When I stumbled over Starlink: Battle for Atlas, I wasn’t quite sure what I could expect. On one hand, it looked like a game that you had to buy a lot of DLCs for if you wanted the whole experience, which isn’t that charming. On the other side, it looked like it could have the potential for a lot of fun.
An ambition attempt from Ubisoft
Starlink: Battle for Atlas has been developed and published by Ubisoft as an open-world / space exploration kind of a game. Think Starfox meets No Man’s Sky and you get a relatively good picture of it. It’s more of a fantasy-sci-fi genre and does not attempt to be realistic. The graphics style is a bit unique and with its filters, it reminded me a tiny bit of what you might remember from the Borderlands games, but it’s quite beautifully designed.
I gave it a shot and purchased the digital extended edition that included all the DLC packages when it was on sale for Xbox One. I didn’t realize until later that the real innovation that drives Starlink: Battle for Atlas is the physical aspect to it, which is also a lot cheaper by the way. You might wonder why though. Let me tell you.
The toys, that I missed out on
This game makes use of physical components and it’s rather playful too. Yet, if you’re going all in on this experience, you’ll have a lot of boxes to buy and things to store. Not everybody’s cup of tea but some might think of it more like collectibles. You can buy parts and pilots and spaceships that can be connected with each other, making use also of your console’s controller. As you swap parts in real life, they are changed in the game. You need a ballistic minigun, for instance, on the right wing of your ship suddenly? Just swap them as if they were Lego and it will reflect in the game as well.
So, I was there loading up my freshly downloaded and installed version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas and got really confused seeing all that in the tutorial. Because I bought the digital version, none of these toys and building fun would ever apply to me. For me, it will be just classic part swapping by pausing the game, going into the hangar menu and changing my ship the way I want, in the game alone. That felt a little bitter and of course one can argue that I was poorly informed about the title, but then, I think a warning when buying the digital copy would have been nice.
It was my own fault for not investigating, I guess?
Okay so that’s that and while I am missing out apparently on what made the game special, we still need to talk about the game itself. I believe it’s quite an enjoyable experience to play Starlink: Battle for Atlas. I couldn’t say that the story is that thrilling, it’s rather dull and feels generic, to be honest, but the characters are fine and I think it still more of a story than No Man’s Sky. Yet, I don’t want to spoiler you too much about the already thin storyline here in the review of the game, so forgive me if I don’t go further into detail about the events that take place.
What’s the game like now?
The main parts of the game are focused around an open-world(s) gameplay. You land on a planet in a distant star system, meet alien creatures and new cultures, get simple quests that you can do in order to improve your reputation with a particular race or faction and earn money or get item rewards. There are also evil aliens out there as well as raider factions so you’ll have some shooting to do as well.
You always stay in your starship and no matter if you’re hovering close to the ground as you’d do in F-Zero or fly through the skies of a planet, you will never get out of your vehicle. All exploration happens inside. Sometimes, when doing puzzles, this feels a little off though. Because why do I need to grab a power generator, tow it elsewhere, connect it with some old machinery, get on top of a building and cruise-jump on the roof of a nearby building, if I can just lift off and fly wherever I want to fly anyway?
The other parts of the game are the moments when you’re flying in space between the planets. There’s a lot to see here but thinking that it should be a vast space, it mostly feels cramped with raider stations, asteroid fields and of course, your hyperdrive gets shut down for random enemy attacks about every 20 seconds. Personally, I found it a lot more fun to explore the planets than flying in space.
Buying the pilots, weapons, ships extra
If you have all the DLCs or physical extensions you can modify your ship in various ways to match your style of flying and fighting. Of course, many parts and mods can be obtained just by playing the game but some weapons, the main chassis, and the pilots will require extensions. If you don’t want to pay more than you need to, you can also just go with a single ship and not having bonus parts to play with. Not sure how I feel about that. It feels a bit like they are asking for extra cash.
I am having a hard time judging Starlink: Battle for Atlas. It’s good fun and I believe you can get many good hours out of it but it also feels like the players need to pay a lot to get the actual game experience. I also feel fooled for having bought the digital copy without any prior knowledge of the functional “toys” and “figures” that would have allowed me to build my ship IRL as well. No matter how much I liked the game, from this moment on, I wouldn’t go to buy the physical extensions as I’d basically pay twice for the same thing.
The game is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One since last October. I also need to inform you that unfortunately, Fox McCloud from Starfox will only be available as a playable character, if you are playing on the Nintendo Switch. Overall, it’s not a bad game, but for this title, it’s important to make an educated decision for which edition you’re going for.
Make sure to also check into some Let’s Plays or watch streamers playing it to get a better feeling for what the game is all about. What are your thoughts about this game? Have you played it before? I’d love to hear your opinion, so why not drop us a comment below? Many thanks for reading!
YouTube: Starlink: Battle for Atlas: Gameplay Walkthrough | Ubisoft [NA]
Photo credit: All the game’s assets, videos, images and box art are owned by Ubisoft and had been made available for press use.
Editorial notice: The author played the game for more than 20 hours on an Xbox One X with the digital edition. The comments on the experience of the physical edition parts are therefore subjective. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. Without additional cost to you, we might earn a commission, if you decide to purchase something.