As soon as gamers thought toys-to-life was a rapidly dying fad, Ubisoft stepped up to the plate to offer a completely new kind of experience. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is one addictive space alliance-building game so buckle up and let's take off!
I didn't quite know what to expect before booting up Starlink: Battle for Atlas. The trailer looked awesome and I love games set in space so I had to play it. Now that I did, I must say that I'm impressed. After becoming accustomed to the cast of characters and learning the ropes, the basic gameplay loop has you travel between a dozen or so planets in order to form alliances so you can stamp out the evil alien conquerors. On each planet, you can recruit neutral parties to your alliance by completing side-quests, scan the local wildlife, uncover ancient secrets, build your own facilities, and, of course, battle plenty of hulking aliens as well as pesky space outlaws. Watching each planet gradually become fully discovered and self-sufficient is incredibly satisfying stuff that'll keep you hooked.
Before I describe the gameplay in more detail, allow me to discuss just how awesome Starlink: Battle for Atlas looks. For starters, the planets are imaginative and intricately rendered to create truly unique environments that make exploring their surfaces an absolute treat. The cast of characters are equally diverse and charming in their own ways. One character was clearly created to appeal to social media obsessed kids which I found to be pretty annoying but I'm sure many younger gamers will think he's funny. Anyway, the voice cast does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters. Also, the sound effects of engines whirring and laser weapons blasting everywhere while dramatic orchestral music plays makes combat very exciting. The sights and sounds of Starlink: Battle for Atlas are top-notch.
The core gameplay is rather simple as you basically pilot a ship 100% of the time which I found odd at first because most games like this give you the option to exit the cockpit and explore on foot. The basic controls allow you to boost, fire 2 equipped weapons, unleash a powerful pilot ability whenever it's charged, activate a shield, and jump. All of this works well and confrontations with aliens can be quite challenging and intense so thankfully, you can take advantage of elemental weapons to exploit their weaknesses.
Speaking of which, one of the best aspects of Starlink: Battle for Atlas is the ability to fully customize your ships. You can equip multiple wings which stack plus 2 weapons on each ship as well as assign and upgrade various mods to your ships and weapons. Also, your pilot can be improved by purchasing pilot skills and your home base can be upgraded as well which also provides boosts.
I spent most of my time with Starlink: Battle for Atlas in local co-op and I can easily say that it's much more enjoyable to play with a friend. First of all, you can revive each other instead of using up a ship whenever you bite the dust and combat is much more fun with a friend by your side. The only annoying part is that you have to stay relatively close to your pal because if you don't, the Starlink tether will weaken then player 2 will warp to wherever player 1 is. To remedy this, player 2 can set themselves to autopilot to follow player 1 around automatically. Although the multiplayer is very cool, I can't help but feel that Starlink: Battle for Atlas could have used an online component. I imagine that cooperating or competing online would be a blast and extend the replay value substantially.
Keep in mind, I played Starlink: Battle for Atlas entirely digitally so I'm not exactly sure what the experience is like playing with the toys-to-life aspect. From what I gather, you snap a holder onto your controller then place a pilot on it. Finally, you assemble a ship however you like then place that on the contraption to complete your creation. That sounds awesome and I'll be sure to purchase some of these toys to try it out for myself sometime soon. That being said, I am very happy that the toys-to-life aspect is completely optional which, if I'm correct, is a first for the genre. That way, those who don't appreciate physical toys can buy what they want digitally instead.
Although the toys-to-life aspect is optional, you don't really get much content in the core game without making further purchases. There are multiple versions of the base game so if you buy a more expensive one, you'll start out with more content. However, if you just buy the simple core game then you'll see a lot of locked content whenever you browse through the menus with no way to access it without buying the toys or DLC. Having just 1 pilot and ship can be a real bummer so I highly recommend the Deluxe Edition.
My only other complaint about Starlink: Battle for Atlas is that the core gameplay loop of exploring and mastering planets becomes rather repetitive after a while. After completing just one planet 100%, I found myself performing the same sorts of tasks all over again on the next one and so on. It became apparent that I wouldn't be doing anything that I haven't already done. I can definitely see myself jumping back into forming alliances and battling aliens but I'll be sure to take a break between planet-hopping from now on.
The incredible sights and sounds and satisfying mechanics of Starlink: Battle for Atlas make exploring its gorgeous planets a joy. So, if you're looking for your next toys-to-life obsession then this could definitely be it. Just make sure to bring a friend.
- + Tight gameplay with tons of customization
- + Amazing-looking planets, fantastic cast of characters, and superb audio
- + Cool yet optional toys-to-life component
- - Gameplay loop becomes fairly repetitive
- - Lack of online multiplayer is disappointing
- - Sparse content without further purchases