Starlink: Battle for Atlas was met with some pretty mixed feelings following itsMostl. Mostly people were skeptical, toys-to-life titles have never exactly done well and with Starlink coming in late to the party, why should this be different? There was a quiet minority who saw it and said “Holy shit, this looks awesome!” especially because of the modular ship design system. I must admit I was one of the former, the game looked great but given previous toys-to-life titles have bombed out pretty hard, what makes Starlink – Battle for Atlas different?
We got invited along to a special preview event and given the chance to sit down and get hands on with the game, as well as attend a couple of informative panels including one attended by Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut. Sadly I had to miss that session, but I have it on good authority it was a very informative discussion! Instead, I got to lose myself in the worlds of Starlink: Battle for Atlas for a good two hours for a bit of a deep-dive into its gameplay and story.
Let’s start by talking about the ships and their controller mounts. Sturdy construction with some brilliant detailing, the modules are quick and easy to swap out on the fly. There are a number of different ships, pilots and weapon packs available for purchase while speaking with Laurent Malville, Creative Director behind Starlink, he said that the idea was to create a collection of items that would give a wide range of options but not so wide as to be off putting.
The problem that most Toys to Life titles face is the over abundance of collectible items that are quite often pretty expensive, Starlink: Battle for Atlas features 8 pilots and ships with a range of different weapons with the intention of being accessible and affordable. Laurent also mentioned how the models were designed so as to look great on a player’s shelf when not in use, something they have definitely achieved, especially with Fox McCloud’s Arwing.
Now when it comes to gameplay, Starlink is incredibly polished and responsive. Usually, when you put me in any kind of flying vehicle I will immediately crash it into the ground about 10 times in a row before figuring out which way is up. Starlink: Battle for Atlas‘ controls are exceptionally easy to get to grips with and the ships handle incredibly well, obviously, each one has its unique traits that alter how they respond and what evasive moves they can perform, with Fox’s ship being able to Do a Barrel Roll some of the others struggle with. Flying around in space is exactly as fun and easy as it should be, while engaging enemies in interstellar dogfights get to be an intense battle of high-speed maneuvers and strafing fire.
The story is repeated when in the atmosphere on one of Starlink’s many different worlds. Boosting across the surface before firing thrusters over a natural ramp can lead to some cool acrobatics, all useful for earning XP and maintaining combos while exploring. The planetside combat tends to be less acrobatic due to that pesky gravity, but are no less intense and rely on carefully timed dodge maneuvers along with clever weapon combinations to create devastating effects. Each weapon has a unique characteristic and they can be combined to create interesting new elemental hazards and effects that can drastically alter the combat. Freezing an opponent then hitting them with a fire weapon immediately after will induce Thermal Shock and deal massive combo damage, and this is just one of the possible attack combinations.
Even though we were given free reign to explore the sector and the worlds available, 2 hours was not anywhere near enough time to fully explore anything but gives a sense of just how much Starlink: Battle for Atlas has to offer and discover. Each of the worlds are massive and littered with different tasks and missions to complete, local inhabitants are always asking for assistance in one form or another which can lead to you getting enjoyable sidetracked from time to time. Not to mention in developing a world’s defenses against attacks from outlaws and other forces, the more time you spend developing a world’s infrastructure the better chances they have at fending off an attack without your intervention.
When speaking with Laurent and his team it’s clear to see just how passionate about the project they are and how badly they want to see it do well. When talking of future developments and expansions they became quite tight lipped, but given how guarded a secret the Starfox reveal was, I have no doubts that they’ve got something huge waiting in the wings. Ubisoft has shown a huge willingness to work with Nintendo and you know the only thing bigger than putting Starfox in? Samus Aran, who knows, it could happen and she’d be a great addition to the title!
As it stands though, Starfox is a perfect addition to the Starlink: Battle for Atlas cast and exploring their reasons for being in the Atlas system is sure to be interesting. As for the Starlink main story, I had to be told not to continue chasing the main questline in the preview session. I got caught up tracking down the character data caches that reveal the cast’s backstories and motivations for joining Starlink and was focused on finding them all before being told I couldn’t get to the last one yet…
From a brief hands on experience, Starlink: Battle for Atlas has managed to win me over wholeheartedly, it’s breathing new life into the Toys-to-Life and in spectacular fashion too! The team behind the game are incredible and are set on delivering a fantastic gaming experience rather than 300 collectible items that serve little to no purpose, each module, ship or pilot released is going to handle and behave completely different to the others, meaning it has a real impact on play. Hell, the team even say that there is no need to buy anything other than what ships with the game, you’re not locked out of any areas or content just because you don’t have the right weapons, ship or pilot. The only locked content is that of the Starfox missions, but that kinda makes sense.
Walking in I was skeptical but after discussing the game with Laurent and his team as well as playing it, I’ve no doubts that Starlink: Battle for Atlas is going to be a brilliant game delivered by an absolutely fantastic group of people. In just two short hours I was completely blown away and the time flew past. I would happily have sat there and continued playing all night if they’d let me!