Also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 12/18/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is perhaps the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. I originally bought it because it was on sale for like $30 on Amazon and had a sweet Arwing model to go along with the Switch-exclusive Starfox content. I thought it was just going to be a stupid toys-to-life cash grab…and it somewhat is. If you buy it physically, it’s a total rip-off; you can easily spend close to if not more than $200 on the various ship, pilot, and weapon models. Granted, they’re pretty decent quality and look pretty cool, but considering that you can get almost everything digitally if you buy the $60 digital edition…yeah, that’s definitely the way to go.
The premise of Starlink is that you’re part of a crew of humans on the first interstellar starship bound for the Atlas system in search of the homeworld of Judge, an alien who crashed on Earth. When you get to Atlas, you discover that a race known as the Legion has taken control of the system’s seven planets (there used to be eight planets, but then it exploded. It never really explains why) and are attempting to exterminate the native species and drain the planets of electrum, the resource that serves as both energy and currency for Atlas. You then begin your quest to pew-pew your way through the star system, murdering countless Legion and conquering/liberating the planets of Atlas. Then, if you’re playing on Switch, you can go blow up Wolf because why not?
The missions themselves are pretty cut and dry for the most part, but the majority of my gameplay consisted of scouring every planet to get my discovery percentage to 100 because, for some reason, this is one of the few games that captivated me enough to bother 100%ing it. You go through each planet to discover each planet’s four biological samples, three unique fauna species, and freeing all of the various ruins and outposts from Legion control. There are also imp hives to destroy (imps are like the Legion’s ankle-biter grunt soldiers), Legion Extractors to destroy (they spawn Legion enemies), and eventually, Legion Primes to destroy. There’s also a “wonder” on each planet that has an exceptionally strong enemy with its small entourage, but if you defeat these enemies, you unlock a “Relic” ship enhancement.
The big selling point for the game is the ability to customize your ship, and aside from the hella pricey physical ship and weapon options, the game does a really good job of giving you a ton of options (just buy it digitally for the sake of your wallet). There are five main weapon types – fire, ice, gravity, stasis, and kinetic. Fire and ice are effective against one another, gravity and stasis are effective against one another, and kinetic is kind of neutral to everything; it’s nothing’s weakness, but nothing is strong against it, either. If you play on Switch and pilot the Arwing with no weapons attached, you get another option – the Arwing’s standard laser cannons. They’re not overwhelmingly powerful, and they can’t be modified with weapon upgrades, but they pack enough punch to be viable, and there’s not much that looks more badass in a space battle. Othwerise, though, there are 19 weapon options, and you can attach a weapon to each of your ship’s two wings. You can also Frankenstein up to three wings on one side of your ship, but they just sort of stack onto one another awkwardly making a single sort of chimera wing; you can still only have two weapons equipped.
The neat thing about the physical aspect of the game, rip off though it may be, is that you can make changes on the fly. Find that your weapons aren’t working in the middle of a fight? Just pull the weapons off of the figure attached to your controller and slap different ones on there. It changes immediately in the game to reflect the change. Of course, you can also pause the game and do all of this in the menu which is how it needs to be done if you buy the game digitally, but it’s pretty cool to see the weapons and ship configuration change immediately. With that said, though, it’s not really necessary for you to have all of the weapons unless you’re trying to 100% the game. It definitely makes it a ton easier to have ice weapons to use against fire enemies, but it’s not necessary. I was able to kill fire enemies with fire weapons, and I used a shotgun in space. It’s just harder. Of course, you could always just go with Fox’s lasers and pew-pew your enemies to death.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an infinitely more legitimate game than I ever expected when I first saw it advertised, and the digital option makes the toys-to-life money pit completely optional. There are a couple of ships and weapons that aren’t available digitally (yet at least), but the digital version has a ton of content and configuration options. I really expected to hate it, but I ended up absolutely loving it. My biggest complaint with the game is that the tutorial was really hit or miss. Some features and mechanics are never explained at all and really could have used a tutorial whereas there are some things that are explained over and over again every single time. Pick up a rare piece of salvage? Doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the hundredth time, the game will remind you that Prospectors will pay you a bunch for it. Try to use a shotgun in space? Every single freaking time, Razor’s stupid face appears on your screen telling you to try a different weapon because the shotgun doesn’t have the range needed for space. Like, shut up, woman. I’m an adult; I do what I want. Other than those frustrations, though, I absolutely adored my time with this game.