Starlink: Battle for Atlas is Ubisoft’s answer to the dying Toys-to-Life genre, and with the inclusion of the StarFox team as a Nintendo Switch exclusive it hits home in all the right ways for Nintendo fans.
The story won’t really captivate you in any way, but the gameplay loop is solid; featuring a mix of planet building aspects, ground and space combat, and a ship upgrade system with RPG elements.
Being a Toys-to-Life game there are some puzzles and rewards that are gated by different elemental requirements, and even though Ubisoft does there best to offer in-game ways to solve this issue, it is still very apparent.
Starlink’s story has you playing as different members of the Starlink Initiative, a small rag team brought together by the captain of the Equinox, Victor St. Grand.
As the team enters the Atlas system they are ambushed by the Forgotten Legion and St. Grand is taken hostage by Grax, the Legion’s merciless leader, due to his ability to create Nova, a valuable resource and commodity.
This causes the remaining members of Starlink to travel to different planets in the Atlas system in search of clues that will lead them to the Forgotten Legion’s base in order to save their captain.
Along the way the team will have to fight off Legion opposition and help citizens of the different planets in the Atlas system to gain a following for their conquest against the Forgotten Legion and Grax.
Eventually St. Grand will escape from the Legion’s grasp, and be reunited with the Starlink Initiative, but it will have been too late as St. Grand was poisoned and shortly after arriving he passes away.
This event sparks a light in the Starlink team and they swear to avenge their captain by stopping Grax at all costs.
The gameplay in Starlink: Battle for Atlas is all about ship based combat and exploration.
You will spend the majority of your time exploring the different planets that the Atlas system has to offer while completing requests for the local inhabitants.
Most of these requests will be repeats of previous planets, with some slight variation, but you will want to do as many as possible as doing quests is the best source of Nova, a resource used to upgrade the Equinox as well as your different ships and pilot abilities.
Upgrading your ship and pilot abilities will come in handy during combat sequences which will be a little different depending on where you’re located.
Planetside combat will have you jumping over enemy attacks with your boosters and dodging incoming missiles and bullets, while space battles are classic dogfighting aerial combat, like that in Starfox 64 all-range mode.
The Toys-to-Life feature of this game is pretty great, and transforming and customizing your ship in mid combat and flight is fairly seamless even if you’re using digital instead of physical.
Your weapons will have different elemental properties which can be combined to deal extra damage to your enemies, and all enemies will have elemental weakness and strengths.
If you purchase the physical copy of the game you’ll receive a fire and ice weapon, which will serve you well through the entire game if you choose not to purchase any more weapons, at least in the combat side of things.
Scattered throughout the planets and in space are different types of challenges, though again most of these will simply be repeats that you’ve done time and time again.
Often the game will present you with a challenge that requires an element type you may not have depending on what version of the game you purchased, but Ubisoft was kind enough to place canisters around the world that can be launched as a projectile weapon, and these canisters will have different elemental types as well, so if you take your time you should be able to do everything without spending extra money.
A key feature in the game that you’ll unlock about halfway through the story is the Influence bar which will show you how each planet is fairing against the Legion invasion.
You can progress this bar in your favor by creating outposts on the planets and destroying legion bases or major enemies; and this can be fun as you are going about your adventure, only to have a popup appear on screen and tell you there has been an emergency attack on a planet you’ve saved, giving you reason to revisit planets.
However, this really just feels more like a way to elongate the games play time, and could simply be ignored with no relevant effect to the overall story.
Audio & Visuals
The music in this game is pretty good as far as background music goes, but won’t really cause any sort of emotional reaction or feeling of empowerment through epic riffs.
That is unless you’re talking about when you activate Fox McCloud’s pilot ability, during which you’ll be blasted with the Corneria theme from the StarFox soundtrack, which is a nice touch.
Visually speaking this game is pretty beautiful.
Each planet has a unique look and feel to it, making every planet recognizable.
Personally I felt there was something a little off putting about the size ratio between your ship and the world around you, but that’s mostly just a personal complaint.
This game certainly won’t win any awards for it’s soundtrack or visual design, but it is a solid style nonetheless.
All in all Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a solid game, though after I’ve had time to play it fully I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the Star Fox game Nintendo fans have been longing for.
Yes, it does make some really good use of its mechanics, but there is still something missing as far as a perfect StarFox game goes.
The story is forgettable at best, and the gameplay is repetitive, but that is forgiven due to just how fun it is to actually fly your ship around and defeat enemies and explore.
The world design is beautiful, albeit a little lacking, and I could always go for more planets and areas to explore.
If you’re big into the StarFox series or space/ship combat in general, I’d definitely say give this game ago.
That being said, I would recommend picking up the $80 digital copy unless you absolutely want to collect the physical toys, as the digital copy will unlock everything at that price while you’ll need to pay upwards of $200+ to buy every toy ship, pilot, and weapon.
I’m excited to see more from Ubisoft with this IP, and I hope they’ll take fan feedback into consideration in the next title.
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