Starlink: Battle for Atlas Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: October 16th 2018

Price as of Article: $74,99 £64,99

Game code & Starter pack provided by Ubisoft and can be purchased here 

Introduction

 

There have been a lot of questions regarding purchasing options in relation to Starlink Battle for Atlas and whether you require the physical toys to play it. The short answer is no.  We have made a separate video which covers the buying options and some of the more common questions we have been asked, otherwise we could be here a while and I really want to concentrate on the game itself in this review.

For the buying options, in both digital and physical, please watch our video here.

Now let’s start with the story in Starlink Battle for Atlas, it’s important to note that on the Switch version we have a dedicated story campaign for Fox McCloud which involves you trying to decipher where your arch nemesis Wolf O’Donnell is to take him down and I really enjoyed taking part in these exclusive missions. The main story is your traditional bad guy, Grax, looking to take over the universe using all sorts of means to accomplish it including kidnapping a member of the crew. Grax is on the verge of unlocking information in relation to an extinct Alien race, whilst also discovering their technology which has devastating power to destroy, and it’s up to the alliance to bring this Grax and his insane plan down.

There are a number of characters to choose from including Mason, Chase da Silva, Hunter, Fox McCloud, Levi, and Razor to name a few. None of them really interested me other than Fox McCloud and that’s the thing with this version of the game on Nintendo Switch. I assume most people will choose to be Fox such is the strong affinity to the character and I was no different. I am not sure the game would have the same pull had Fox not been included and I wonder how people will feel about the remaining characters on other consoles. I felt they were a little generic but they grew on me the further I got into the campaign. The story is told well enough and the campaign will take you through a journey to save the universe. It’s all voice acted and Ubisoft has sprinkled their usual polish within the cutscenes.

You probably want to know what happens when you change the character and does it affect the story in any way… Not at all in terms of the cutscenes. It’s told in a way where the characters are all quite important within the story and they each have their part to play. Mostly the character you choose is so you can have the avatar on screen and listen to them chat to other crew members while in battles or flying about from time to time which, to be fair, is done well. I do love the animation which plays when changing characters, especially when done with the physical toy.

Gameplay

Starlink Battle for Atlas is an open world space exploration game and one of the largest Ubisoft has ever created.  Choose your character, ship, and weapons loadout, a max of two on each ship, and you are ready to explore the seven planets which are available. Each planet has its own unique look and difficulty but the basis of what to do on each is similar.  You want to take control of the planet from the Legion and this is a large operation consisting of building a network of outposts which can be a combination of Observatories which reveal a portion of the map; Refineries which generate Electrum which is the game’s currency; Workshops to craft quality mods for your ships; and Armories to defend the planet from enemies when you are away from it.

With each Imp hive you take down, they can be turned into an outpost belonging to you, the more you begin making inroads in taking over the planet. Within each planet, there are a number of side quests along with the main campaign quests which involve going from point A to point B, scanning some of the planet’s wildlife, or defending or taking out some of the planets outlaws.  Each mission completed gains you valuable experience for your chosen character and resources which can then be used importantly to purchase upgrades. To the side of that, some of the stuff you can do does not even require questing but just exploration of sites. Visiting sites within the planets, like abandoned prisons or wrecks, can often lead you to find loot which can then be taken back to the observatories you have built to be traded in for some nice rewards like rare mods and cash.

With each of the campaign missions completed, the story will move along and when you choose to do this is up to you. You could ignore all of the side quests and focus on the main campaign, which would take around 20 hours or so but then the game would not last anywhere near as long as is possible. I naturally found myself getting hugely distracted, such was the addictive nature of this game and having the Legion continuously fight back against us Allies. I would do well to take over a planet only for the Legion to fight back which would end with me then retaliating and playing the cat and mouse game. Each planets’ status is handily shown with a status bar and I would not be happy unless I was on 100%. In fact, when the game is complete and the credits roll, there is still endgame to play as the game becomes a metagame. The world continues on and new challenges will still appear. I expect future DLC to support this franchise far into the future then.

Flying around the planets is an absolute joy with the controls of the ship feeling tight with the ability to invert the controls in the options if you wish. You can play the game without the toy mounted on the grip if you like, with a pro controller or in handheld which is how I prefer to play. The absolute joy of being able to explore to your heart’s content is fantastically well implemented. Fancy boosting along the planet’s surface akin to Flight of the Navigator? Then go ahead. Want to take to the skies and explore from a distance? Why not. Hell, if you want to leave the planet and go into space, you can. This brought back so many memories for me with the Flight of the Navigator film, which I must have watched over 100 times when I was a kid, and living my fantasy of space exploration. 

Just burn through the planet’s atmosphere and into space you go and it feels even more epic when you are up there. Want to check out an unknown planet? Then you can hyperdrive there, but beware, you can get caught in outlaw space traps who want nothing more than to pick a space fight with you. These air battles feel absolutely fantastic. Any fantasies you had when you watched Star Wars for the first time are realised here.  Lasers with bright colors firing towards you, having to pull off dodge maneuvers to lose the bad guy on your tail only for you to circle round and blast the enemy out of the air. It’s just fantastic fun that I could not get enough of, and even more so piloting Fox McCloud. The first day I played this, hours had passed and I had not even realised, such was the enjoyment of this game and we have not even spoken about the games customisations, upgrades, and it’s campaign missions in depth.

While the side quests can get repetitive, I still enjoyed doing them which is a testament to how great it feels doing anything in this game, to be quite honest. Visit your star map and you can pin anywhere you want to take a closer look at which nicely shows up on your screen, toggling which missions to concentrate on is easy and each will give you directions in where you need to go.

Battling the enemy is superb fun whether they are grounded imps, Cyclops, and Giants on the planets or space outlaws. Fighting on the ground is almost as much fun as air battles and my only wish is that there was a little bit more variety within the enemies on the planets as I found sometimes that they could be a little barren, and when I did come across enemies they mostly looked the same. The campaign missions are certainly fun and coming across some of the larger boss battles felt epic in scope and again just super enjoyable. The game is challenging if you decide to play on hard mode but normal mode can still be a decent enough challenge for the casual gamer.

Customisation in the game is excellent as are all the options you have in modding your weapons and Equinox, which is a Space station which governs what upgrades you can purchase. For example, invest in the Modding Bay for an extra boost slot for all the ships you own; invest in the Mod Foundry to clone any mod and one of a kind Relics; and there is plenty more to do for which you will need lots and lots of cash coming in as well as Nova which is harder to get and usually requires you destroying an extractor on a planet, which is always defended pretty well, or hacking a crashed drake, which again will require you defeating a load of enemies for the pleasure of getting Nova. Hacking is also valuable to send pertinent information to the Equinox which can often yield information for better mods.

When it comes to the character you have chosen, they will level up the more you play them, opening up skill points so you can invest in their skill tree. Invest in the flying ace skill for your ship to increase energy, for example. With each ship you own you can also have three loadouts, so you can swap in mid-battle if needed, which is nicely implemented and a great option. Swapping loadouts is advantageous as you may want to use certain weapons against enemies who are resistant to what you currently have loaded. For example, a Fire Cyclops will be resistant to fire-based weapons in which case you may want to use an ice-based elemental weapon.

Each wing needs to have a different weapon so you certainly can’t have the same on each wing. I used the flamethrower and Frost barrage through most of the game just because I enjoyed the combination. Some extra combinations of weapons come in handy but it’s not by any means essential. Having gravity and stasis weps is certainly fun and just gives extra options in taking out the enemy.  Each weapon has a number of slots you can unlock to then add mods, such as a quick shot amplifier to quicken up your fire rate. There are mods for Damage, Range, Fire Rate, and Energy Cost, all of which can be gathered by building outposts or just by visiting planet sites and gathering materials to then take back to the outposts for rewards.  Parts of the wings can even be changed within the game to give the ship extra speed so the options are plentiful to suit everyone’s play style. Each mod you get has a rarity status such as common, uncommon, rare, and so on.

All of the characters have their own special moves with my favorite being Fox McCloud bringing in his crew for a few seconds to help you take out the enemy. I just never tire of seeing Falco!

You can change configurations on your physical ship and the character itself on the fly if you are using the ship which attaches to the grip. While this works really well, it is just as easy to do if you don’t want to have the ship attached to your pad all the time in-game.

Audio

The production value in the sound department is nothing short of excellent. It is top notch. First of all, every character in the game is voice acted even when just flying through space and chatting to other characters which just gives a greater sense of immersion in the fight. Fly through space and you get nice synth sounds. Get into a battle and the tracks have a more upbeat tempo. Sound effects make it all sound rather epic, from weapons being fired to Dreadnaught battles. The sound of the ship when using boost or flying into space sound extraordinary but my favourite part in all of this was using Fox’s special power up and the music which plays when all his crew comes into help. Fantastic!

Visuals & Performance

Visually, I have no complaints at all about Starlink Battle for Atlas – it looks wonderful on Switch.  The colours used on each of the planets is just stunning, whether it’s flying into space and searching for planets or zooming just above the planets plantation. The ships look immense and are brought to life in their physical versions in well-crafted toys, which look great in digital form too. The characters are detailed and so are the enemies, the worlds just feel pretty awesome to explore and it’s because of the visuals making it even more enticing.

The most impressive aspect is how smooth the game runs.  I did not encounter any slowdowns, in handheld or in docked mode. I loved the way the physical toys worked and how smooth the transition was from changing my ship on my grip and how seamlessly that would happen on screen. Putting a weapon on backwards was always fun as this would then happen in the game!  The sense of speed within the game and how smooth it all ran was a joy and has to be played to be appreciated. A really great job here and the Switch handles it all brilliantly.

Cutscenes are another highlight where it all looks very well detailed with animations looking believable.

Value

Lastly, we talk about value, again for an in-depth look at the buying options please watch our buying guide. There is no doubt in my mind this is a game worthy of being a triple AAA title. If you are a Fox McCloud fan, then this is an even harder package to ignore. When I review a game I always ask myself would I be happy paying what the publisher/developer is asking for and in this case, it really is a tough one as I am torn.

I am a collector so I would have expected to pay around £65 for the starter pack due to the physical game and of course the toys, which I like. In my eyes, I am paying £50 for the game and then some money on top for the model which I would be pretty comfortable with. On the other hand, though I really think there needed to be a cheaper entry price for those not interested in the toy models as asking for £69,99 for purely digital content, and then an eye-watering £89,99 for the deluxe edition is hard to swallow and I am sure it will be for a lot of people. Personally, I would go for the starter kit with the toy models without a doubt.

For those who want to collect every toy, then expect to pay over £200 easily so you can see the cost on this one is high but I am sure people will vote with their wallets.

The cheapest way to purchase this game digitally right now is on the American e-shop as they have bizarrely priced the different options lower in dollars than in pounds, again check out our video on buying options.

Pros

P

Grand feeling of exploration

P

Visually Stunning

P

Awesome Soundtrack

Cons

P

It’s expensive