When Starlink: Battle for Atlas was first announced, the initial response was pretty lukewarm in all fairness… That was until the trailer for Fox McCloud appeared, bringing content exclusively for the Nintendo Switch and everyones mind was blown away – But is Fox only in this game to boost sales and to gather more players, or is he and the team an add-on to an already great game?
Hey there guys and gals, Clarice (And Joe!) here with our impressions and thoughts on Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Clarice will present her thoughts first, followed by Joe.
Starlink is another ‘Toys to Life’ game that involves using ships, pilots and modular weapons that you can change on the fly (Pun intended), which provide different ways of playing and techniques to defeat each enemy… However that being said I personally never got to experience it with the toys due to some shipping complications, but I managed to receive the digital deluxe edition which essentially comes with everything you can physically and digitally buy. Before I get into my thoughts of the game, I would like to discuss the state of the game and build we played at EGX in Birmingham – The platform I played on was the Nintendo Switch, and I have to admit, this build made me want to never set my eyes on the game again as it was a buggy and poorly optimised version of the game… So when I found out I would be reviewing this, let’s just say I wasn’t the happiest of people; however, the minute I first booted the game up on my Switch I was instantly blown away, not only does it look beautiful but it runs smoothly and only once have I experienced frames dropping, which was due to one too many enemies on screen, but even then it wasn’t as bad as you would think. I could sing praises all day on just how much better this game is compared to the build I played so good job on that Ubisoft!
Now what is Starlink? Starlink is an action adventure game which focuses entirely on starship battles in and out of space; a game heavily inspired by the Star Fox franchise, hence why Fox just so happens to pop in with the Starlink Crew. The game centers around fighting back the evils of the mysterious ‘Legion’ and taking back Atlas; in order to do so you must discover the secrets of the resource Nova and find out just who and what the enigmatic Legion are who captured your captain. The gameplay consists of 4 objectives; destroying Primes and Extractors (Bosses), building and upgrading outposts, taking out outlaws and their hideouts, and of course levelling up each pilot, ship and weapon and customising them with ‘Mods’ that increase damage, accuracy, and the cost it takes to actually fire the damn thing. As I had received a key for the deluxe addition, I didn’t need to worry about buying extra weapons and what not, but for someone either buying the physical or digital starter edition, you will find that the game is a lot more harder than it should be; with the starter kits (I will mainly be talking about the Switch version) you will receive Manson Rana, the newest recruit to the Starlink crew, and of course Fox McCloud; you also receive Fox’s iconic ship, the Arwing, the Flamethrower weapon and Frost Barrage Missiles, as well as the digital versions of the Zenith starship and Shredder weapon.
All these weapons will come in handy especially for Warden Towers, but as you play the game you will notice that some things require Gravity or Stasis weapons, and all of a sudden I can hear you scream “Wait what? I can’t access some content because I haven’t got the correct weapon type?!” Correct. As unfortunate as it is, some weapons required are not accessible unless you pay for it with real money, similar to the Skylanders effect with areas being cornered off because you haven’t got a certain type of Skylander. To me it is ridiculous, and not to mention that the Flamethrower acts like a shotgun and Frost Barrage acts like a slow firing missile, so for a fast paced space battle, you will mainly be using Shredder as that acts like a gatling gun. Now onto the part I hate about this, the weapons you receive VS the weapons you buy… There is a big difference in damage, and the combos you can do with each; weapons that are more fun to use like Imploder or a better version of the Shredder (Ironically named Shredder Mk. 2) are just out of reach behind a horrid paywall, in fact you’re best to actually buy the digital release if you want to access all the content this game has to offer without buying a mad amount of toys.
In terms of the Star Fox exclusive content, I don’t really think that it’s needed to experience the full game; sure it’s nice to have, and is a treat for Star Fox fans, but as someone who has never played a Star Fox game in their life before, I personally don’t feel attached, regardless if I was able to play it or not – It does make me feel that this game should have been a Switch exclusive from the start, due to the Star Fox content and the overall portability of this game; though saying that, the Toys to Life in portable doesn’t work unless you use a Joycon Grip, which can be annoying on the go (Not to mention you’d have to lug all the ships around with you), which is why personally I prefer the digital edition rather than the physical one – You’d be spending nearly £200 on physical toys instead of £60-80 for everything digitally, which is almost needed for some of the harder parts of the game as well as unlocking some of the Spires.
Overall I found this game to be very enjoyable, however due to how scarcely populated the worlds are, and how repetitive this game is, I found that if you play it in long bursts, you’ll grow tired of this game faster than if you played it in short bursts. Despite this being my personal opinion, I am a bit disappointed that Ubisoft is making players and parents pay over £200 to access all of the physical content this game has to offer, and would recommend you go digital instead of physical – Despite this though, I did enjoy my time with Starlink, and would consider it a well worthwhile addition to my Switch catalogue – Maybe after a few discounts or price drops, and a few more updates to add more varied content into the game, I would be able to recommend Starlink’s physical edition to most Switch owners.
When I first saw the advertisements for Starlink, I was very much in the same camp as Clarice; thinking this game would simply be nothing more than a simple cash grab looking gluttonously at the slowly diminishing Skylanders market to suck out that last bit of cash floating in the ‘Toys to Life’ realm of gaming – This wasn’t helped by a seemingly forced inclusion of Fox McCloud in the Nintendo Switch version of the game, and the announcement that the title would be available across PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch – I knew those other platforms would never be able to access that exclusive content, which soured the deal further…
Combine this with a lacklustre stage demo at EGX 2018, and you have the textbook recipe for a game that will disappoint… So why the hell is Starlink subverting my initial expectations so much?!
Starlink: Battle for Atlas has quickly risen to become one of my go-to Switch titles, especially in Handheld mode to help wind down after a long day; the game’s premise is simple – Explore a solar system in a semi-customisable ship and kill some aliens, just as if the Flood were ripped straight from Halo; corrupted technology roams the various planets, and threatens the semi-peaceful existences of the solar system’s inhabitants – You, as the player, act as a pilot in the galactic squadron known as “Starlink”, minding your own business until suddenly, your hub ship, the Equinox, is attacked, and your commander, St Grand, kidnapped by a mysterious cult-like race of aliens known as the Legion – It’s then up to you to rescue your commander and get tied up in all sorts of additional Star Fox content… Presuming you’re playing on the Switch version.
Fans of the little furry pilot won’t have to look far to engage in his exclusive content – Straight after the first few missions you get assistance from the famous fox, and can then, as long as you have his pilot figure or digital version of the game, immediately funnel into the exclusive content without much blocking your way outside of some mandatory grinding to rise above difficulty spikes – My first complaint, however, is that this content cannot escape feeling entirely forced – Star Fox’s characters definitely stand out as opposed to the more ‘American Daytime Cartoon’ inspired characters and aliens of Starlink’s base content – They get included into certain plot missions, make plenty of references to their lore and the world of Cornelia, and, when playing as Fox, himself, Falco, Slippy and Peppy all make near-constant comments on the mechanics of this solar system, the resources, people, enemies, and much much more – Some may call it involved or natural to comment on the world around them, but given the frequency, it does end up grating and feeling just a bit forced eventually.
In terms of gameplay, Starlink is comprised of four primary segments, as Clarice mentioned above – Defeating Primes and Extractors, destroying outlaws, building your bases for resource collection, and levelling up equipment, outside of the story missions. Whilst there is a simple and relaxing elegancy in it’s minutia, it cannot be understated how much I would love for this game to evolve with more interactive gameplay elements – Planets feel empty, even if they are beautiful, encounters just feel diverse enough to stay fresh, and each of those above objectives are fun to a degree, given you pace yourself in doing so. Starlink is one of those games where playing for an hour or two before bed feels great, but if you go in for an extended period of time, say for a whole night, you will leave feeling burnt out and a bit bored.
Now, I would go ahead and comment on the actual toys and their quality, but unfortunately we have yet to receive the starter pack – Hearing from Luke’s experience, however, the construction and quality of the toys is somewhere between ‘underwhelming’ and ‘good’ – He had a part of the Arwing figure break off, at the end of the wing, which isn’t what I’d expect from a £20-25 ship figure when Skylanders have far better construction quality for half the price. I’m also not a fan of the ‘Toys to Life’ model, and given the ridiculous difference between the content offered by the Starter Pack and the Digital Deluxe Edition (The version we received), I simply can’t justify the purchase of the physical editions unless you really want some cool-looking ship figures to add to your shelf, which is understandable, trust me, but in terms of gameplay all that is different is that you get to skip a few loading screens when swapping equipment – That’s it. You pay for convenience.
All things considered, Starlink: Battle for Atlas did subvert my expectations by quite a bit; it is as simple as I had initially assumed it to be, but that’s by no means a bad thing – The game does a specific few things and does them well, and leaves with a platform from which the game can evolve and grow within – I just hope Ubisoft take the opportunity to better flesh out each planet and their unique inhabitants given future content patches or DLC. The actual toys may not serve any purpose outside of convenience, but the figures do look good and would sit well in a cabinet or on a bookshelf… Just don’t bend them too hard…
Clarice rates Starlink: Battle for Atlas:
Joe rates Starlink: Battle for Atlas: