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Nintendo Switch  header logo

 NINTENDO SWITCH PREVIEW

Starlink: Battle for Atlas Switch preview - Hands-on with Ubisoft's toys-to-life sci-fi space shooter

Beam me up

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Product: Starlink: Battle for Atlas | Publisher: Ubisoft | Genre: Action
For: Switch
 
Starlink: Battle for Atlas Switch, thumbnail 1
It's fair to say that some of us at Pocket Gamer were a bit baffled by the announcement of Starlink at E3. After all, we've witnessed the slow decline of toys-to-life - what made Ubisoft think it would work this time?

But that was before any of us had the chance to actually play the thing, and now we've had some time to fiddle with it at Nintendo's UK VS event, we're a little more excited about the whole experience.

It's a surprisingly competent sci-fi shooter with enormous bosses, tons of customisation, and some clever design ideas - though we're not entirely sold on the physical aspects just yet.

Fly me to the moon

Starlink's main gimmick is that you can spawn ships into the game by attaching them to your controller, before adding wings and guns to build your perfect combination.

In our preview, we were given the body of the Arwing of Star Fox fame, along with a handful of guns and cannons to play with and different wings to choose from.

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Said wings can be set up in some interesting ways - you can put them on backwards, and they'll be displayed backwards in game (though your ship will still fly), or you can stack wings on top of wings to create some highly manoeuvrable crafts with strange designs.

Then you've got your guns. You can switch these out any time you like mid-game, just in case you're fighting an enemy that's weak to a certain element you don't currently have equipped, and there's no penalty for doing so.

Beneath your guns and wings you have the body, which can also be swapped for heavier or lighter ships, each with their own stats. And beneath that you have a character, which can also be swapped at any time to make use of their different special abilities.

There's clearly a lot of scope here for customisation, and by not attaching any penalties to swapping things around, you're actively encouraged to try out new tactics in the middle of a game, which is a smart move.

The physical components fit together quite nicely to boot - guns and wings fit fairly loosely, so you can easily rip them out and replace them without having to do much fiddling around.

All that said, there's something a little disconcerting about having a big ol' ship attached to the face of your controller. It gets in the way of some of the buttons, and it makes everything just that little bit heavier, which might throw you off balance a bit to begin with.

Thankfully, you can switch to a "digital" mode, which allows you to take the game on the move without having to lug sixteen different plastic guns with you at any one time.

Blasting off

All this would be pointless if the game itself sucked, but thankfully Ubisoft have clearly spent the same amount of time thinking about making a good experience as they have making a good set of toys.

You have two movement options in Starlink - flight, which allows for quick travel around planets and through space, and hover, which keeps you low to the ground and makes targeting a lot easier for combat situations.

You automatically start hovering when you get close enough to the ground, and you just need to hold R to jump into flight mode and pull away when things start getting hairy.

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Things get hairy pretty fast too. It's easy to become overwhelmed by enemy forces, and only a quick trigger finger and some smart evasion tactics will stop you from getting blown to smithereens.

Your arsenal is pretty varied - we got our hands on a standard machine gun, a missile launcher which froze enemies, a black hole generator, and fire rockets, all of which can be combined for massive elemental damage.

Launch a fire rocket into a black hole, for example, and everything caught inside will be hit with a "fire vortex" for repeat flame damage, helping thin the numbers considerably.

There are other cool additions here and there too. You can fly directly from space to the planet's surface and back with no load times for example, and you have to watch out for changing weather and dangerous conditions that can mess with your ship while you're exploring.

Wobbly wings

All in all, we're still a little unsure about Starlink. The core game is plenty of fun, and the surrounding toys-to-life mechanics are fairly smooth and offer up a lot of variety for different playstyles.

But whether we really want to shell out more and more money for different weapons and ships is a whole different matter, and one we're not entirely sure about just yet.

We should be able to make our minds up by the end of the year, however. Starlink is set to launch on Switch on October 16th, so check back around then for some further opinions.
 

Reviewer photo
Ric Cowley 3 August 2018
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