The toys-to-life functionality for games has gone through many mediums. Whether through the massive celebration of IP with Disney Infinity, the insane crossovers found in Lego Dimensions, or the ones that don’t really do much except sit on your shelf and collect dust called Amiibo. Throughout it all, it seems that the genre had possibly begun to wane if you consider the clearance sections of video game stores to be full of tiny figures. Yet, Richard Carrillo, the game director of Ubisoft’s upcoming foray into toys-to-life Starlink: Battle for Atlas, has shown that he and his team are making something special.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas Preview: Where no Toys Have Gone Before
I had the chance to sit down extensively with the game and play around with not only the Starlink itself but the wonderfully sculpted toys that are included with the title and also sold separately. Alongside us and answering any of my questions was the aforementioned game director, Richard Carrillo. The demo available, allowed me to mess around with not only the game on Xbox One but the Nintendo Switch as well.
Before starting our demo (with the Xbox One version first), Carrillo had us pick from a variety of pilots, ships, wings, and weapons. Noting to me a wide variety of the different ships and components at launch, as well as the customizability of the experience as a whole. Each construct has a different purpose and ability tied to it, even down to the pilots themselves that you choose. Carrillo explained that the character you choose, for example, will have specific attributes tied to them as well as a special ability that’s set on a cooldown.
I chose a stealthy character, one that allowed my ship to temporarily disappear for a short while. An ability that would provide useful whether I was on the ground, overwhelmed by enemies (in which we definitely ended up being at points) or being chased by space-pirates and needed an easy getaway. Overall, there were large gameplay differences with each possible character I could’ve chosen to be in my cockpit.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas Preview: Customization Central
Carrillo also had me choose which ship body we wanted, as well as which wings I wanted to add in. I chose a total of six different wings to attach to our vessel, the game’s max amount of wings. The trade-off of course meaning that I had incredible speed, but a very weighty ship that ended up having poor handling. Experimenting with a variety of combinations, I finally settled for four wings. Finally, after choosing a machine gun attachment for my left wing, and a rocket-launcher for my right, I felt as if I was prepared to play the demo.
I was worried about the ease of accessibility for Starlink: Battle for Atlas, that the game would be too cumbersome to comfortably play, considering that in order to play with the toys-to-life functionality you’re required to hold up a model of a spaceship throughout play sessions. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that when playing with the ship on top of the controller, it balanced perfectly in my hand making it seem like it wasn’t even there.
In the mission, I took out some outposts and killed some enemies in an on-ground combat session that played much like a third-person shooter. In Starlink, once you’ve left a combat arena cleaned up from adversity, you will be able to seamlessly turn from land-vehicle to starship. The controls feel tight and solid in both forms, and mixing them within combat and exploration seem to be the main mechanical draw of the game.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas Preview: A Special Guest
However, there was also a huge draw of a different kind with the other version of the game that Carrillo introduced me to. While the quality of the graphics was not as impressive as seen on the Xbox One version of the game, the Nintendo Switch version was serviceable and didn’t dip into any major performance issues. It was the same demo we had previously done, exploring the open-world of a red planet and eradicating any enemies. Except, we now had the opportunity to use the Arwing from the StarFox series (a feature that had been announced during Ubisoft’s E3 2018 conference). The Arwing had a lot of detail (as you can see from the thumbnail of this article), and featured articulation with its rudders. In the game, the unique abilities of the Arwing included the ability to use the laser fire and charge shots straight from the series. It truly felt like a game from the Nintendo franchise and makes the Nintendo Switch version feel unique and special.
Ultimately, Starlink: Battle for Atlantis is a game which doesn’t rely on its gimmicks to be a game that’s worth your attention. Bound together by tight controls, ambitious gameplay mechanics, and a unique take on the world, Starlink is filling a toys-to-life void in its own unique way. There’s a lot to be excited about with this new title, so keep it on your radar when it releases October 16th, 2018. Especially if you seek out the game for its crossover with the StarFox series.