Explore the frontier of Atlas and protect it from the Forgotten Legion who want to rule over all. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an immense game that, if you choose to purchase the deluxe version, allows you to fly a minimum of 6 ships on the Switch due to the exclusive affiliation with Nintendo by adding Star Fox to the mix along with special missions. To pilot those 6 ships you will have your choice of 10 pilots at release. That’s one louder than the other consoles again due to exclusive content that includes Fox McCloud. You will get a large assortment of sweet weaponry for your ships to take down all manner of foes. At launch there are five classes of weapons which are cold, gravity, heat, kinetic, and stasis. Within the heat, gravity, and cold elementals you will have 3 weapons, stasis gives you one, and kinetic will grant you five options including guns named Shredder, Iron Fist, and Shockwave. Not only do you get different behavior from each category of weapon, there are also combos you can score by alternating between your two weapons as you battle. There are a lot of things to cover with this game and we at Nintendo Times want to give you as much information as we can so you can decide if or how you want to invest in the world of Starlink.
In pretty much every review I like to give you an overview of the story to give you an idea if it’s worth your time. This time around I will just say that the story is high quality and will give you plenty of reasons to play from beginning to end all while completing as many side quests as you want to give you the experience you’re looking for. As stated in my intro, Star Fox is included and there is a whole extra story line included for them. Can you say two games in one? Yes. Yes you can.
At its core, Starlink is an adventure game set in an open solar system that allows you to travel from planet to planet by flying your ship between them. While navigating space, you will be able to fly anywhere you would like to go. I didn’t experience any limitations here, but I do have to admit that due to the incredibly large amount of space there is in… well… space, I didn’t push the boundaries to see how far I could actually go. To get through the immense distances between planets they give you the option of using hyperdrive. This does cut down on travel times and you are able to maneuver your ship while using it. In fact, you will need to pay attention and keep your hands on the controls because there are traps to avoid whilst cruising along. Should you become entangled in the trap’s web, you will instantly fall out of hyperspace and be subject to an attack by enemy fighters. Many times the only way to continue your journey is to take them on and destroy them all, but before you hit the gas pedal you may want to take a look around first.
Which brings me to exploring the vastness of the void between planets. There are tons of places to find and they will have items hiding inside for you. I found that a great time could be had by just flying around, looking for derelict space stations, and finding other things to explore. Not to mention the random space battles that break out. Nothing like a deep space dogfight to shake things up a bit. You may be glad to know that once you fulfill certain conditions on a planet’s surface, you will be able to fast travel should you find interplanetary travel to be too time consuming.
Speaking of planets, there are seven to explore at launch. I have played quite a few other space exploration titles. Many suffer from glaring issues regarding planet visitation that annoy me. I won’t go into detail about how many and which games; I’d just like to point something out that I have often noticed; boundaries that just appear because of reasons. I’m sorry, but a round planet should not have boundaries. You travel in the direction of true north, you should be able to fly until you hit an object or fall out of the sky. I’m happy to report that this game allows you to fully circumvent the entire planet with no invisible walls or annoying empty mountains that are apparently not navigable even though you have a spaceship that can fly in SPACE. It seems to me that the developers at Ubisoft quite possibly felt that invisible boundaries might suck you out of the experience. They would be correct. Thankfully once you’re on a planet, you are there. You have the option of cutting your engines and hover just above the ground like you’re Luke Skywalker cruising across Tatooine, or you can turn your engines on and fly anywhere you want including leaving the atmosphere for a change of pace.
The tasks on each planet are pretty much the same throughout the game, with only slight variations. At least each one does feature unique environments, structures, and scenery to check out. You’ll be able to take on the planets at your own pace. At one point early in the game I simply followed the main story and about four planets in I got my butt handed to me, so I then went back to a previous planet and settled in having fun by exploring and unlocking everything there. A lot of time can be spent completing each planet should you have a little OCD in your personality. Even if you don’t, you may find it rewarding to travel over every square mile, finding secrets that lie all over, and completing optional missions. If not, you can skip and fast track your way to the end. The developers really stress that they want you to play your way and they give you all the options you could ask for to do it.
I can already hear people saying that the game will eventually become repetitive. Every single game I have played in my lifetime has become repetitive at some point. Something is repeated whether it be finding specific flora and fauna, fighting enemies to take over camps, or whatever. Our daily lives are repetitive. I go to the same job every day to do the same type of work every day. I don’t know how you could get away from it. If you can listen to a song more than once or watch a movie multiple times, then perhaps you can visit 7 planets that have similar tasks on them. Just the fact that you’re on a different looking planet should be enough to call it different. I visited a foreign country once that looks similar to the area I live in. I ate food, slept, took a shower, and did all the same things I did at home. The difference was in what I saw, the people were different, and the cars drove on the wrong side of the road. My point is that only so much variety can be added to any game and now I will step off my soapbox.
Each ship in the game has a slightly different feel to it and can be customized by adding various mods. Some can be lighter and faster, others heavier and can take more damage. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. The same goes for each pilot. I didn’t change pilots while I played, but you totally can. In fact, thinking back on it I don’t know whether it would be good or bad to rotate through each pilot every so often. Would that hurt your progress to spread yourself too thin? Are there pilots that are far more amazing than the one I’ve been using? I played as Fox McCloud the entire time. I know other pilots have abilities that may be useful, but Fox can call in a member of the Star Fox team to assist when his special meter fills up. This was very helpful in pushing back the Legion. I will definitely get around to trying some of the other pilots, but it’s just a testament to how deep the game is. With 10 pilots, you may want to play through the game 10 times – or maybe not. That choice will be up to you. Just having the options gives me reasons to recommend this game to others. Stack on top of those choices the excellent controls and responsiveness of the ships and you have a real recipe for success.
The graphics really are the best I’ve seen on the Switch so far. Considering this is a huge game with a lot going on, I didn’t expect it to look as amazing as it does. I’m sure the PS4 and Xbone are more graphically impressive, but considering the known limitations of the Switch, the developers are really getting a lot out of it. There aren’t massive amounts of enemies coming at you at any one time. One battle in particular reminded me very much of some battles in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So now you know that at least one battle is with a rather large thing. I did notice some slight issues with continuity on some transitions between say a foggy area and a clear area. But they weren’t bad and it’s really nitpicky of me to point it out. I just do because… hello… critic here! The animals on the planets are insanely cool looking and I can tell they put some thought into how they move. Somebody was paying attention in biology class or something.
As I mentioned, when you are Fox McCloud you can call your team in to give you a hand. This is probably my favorite moment in the game. The Star Fox music kicks in and a member of your team like Slippy will show up and help you out. Thinking about that made me realize that there really isn’t a score or overwhelming music while you play. It seems to only make itself known during battles. Maybe some faint music is playing while you explore, but it’s not memorable in any way. What is noticeable are all of the menu noises, ship sound effects, and any other beep, whine, or explosion that exists for everything we do. On the Arwing, when you push forward there is a sound of the back ailerons moving. Then, you push backward and they move causing another sound. Now, move around in a circle strafe while you scan a moving animal and you’re going to hear those damn ailerons moving forward and back the entire time. I will tell you that I’m one of those people that is sensitive to certain sounds, especially if they repeat. I like to have white noise when I fall asleep. I have noise cancelling headphones at work. I doubt many people would find it irritating, but I’m writing this and you’re reading it. You’re welcome.
The game is really focused on customization either digitally or physically. So let’s speak to the price of the game and what’s included. You can purchase the physical copy of the game at release for $74.99. This includes the physical copy of the game, the Arwing ship, 2 pilots (one being Fox McCloud), a digital ship, and two weapons. It also includes the special joy-con holder that you snap your controllers into that allows you to switch these out at any time. Each starship you can buy separately for $24.99 which would bring the grand total up to $74.99 * ($24.99 * 4) which comes to $174.95. Add to that $9.99 for each double weapon pack and $7.99 for a single pilot pack and the price goes up from there.
A good alternative for the price conscious would be to pick up the digital version at $79.99, which gives you all the pilots, ships, and weapons available at launch. This is clearly the cheapest way to get all the content, however you don’t get the physical Arwing and I don’t see it available for purchase separately. Nor would you be able to do any of the physical toy switching. So the choice is yours. The game is certainly playable without the toys to completion and is how I have personally been playing it since receiving my review copy.
I would like to address how cool the physical ships are at this point. Yes, during the game you can hit the + button and go to the menu and switch out your weapons and do everything I’m about to speak to with the digital content and that is certainly enough. However, what really pulls you “in” is being able to pull weapons off and slap on another one without having to pause the game. Just having your physical options sitting in front of you, ready to swap out, is a cool aspect of the gameplay. You can even put the weapons on backward if you choose. You can add multiple wings to your ships if you bought other kits. The customization is limited only by how they fit together and how many pieces you have. I bought into Lego Dimensions as well because I loved being able to put the Lego characters together, set them on the tray, and then be able to play them in the game. There’s just a coolness factor to it. If that’s not your bag then have I mentioned the digital version?
One thing I haven’t covered in detail is the elemental aspect of the weaponry and how that plays into the rest of the game. There are cold crystals that you need heat weaponry to eliminate. Hot enemies that are weak to cold. You get the idea. Now, you bought the starter kit and it gives you a heat and a cold weapon. That’s pretty much all you need to get through the game. The developers have placed canisters around the game that you may need to pick up and throw at enemies or blockades to get you through. You don’t need to have all the ships, weapons, or pilots. It’s my understanding that you can do everything in the game without buying a single extra item. Much like any other “in-app purchases” you see in phone games, purchasing the extras just makes the game easier, more convenient, or it’s just cooler to have the ships. None of the extra purchases are required and you can enjoy the game without them.
The bottom line is this: spend however much you are comfortable spending on Starlink: Battle for Atlas and enjoy the extremely satisfying story and gameplay Ubisoft Toronto has in store for you. No matter how you choose to play, you will find something to love or hate (I’m talking to you Grax) about the Starlink universe. Pick it up on the Switch for the extra content. Buy the starter pack and try out your two pilots. Pick up a ship or two – or don’t. Don’t pass up playing the game just because you may find the toy selling aspect annoying or expensive. It’s a fantastic experience and a great deal of fun to play. It’s even couch co-op so you can have a friend join you in your adventure. This is truly a surprising delight that shouldn’t be missed!
Starlink: Battle For Atlas Review
- Graphics - 9.5/109.5/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9.5/109.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9.5/109.5/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
An astoundingly excellent adventure game with a lot to do and a great deal of area to explore. They even take the game to the physical world and give you the option of holding the ships and weapons in your hands. Change them out to be instantly shown in the game and combine them in any way you choose. This is one of the best games to come out for the Switch yet!