Starlink: Battle for Atlas Review
By Justin Matusiak
It all started with a trailer from an unknown indie videogame studio in London. Hello Games, on the stage of the VGX Awards show in 2013 unveiled their passion project No Man’s Sky. It featured vibrant, heavily wooded jungles, dense aquatic biospheres teeming with aquatic wildlife and a shot of a lone pilot walking their way to singular starship. Up to this point everything shown had been something most gamers had experienced in one way or another but that would change when the pilot arrived at his ship. Casually leaping into the vessel, the pilot aims his sights for the stars and takes flight. Speed is instantaneous, the sky brightens as we reach the top layer of the planet’s atmosphere and then, instantly we are greeted with the infinite of space. No loading screen, no downgrade in visual quality, and before our very eyes, a tense space battle was being waged with the pilot effortlessly throwing themselves into the fray. This was the majesty of intergalactic space travel that players everywhere hungered for and while these dreams would not be realized in No Man’s Sky’s release, another game would follow suit a few years later.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure space exploration game featuring 5 unique characters and one guest character brought in through Ubisoft’s partnership with Nintendo—Fox McCloud and his team Starfox. Standing alone Starlink: Battle For Atlas delivers everything we wanted on the backs of games like No Man’s Sky while also providing an interesting toy-to-life peripherals to enhance the experience (which is optional should you so choose) but with the additional Starfox content Starlink becomes an expansive and breath-taking adventure that is a must have for any man woman or child who wants to explore the vast reaches of space as well as scratch the need for any Nintendo Switch owners looking to get an authentic Starfox experience.
In Starlink you select a pilot and ship in your crew, customizing your ship as you please and then set forth into the Atlas Star System with the task of assisting the Starlink crew combat the growing galactic threat known as the Legion. But the how and when you face the Legion is, for the most part, up to your own initiative. You are free to explore the 7 planets made available as well as every inch of space in between but this is by no means a walk in the park. The Atlas Star System is crawling with bandits, sentient robots and of course the ever-present threat of the Legion all of whom act independently and in real time as you play the game. You may find yourself wandering the frozen reaches of Tundria only to be ambushed by bandits looking to scrap your ship for parts and as you spend time fighting the bandits the Legion may have landed one of their dreadnought ships over a neighboring planet releasing their soldiers onto the surface to spread and conquer the planet whole.
With Starlink the focus is on dynamic gameplay and ever evolving circumstances that will call for both adaptable pilots and level-headed strategists in order to survive and that theme rings true in its core gameplay as well. Whether you use the physical toys to mount on your controller or the digital read out a smart Starlink pilot will know when its time to switch out weapons, parts or even different ships and pilots altogether. If the situation warrants it but that’s not to say that swapping is absolutely necessary. Starlink is a game that is as free and as open-ended as the player makes it out to be so while some players may come from a situation where they want to pick the right tool for the job, other players may find one or two combos that work for them and stick exclusively to those. Alternatively, you can just play as Fox the whole game and then suddenly you’ll find yourself in a fresh and unique Starfox experience, including a separate storyline featuring fully animated cut-scenes all of the game’s ship combat we have come to know and love as well as Starfox’s rival and antagonist Wolf who has his own plans for conquest within the Atlas system.
Starlink is a game so jam-packed with content any player will surely find plenty of things to do and lose themselves in the ongoing conflict the game provides. That being said the price point for the game to play in the way it advertises will make most consumers leery of purchasing it. The physical starter kit being set at $59.99 comes with one ship, one pilot and two weapons while the Starfox bundle is set at $79.99 which has the same things the starter kit has, but also contains Fox as a pilot and his signature ship, the Arwing. Additional ships are set at $25.00 and additional pilots and weapons ranging in the $8.00-$10.00 range. This manner of splitting up the game’s features through individualized DLC is unfortunately the game’s biggest drawback as it can be hard to recommend to any consumer when you begin to add up how much it would cost to get the game’s bells and whistles. The game may also not be for everyone in terms of its quest-giving system which at times, can get repetitive. Whether its exploration, helping the locals, or progressing in the main story all tasks you undertake in Starlink are attributed to the larger goal of taking down the Legion (or Wolf if your with Starfox) but to what degree of help any one mission contributes to your goals can seem minute, especially just starting out. Many players may also find that while the graphic style is pleasing and consistent it may feel a bit lacking due to the Nintendo Switch’s lesser hardware.
But if you have the time and a little extra holiday money under your belt, Starlink: Battle for Atlas can make you feel like an ace pilot, elite strategist and leader of the legendary Starfox crew all in one. A space-based action experience you will surely never forget.