Starlink: Battle for Atlas Review – Written by Jose Vega
Note: Purchased product for review.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a action-adventure free-flight exploration game created by Ubisoft, the same company that give us Assassin’s Creed, Rayman and others. It has a lot of good ideas but the execution is a bit mixed. Ubisoft Toronto pitched an idea of a toys-to-life game in the same way that other games like Skylanders. It was given the green light but the only difference is that its main idea is the gimmick being to customize flying ships to however players want them to be. Starlink came about as a result. Does this game soar high or crash and burn?
As I said, the game is an action-adventure game and you get to play as a fighter pilot who flies on a starship traveling from planet to planet, freeing each one from a band of evil forces called the Legion, led by a prophet named Grax. It’s simple enough but that’s where the game takes it a step further. In each planet, your job is to free it from the Legion and you do so by driving the Legion back, build bases to raise your Alliance meter and explore. Yes. Exploration is the big focus as each planet is home to various sights, and wildlife. It helps for players that want to achieve 100% completion on each planet but it can get repetitive and boring quick. Having to do the same thing in the game 7 planets can get dull. The same can be said for outer space. Time is mostly spent on battling outlaws, traveling from one point to the next, finding supplies and in some cases battling giant capital ships called Dreadnoughts. Dreadnoughts do offer a bit of challenge but that’s about it. Though they also provide an advantage if they are destroyed and can help make the trek a bit enjoyable.
Starlink is also a toys-to-life game, and this game has plenty of customization in the forms of weapons, ships and pilots. Players can use toys that Ubisoft has provided along with the game to customize their ship however they like. New weapons are obtained with the toys they collect and having it physically means they can get it in the game. No fuss, no muss. The toys themselves do look cool and for collectors, it’s a nice touch. But for those who don’t want to waste money on buying toys, they can buy weapons in the form of DLC packs. The DLC packs, called Starship Packs, each consist of one pilot, their ship and two weapons. There are also weapon packs and pilot packs, providing new weapons and pilots. But to those that want everything from the start, they offer a complete $60 pack. It’s a lot and it does give people a choice but if they bought the $80 digital deluxe edition, that’s only an afterthought.
Speaking of the ships, weapons and pilots, they can be leveled up. You gain experience by doing many things such as defeating enemies, completing objectives, etc. Once a ship part such as a ship or weapon levels up, the respective pilot gets a skill point they can use to improve their abilities. In addition players can obtain mods to customize their weapons and ships. The mods can be upgraded as well to be more powerful. Players can also be able to upgrade their team abilities in exchange for Electrum and Cores. The only drawback is that unless you have every pilot, you are a bit limited on what you can upgrade. There’s a lot of customization here and Ubisoft does have some good ideas with this. It’s that the execution is, as I said, really flawed.
As for story, it revolves around a group of individuals travel to the Atlas system on their ship, the Equinox only to get attacked by the Legion. Grax, leader of the Legion kidnaps the lead scientist in charge of Equinox in the hopes of finding anything regarding an extinct species called the Wardens. Now the crew of Starlink travel from planet to planet to send the Legion packing, stop Grax, save their commander and free the Atlas system. It’s a simple story at best with most of it told during the game as you play. For players who got the game on Nintendo Switch, there’s an added story where Team Star Fox appears to help the crew of the Equinox. But they also have a reason for being here, as Wolf O’Donnell of Star Wolf has been spotted on Atlas. So the two groups join forces to save Atlas from the Legion and Wolf O’Donnell, who’s here to seek power to rule the Lylat System. The Star Fox story is all right but it makes you wish there was more. Ubisoft does have good ideas and it makes you wonder what it’s like had they make their own Star Fox game.
Starlink isn’t a long game and players can beat it within 8-10 hours but to 100% everything, including maxing out all weapons and pilots, it’s a lot longer since exploration takes priority. As for presentation, it’s at least better than No Man’s Sky. The game does look good and plays good. Controls are simple, easy and intuitive. Voice acting is good and believable and it gets you interested into the game.
But although there is some good ideas in the game, there are various flaws. In fact, this would be summed up with just three complaints. First is the DLC content. Now to anyone who bought the $80 digital edition, consider it an afterthought. To many that didn’t are expected to spend money whether via the toys or the digital content. And considering that ships also count as additional lives, players start with 2 unless they get everything. Sadly you don’t get any new ships as you play so that’s a bummer.
Second is the gameplay and mission structure. Players go from planet-to-planet freeing them from the Legion. It does start off fun at first but as you keep going, it does get tedious. Nothing changes and no matter what planet you travel, it’s the same grind since it does help offer advantages down the line. If the game offers a bit more variety that would be fine and they do provide it with showdowns against Primes but it’s also the same grind. Of course destroying Primes does free the planet so it’s a bit of a reprieve. However, I wish that Starlink could offer more.
The last complaint is lack of boss battles. Primes and Dreadnoughts do count as boss battles but they can be dealt with if players know how to figure out the best strategy for them. Even the final boss feels underwhelming. It can be taken down with little effort, offering no challenge whatsoever. That alone also seems that Ubisoft didn’t put much effort in offering more. Also the Star Fox stuff is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch version and it gets a pass because playing as Fox McCloud and his Arwing is simply satisfying.
In conclusion, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a game that has good ideas. Very good ideas that if they put more time into it it would be a really great game. However several issues mar the game. Is it a bad game? Absolutely not. You can have a lot of fun with the game but the fun only lasts for so long. The Star Fox content on the Switch version does provide some variety but it makes you wish it’d be longer. But playing as Fox McCloud makes up for it. At least it’s better than No Man’s Sky since the game does feel like a game and not a bait-and-switch. If you plan on getting the game, get the $80 digital deluxe edition. You’ll have everything from the get-go and you’ll have a good time, especially if it’s on the Switch. Starlink is a journey, albeit one filled with a bit of trouble.
For the Nintendo Switch version, I give Starlink: Battle for Atlas a 6.5 out of 10.
For the PS4 and Xbox One version, it gets a 5 out of 10.