Do you like starships? Do you like Star Fox? Do you like Starlight by Muse?
Then you’ll like Starlink. And you’ve got decent taste in music.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas may look like No Man’s Skylanders and, well, that’s largely because it is. The Starship Equinox heads to the Atlas system, minding its own business I should add, when it is attacked by the Legion. Rude. Its super-special-awesome power source is stolen, as is Captain Victor St. Grand, winner of the Most Pretentious Name competition three years running. This is because the Legion’s leader, Grax, doesn’t know how to work the fuel himself.
It’s actually pretty original, as these things go.
Hook, line, and sinker
As you gallivant around the Atlas system, side-quests ensue. Go here, collect this, fight them; all the usual fare, and some of the trimmings. The gameplay isn’t all that innovative or interesting. What makes Starlink unique is the way you can play. The hook is those cool plastic starships all the kids want. Slide your Joycons into the mount, load up a pilot, ship, wings, and weapons, and your Frankenstein Fighter will appear in game, ready to gank some Grax.
No, there is no such thing as too many wings and weapons, or too much alliteration.
I originally had five ships to mess with. I now have one super awesome ship and four husks without weapons or wings, and no regrets. Having played around with them extensively, I’ve found my favourite pilot, ship, and loadout. I quickly stopped using the toys with the game, because all the content is digital, and also I poked myself in the eye with a rocket launcher and became deeply disillusioned by the whole scenario.
They look quite nice on my shelf though, and really are very well made, matching the in-game counterparts beautifully. But yeah, you can get all of them digitally if you don’t want cool ships to look at. Anyway, after I abandoned my physical fleet and took Starlink on the road, I loved it. Sure, it’s not the most interesting story, the prettiest graphics, or groundbreaking gameplay. The pick n’ mix ships, crew, and weapons are the hook here. I hesitate to call them a gimmick, because that word has become derogatory and I genuinely do think it’s a good idea, especially for the 7+ age bracket.
You also collect armour and weapon mods as you complete objectives, allowing you to further fine-tune your craft. I went all out for speed, and DAMN that thing moves now. I was also very fond of the Fire Vortex combo, making a firestorm around enemies and causing them a very bad time. Pilots, ships, and weapons all gain XP as you use them, leading to more bonuses and customisation, although not as fast as you might expect.
Combat varies in quality. I love the space battles, and the taunts of the Outlaws before they realised that I was more dangerous than they were. Sure, I got lost and dizzy more than once, but dammit I had a good time. Planetary combat? Not so much. The ships feel cumbersome sometimes, and horizontal battles can be hard to figure out. I preferred space dogfights to ground catfights, but hey, maybe I just like weird jokes too much.
But hey, the Switch version has Fox McCloud, a bit of an icon among Nintendo fans, and exclusive to the flagship console. Honestly, I barely used him, preferring the roguish Shaid for the majority of my playthrough. All you fans of the foxy captain will be thrilled to have him in there though, hunting down Wolf O’Donnell, winner of the Coolest Name Contest.
I like Starlink: Battle for Atlas. I liked it at E3, where I was the only person to do the demo without landing (they were impressed; I just forgot I could do it), and I like the full game even more. But I’m not up for the rinse and repeat games anymore; I like challenge and variety, and fighting wave after wave of faceless foes takes its toll after a while.
Not all galactic glory
Missions are repetitive. There’s no nice way to say that, but at least they’re not super boring. The characters keep up a good chatter, and it’s fun swapping pilots to hear what others think about a situation. Sure, there’s variety in the planets, creatures, and scenery, but it all boils down to the same bones. Postgame is effectively more of the same, although for something like this I would anticipate an absolute ton of DLC. Clear room on the shelves; more toy ships incoming.
Speaking of DLC, that’s tricky. While my copy of the game came with a ton of stuff, the base game has very little by way of variety, and the fun of swapping out weapons and wings to suit the situation is, well, most of the fun. I’m worried that people without all the trimmings might not have as good
Let’s not kid ourselves; Starlink is here to sell toys. Just like Skylanders, amiibo, and Disney Infinity before it, Starlink is a game designed to make you buy those little ships, digitally or physically. And no, they won’t break the bank, and are pretty cool for what they are. I do wish the base game came with a little more oomph, but overall it’s a quality product, if you’re willing to make the investment.