Starlink: Battle for Atlas keeps surprising me.
In the few hours I’ve put into Starlink, I’ve grown to enjoy it more and more as I traverse the Atlas star system, build up communities on each planet, and conquer Legion forces. The game is a blast.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas, coming out on Tuesday, is a sci-fi adventure game with an optional toys-to-life element that allows players to customize their loadout by attaching physical pilots, spaceships, and weapons to their controllers. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s there for you, but you can also play digitally (without the physical attachments) and customize your loadout through the menu.
The story of Starlink is a classic good vs. evil tale with the members of an Earth-based coalition of fighter pilots named Starlink battling against the interplanetary threat of the evil Legion, which is led by Grax.
All the proper nouns at the outset are a bit much, but they became familiar very quickly as a I hopped between planets and absorbed all the necessary information along the way.
While the story is a nice element to push everything forward, where the game shines is in its exploration, combat, and colony management. Normally the phrase “colony management” would be an immediate turn off to me but it’s handled pretty well in Starlink and hasn’t taken much time or attention away from the more exciting parts of the game.
Starlink has that map-forward vibe of other Ubisoft games like Far Cry, in which players slowly uncover more and more things to do through exploration. In Starlink, each planet you encounter is being taken over by Legion and it’s your job to kill them and put resources toward various outposts in order to make sure they can’t easily come back (also the outposts give you bonuses and farm materials for you).
At first the combat is pretty straight forward. A little too straight forward, and I was worried I was going to get bored pretty quickly. But I quickly found out I was wrong.
The threats kept growing and growing, requiring me to be mindful of which weapons I was using while maneuvering around enemy fire.
There are the Extractors, which pull resources from the planets and are protected by Legion grunts and automated defense systems that turn a patch of land into a bullet-hell sort of encounter that really test your mobility — which feels great, by the way.
The next level up are the Primes, which are huge, four-legged beasts that plant Extractors, and they have their own fun encounter mechanics.
Then there was the fight that really sold me: a space battle against a Dreadnought, which is basically a gigantic Legion ship with three challenging phases to overcome while battling/out-maneuvering a whole bunch of enemy ships.
There are still a handful of planets I have yet to touch down on, with new allies to meet and new enemies to defeat. The loop of helping locals, defeating small threats to weaken the bigger threats, and opening up more areas to explore and help is super satisfying.
Starlink is not the most challenging game (at least not yet, outside of the only Dreadnought fight I’ve done which took me like five attempts to finish) but it has a certain comforting feel to it. The flying element feels great, the combat is dynamic and fun, and the ability to customize the spaceship adds a nice personal touch to everything.
Plus there’s no real pressure to do anything immediately. I can just fight Legion all day, or take a break and scan some alien lifeforms, or scavenge for currencies and parts to better myself and the planet populations.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a blast, and I’m excited to see everything else it has to offer.
Plus, playing as Star Fox on the Nintendo Switch version is huge bonus.