After Starlink: Battle For Atlas‘ initial reveal at E3 2017, I was sceptical that the toys to life genre was still something viable for any company – let alone Ubisoft and a brand new IP. Since LEGO and Disney both failed to profit in the genre with blockbuster properties that spanned several mediums, it truthfully seemed like this game was an idea that came to fruition too late.
Of course, these were only my immediate thoughts before a Star Fox crossover was confirmed for the Switch version of Starlink, which managed to begin exciting me as a fan of the sporadically released Nintendo series. While having Fox, Falco, Slippy, and Peppy return for a new adventure is an exciting prospect, was it enough to entice consumers? That question still remains to be seen. However, after spending several days with the game I’m glad to report that not only does this throttle existing Star Fox titles in terms of quality and scale, but it manages to stand on its own for those unable to partake in the game on Switch.
What’s fascinating to me is how Ubisoft has been able to incorporate the usage of real-world and modular ships that are to easy to plug in new weapons and pilots. Jumping between Fox McCloud and newcomer Mason Rana is quick and easy, while swapping weapons on each wing can be done on the fly – with the latter bearing hilarious results if you actually snap it on backwards. It’s the little touches here, folks, and Starlink is filled with them.
Truthfully, the act of playing with these toys (despite how cool they may look) won’t be a major plus for anyone hoping to just play the game or save room in their already cluttered house. This seems like a given as the toy aspect of the game won’t appeal to everyone, which is why Ubisoft deserves kudos for creating a digital version of Starlink that completely removes the need for figurines and allows players to simply trek through the entire game and all of its contents as is. That’s right, you don’t need the toys to play through the digital version of the game – the content is there.
Now, in playing digitally some of the charm is lost in the swapping of parts and the collectibility of each spaceship, character, and weapon, but that feature is still available for anyone that wants to play that way. Given that Star Fox is such a prominent part of the Switch version, the one of the two digital options (each with a range of in-game items) is a perfect fit for those looking for some barrel rolls on the go.
It should also be noted that the Star Fox content itself is also quite impressive. While exclusive missions tied to Star Wolf only span about two hours, Fox McCloud is integrated right into the full game. That means that from beginning to end players are able to experience everything happening as the saviour of Corneria. This includes fully-voiced dialogue in side and main missions, as well as a presence in the main game’s cinematics. It’s arguably one of the best optional crossover segments ever seen in gaming, and Ubisoft has managed to pull it off.
From a gameplay perspective, other reviewers will be sure to compare Starlink: Battle for Atlas to other titles like No Man’s Sky, Skylanders, and Star Fox (heck, the title of this quasi-review already did that), but the truth is that this game is unlike anything else out there. Not enough emphasis can be placed on the massive, sprawling worlds present throughout, and players are able to come and go as they please. One moment they can be building an armoury on the remnants of an enemy hive and the next they can be thrusting into the sky to battle outlaws in space.
The transition from each planet to space travel occurs with no loading screen, so the experience is uninterrupted aside from bouts featuring fast travel and cutscenes.
As for the gameplay, the objective is more or less to stop a group known as Legion, as they have begun taking over Atlas planet by planet. Doing so means upgrading your ship with Mods, generating in-game currency through missions, setting up buildings on planets, and shooting up massive creatures/enemies. Admittedly, the act of liberating a planet can feel like a bit of a grind at times as you go through the same steps, but each planet brings with it its own fauna and feel that perpetuates a desire to keep exploring. No world looks the same.
I think that Starlink is something that may easily be overlooked by a casual audience in the wake of such massive AAA video games arriving ahead of the 2018 holiday season, but it really shouldn’t be. It goes beyond just fans of Star Fox (although they certainly won’t want to sleep on this either), because Battle for Atlas manages to stand on its own. It’s a surprisingly deep game that prioritizes player preference throughout which in turn pulls players in further. Want to bypass the physical toys? Download it digitally. Don’t care for that weapon? Swap it out. Need a new ship? Say no more. It’s fun to play, it’s easy to use, and the barrier between these various desires and play is minimal. That’s something truly special.
Of course, it’s also the best game to ever feature Star Fox in his Arwing, so there’s that.
Starlink: Battle For Atlas arrives for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 16, 2018. Ubisoft provided Okay, Cool with a copy of the game on Switch for coverage purposes.
Feel free to chat with Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle if you have any questions about Starlink. Or, you know, you just need a friend.