Starlink: Battle for Atlas Preview

I had the opportunity to play multiple Ubisoft games at a recent preview event, and the upcoming Starlink: Battle for Atlas was one of my favorite games at the show. Starlink is an open-world space adventure that puts you in command of a combat-ready Starship. There is a toys-to-life component that allows players to mix and match physical figurines of ships and weapons. In an instant, the toy Starships come to life within the game.

I like to collect Nintendo’s amiibo figurines, so I’m no stranger to spending money on a toy to unlock a character. In Starlink, the toys come in several categories: pilots, starships, and weapons. The pilots are small but detailed representations of the main playable characters. Each one has a different set of powers and unlockable abilities. I also witnessed their Saturday morning cartoon-like personalities through voiced cutscenes, which invested me in their quest to explore planets and stop the incoming threat of the Forgotten Legion.

The ships and weapons are the true stars. No matter the pilot, you can use any Starship, each with different strengths and weaknesses. The ships appear crisp in-game, but the toy versions convey the sleek designs well. The figurines felt sturdy but not too heavy, which is a relief considering you’ll be playing with that thing on top of your controller the entire time. Note that you can actually purchase the digital version of the toy if you prefer to not play with the physical products.

Each Starship has a slot on each side for an attachable weapon. This is where the true fun comes in. Each weapon has an element, like fire or ice, and a battle function, such as a blast attack or missile barrage. You can choose any combination of weapons and can switch them out at any time, to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. There are also synergistic combos that you can activate with certain combinations, such as fiery gravity blasts. But that’s not all, as a TV show host might say. You can actually stack weapons on top of other weapons. You can have up to three on each side, and a fully loaded ship is as bulky as it is fun to pilot. I’m certain that pleasure nodes activated in my brain the moment I built a completely stacked ship and fired all my weapons wildly. Just be prepared to carry that weight…on your controller. I had no major issues physically detaching and reattaching pieces to the Starship, and I did so at least a couple dozen times within the brief demo.

Of course, as a Nintendo fan, I was most excited to play with the one and only Fox McCloud of the Star Fox franchise. The Nintendo Switch version features the exclusive Fox pilot and Arwing ship figurines. I played as the anthropomorphic hero during the entire first part of my demo, which was focused on fixing my damaged ship. I appreciated how Fox and his crew seamlessly fit in like main characters that interact with the other pilots. The Arwing controls more like the other Starships more so than it does in the Star Fox series, but I still got a kick out of firing lasers and doing barrel rolls. Of course, you can equip Fox’s ship with the same array of toy weapons.

Throughout the demo, I spent most of my time exploring open-world planets in my customized Starship. Although I’ve played other open-world style games, I liked the twist of controlling a spaceship the entire time. Don’t get me started on how awesome it is to basically play an open-world “Star Fox” game. I visited a couple of distinct, gorgeous planets. One area, Haven, was a lush, mystical jungle world filled with bright colors. The planet Kirite was almost the opposite, with its drier and bleaker desert landscape. When I wasn’t on a mission, I enjoyed scanning the unique flora and fauna, closely examining their sci-fi fantasy designs. I also spent a good chunk of time picking up resources, which required a minigame where I had to maintain a certain distance to pull items out.

Finally, I engaged in a series of missions, most of which involved combat with alien creatures and large towerlike bosses. During some fights, my ship was limited to a light hover, lending a more traditional grounded action style. Upon taking to the skies, there was a sense of exhilaration as I boosted my ship to a super speed and weaved in and out of obstacles. The excitement extended to space, where I partook in battles against waves of spaceships. Targeting was sometimes an issue depending on which weapons I was using. Luckily, I was constantly switching out my weapons to take advantage of weaknesses.

Although I had a great time with Starlink, I did have access to six Starships, eight pilots, and nine weapons, including the Switch-exclusive Star Fox figurines. I advantageously mixed and matched toys at will, and I can’t confirm how effective my journey would be without the extra parts readily available. Indeed, the game is shaping up to be a fun open-world space journey, but I can only hope it’s as exciting and manageable without needing the whole gamut of separately sold products. Players can get their hands on these sleek toys and Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas, when they launch on October 16, 2018.

I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!