You are a member or the Starlink crew exploring the Atlas star system. Your team leader St. Grand has been taken by Grax, leader of the Legion. Your mission is to save your leader and stop the Legion from using ancient technology to conquer the galaxy.
Multiple Ship combinations
Colorful cast of characters
2 player local co-op
Price: $74.99 (Starter Kit; physical), $59.99 (Starter Kit; digital) $79.99 (Digital Deluxe Edition; base game with all weapons, pilots, and ships), $24.99/$12.99 (Ship Pack; physical/digital), $7.99/$3.99 (Pilot Pack; physical/digital), $9.99/$4.99 (Weapon Pack; physical/digital), $59.99 (Collection 1 Pack; digital)
With the introduction of Skylanders in 2011, the toys-to-life genre took off with plenty of opportunities for children to ask their parents for the next toy figure to play with. Then, Disney Infinity came along for a few years, and post-2016, no new titles in the genre have been released until now. Is this a bad cash grab or is there something special waiting for you with the Starlink crew?
Violence: You shoot aliens and spacecraft with various weapons mounted on your fighter and they explode. Nothing graphic or disturbing to report here.
After the success and subsequent demise half of a decade later of Activision’s Skylanders franchise, a gap was left in the market. There were no more toys-to-life games sucking away parents’ hard earned dollars. Disney Infinity was relatively unsuccessful despite the popularity of their character library. The genre was dead and gone—or so we thought. Ubisoft saw an opportunity and immediately snatched it up. The biggest question was whether or not they could make something that was of quality first and foremost worthy of your money and most importantly, your time.
Ubisoft had a hard time with franchises becoming stale, buggy, unstable messes. It was not that long ago that Assassin’s Creed Unity was released on this generation of hardware with an ungodly amount of issues in it. Watch Dogs was criticized for being released with worse graphics than shown at various industry showcases. These are stains on the publisher’s coat. However, they listened to the feedback. Unity was fixed and Watch Dogs got a sequel that was much better received than its predecessor. Ubisoft was biding its time to release a title like Starlink. They knew that if this was bad game, trust would be lost forever. While the examples mentioned are from a few years ago, this title started development around the time these controversies were happening.
Despite being released years later, expectations were not high for this game. What I expected was a cash grab attempt at a dead market. What I found was much more than a mediocre experience. Starlink is a lot of fun to play. Every detail from the ecosystem to the audio design is carefully crafted to make every planet you visit unique. What is even more wonderful is that there are no loading screens to be seen when you load the game. This is all from the Nintendo Switch version no less. Having a AAA experience with no technological hangups on the least powerful of the three versions is impressive to say the least. Even more kudos go to them for having minimal issues in handheld mode as well!
The story for Starlink follows a crew led by St. Grand. Their ship is the Equinox where a great majority of the cut-scenes take place. You never get to exit your ship or enter the Equinox, but you still can understand what life is like aboard it. The crew will talk to each other as friends and their relationships are perfectly believable. Every single one of them gets a short story about how they came to be a member of the crew. Even Star Fox’s missions, exclusive to Nintendo Switch, feel natural to the world. Usually when a guest character is added to a franchise, it comes across as awkward and just plain odd. They do not feel like strangers in this game because of the fact that it feels like a Star Fox game.
All the controls are responsive and play just like it would on the Nintendo 64 or GameCube. The only real difference is you can go wherever you wish instead of on rails. If you were to mistake this for an open world, Breath of the Wild-style Star Fox title, I would not blame you. What breaks the illusion is that there are other characters too, and they have things to do. Every pilot has their own unique pilot ability to help in battle. Fox can call upon Star Fox for massive damage on a single target, Chase can increase her ship’s speed and handling, and Shaid can disappear to avoid detection. Each of these abilities can be upgraded by leveling up their efficiency with each of the ships and the individual weapons available. A unique twist on death is that each ship you own represents a life. When you are defeated, you either pick a new ship in order to immediately get back into the fight or you respawn with your lost one at the cost of resources and mission progress. While this is a cool mechanic, it still can easily be thought of a way to make you purchase the extra content.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a great game that is much better than I ever had thought it would be. The character’s interactions feel genuine and no story beat feels forced. The dialogue can be bothersome if you do not let it play before entering a menu, as every line is repeated with no option to skip. This is disappointing, but at least you can enjoy the characters more. Co-op does have its restrictions, sadly, as you must be next to each other at all times. However, this is a game made with family audiences in mind so it makes sense if you think of it like the older Lego games where both players had to be on screen at the same time.
These do not bog down the experience overall. The package is nice and shiny; there is just a hair of a scratch on the case. How you wish to purchase is an important factor, as stated above—this is not exactly a cheap game. If you want to save your dollars and do not care about plastic toys on your shelf, shell out the extra money for the $80. If you like the toys, I hope your wallet will not be upset with you like it is at the end of a Steam sale. I advise you to pick up this game, just be a wise steward of your hard-earned money.
Just when you thought Toys to Life was dead, Starlink: Battle for Atlas cleans the mud off for a grand old space adventure. Even the Star Fox story doesn't feel forced or cringe inducing. But if you want to save money, buy the $80 edition.
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