of these different abilities is to try one out and then refund it so you can get another one. You can do this by visiting NORA and selecting the polymer abilities option when you talk to her, just like you would do when you want to get an upgrade. When you are at the abilities menu, go to a power or upgrade you’ve already unlocked and follow the button prompt shown on the screen to get it refunded.

I highly recommend that you start doing this often if you haven’t been doing it already, especially if it’s your first play-through. Testing out all of the different abilities is really fun and it keeps the game from getting stale. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a power or upgrade you really like and that will inspire you to change up your build. This tip is also great in case you really want a certain upgrade and need to get some extra polymer in order to afford it.

3. Exit Locks to Reset Them

Restart puzzles by exiting them.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

Atomic Heart has many, many different locks in the game. Many players are frustrated by the amount of lock-picking that you have to do to progress. Personally, I don’t really mind it too much. One of the things that makes it easier for me is knowing that if you exit out of the lock while attempting it, the puzzle will reset, allowing you to start from scratch.

This is not that useful for some of the puzzles in the game. But for the matching colored dots one, it is very useful. That puzzle in particular is usually pretty easy to complete, often only requiring a few moves in order to be finished. But a lot of times–usually during my first few hours–I found myself changing the dots around too much, making the puzzle more difficult than it needed to be.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation to what I went through, just exit out of the lock by following the button prompt shown at the bottom of the screen. This will exit P-3 out of the puzzle, and when you re-enter it you’ll get to start fresh!

4. Manage Your Frostbite Ability

You don't have to fully use up your Frostbite ability.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

In Atomic Heart, there are several unique skills for you to pick and choose from. There’s a shield that can absorb and reflect enemy damage. There’s an anti-gravity skill that sends enemies flying into the air before crashing them down, etc. One of the most useful skills in the game (especially for melee builds) is Frostbite! And many players seem to agree, it’s one of the most common skills I see people using in Let’s Plays.

One thing I also see often in these Let’s Plays are players that press the button to use Frostbite and then continually use it until it runs out and it needs to recharge. This is an inefficient way to use it for two main reasons.

1) It is unnecessary. I’ve tested it out in the game, and using Frostbite on an enemy after they have fully frozen does not increase the amount of damage you can do to them before they break out.

2) It is wasteful and could be used on other enemies. After the bar is depleted, you have to wait a bit for the ability to recharge. But if you stop using it before it runs out, you can use it on another enemy if one is nearby.

When you use Frostbite, press it once to begin using it, then press the same button again once your target is fully frozen. This allows you to not waste any of it. And it makes it easier to take on multiple enemies at once, as you can still use it if another enemy gets too close.

5. Carry Both Energy & Melee Weapons

Carry BOTH a melee and energy weapon at all times in Atomic Heart.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

For the next tip on our Atomic Heart Beginner’s Guide: 10 Tips & Tricks, we have a tip for both melee builds and energy gun builds. As many of you probably know, when you melee an enemy in Atomic Heart, it will re-fill your energy bar. This is a meter that acts as your “ammo” for energy-based guns, such as the Railgun. This is a very valuable resource to have, as it allows you to use some powerful guns that don’t require any crafting materials to make their ammo.

So if you’re doing a melee play-through, it is beneficial to carry around something like the Railgun or the Electro energy pistol. And if you are doing an energy weapons build, you NEED to carry around at least one melee weapon. These two weapon categories work very well together, and it’s the reason why I’m doing a melee weapon/energy guns hybrid build for my first play-through of the game.

And if you want to really get more bang for your buck, you can take a look at the “Energy Management” skill tree to get some upgrades for this play style. In this menu, you can get upgrades that allow you to hold more energy at once. You can make it so that attacking enemies with melee weapons gives you EVEN MORE energy!

6. Craft & Use Cartridges Often

Craft and utilize cartridges often to give your weapons elemental properties.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

One of the items in Atomic Heart that I overlooked during the first few hours of my play-through of the game are cartridges. These are consumable items that you can attach to your weapons (both melee and ranged). When you add them, they will add an elemental damage effect!

Think of them like the greases from Elden Ring. They are great for dealing with certain types of enemies more effectively, as some are weak to certain elements. There are a total of three of them in the game, and they are:

  • Electric: Shocks targets and does extra damage to robots.
  • Fire: Burns targets and does extra damage to organics.
  • Ice: Freezes targets which will slow enemies down.

Just keep in mind that your weapon won’t be able to use them by default. Instead, you will need to upgrade them at NORA by selecting the weapon and then scrolling to the option all the way to the right. Once you have the modification, you can also upgrade it to be even more effective. You can find cartridges in the world by looting enemies and containers. Additionally, you can craft them at NORA.

To start using a cartridge, open up your weapon wheel and select the empty circle at the bottom while you are holding the weapon that you want to use. From here, you can select the cartridge type that you want to use by hovering over it and releasing the button that opened the menu. An animation will play in which P-3 will apply the cartridge. A cartridge will last for a few minutes or until you use it up. To see what enemies are weak to what elements, all you need to do is scan them.

7. Use Consumables Before Major Fights

Actively use your consumables before major fights in Atomic Heart.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

Atomic Heart gives its players several different consumable items for them to use. Some of these consumable items offer unique buffs that can make combat encounters easier. There is one that will increase the speed at which your dodge meter recharges. And there is one that will increase the amount of damage that you can do to enemies, which makes cleaning up robots much easier.

I highly recommend you use these consumables before taking on a big group of enemies or a boss. This will make the fight much more manageable for you. You can find these consumable items (such as cans of condensed milk, vodka bottles, etc) inside containers throughout the world. You can also craft some, although not every consumable item in the game can be crafted.

8. Disassemble Your Excess Gear

Disassemble your excess gear in Atomic Heart for spare parts.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

If you are going for a certain build in the game, then chances are you will acquire an excessive amount of something that you don’t really need. Since I’m doing a melee and energy weapons build, I often find my inventory full of ammo that is basically useless to me. I would be a fool not to disassemble this ammo so that I can use its components to upgrade the gear that I am actually using.

The same thing is true for you! As you explore and loot the various facilities in Atomic Heart, you will come across lots of items and weapons that you may not need for your build. So be sure to stop by NORA often to check what has accumulated in your inventory, so that it can be recycled. In order to disassemble stuff, you will need to go to the weapons upgrade section for NORA.

While in this menu, look at the top of the screen for the option labeled “Storage/Disassembly.” Click on it and you’ll see the items you have in your inventory and what you have stored in NORA. To disassemble something, first, you’ll need to store it in NORA. Once that is done, then you can select the disassemble option from the top of the screen. Now just select and hold down the button the game prompts you with in order to disassemble an item.

9. Upgrade the Right Weapon Parts

Upgrade the right weapon parts to increase specific stats.
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

There are several different weapon upgrades that you can acquire in Atomic Heart. How the upgrade system works is like this: you have several different parts that you can select from. Then you can continuously upgrade that part, with each upgrade level providing a different bonus to your gun. There is no single part that will only upgrade damage or a single part that will only upgrade accuracy.

Instead, the various bonuses for different stat categories are spread across different upgrades. For example, upgrading to one level of your melee weapons blade may increase damage. But if you want to increase damage again, you’ll have to upgrade to a certain level on your weapon’s handle. Your damage is one of the most important stats to consider in any video game, and Atomic Heart is no different. So I recommend that you focus primarily on upgrading this stat.

Keeping how this upgrade system works in mind, you are going to want to make sure you dig through your upgrade menu to see what modifications will boost your damage. This is a preferable option to just upgrading one part of your gun until it reaches max level. As its upgrade path may include some stat boosts that you might not really need at that point in the game.

10. Scan Often During Open World Segments

Scan often in open-world segments
Image: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

You may have heard from reviews that Atomic Heart isn’t an entirely linear game. While most of the game is pretty linear, there are some segments that are semi-open world. In these segments, the amount of enemies and cameras increases drastically. This is especially true for the village that you encounter early on in the campaign. That area is JAM PACKED with enemies and cameras.

These sections of the game can get frustrating for new players, as they’ll often find themselves constantly fighting the re-spawning enemies and getting detected by the cameras often. In order to alleviate this problem somewhat and make these areas easier to traverse, I recommend you constantly scan for enemies and cameras before progressing forwards. When you see an enemy, you can sneak up behind it and disable it from behind.

And if you spot a camera, you can disable it with your SHOK ability or destroy it. Trust me, you do not want to get detected by cameras in these open-world segments. They will spawn in several robots which can cause you to get overwhelmed very easily, especially if you haven’t taken out any of the already existing enemies in the area.

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