Starlink: Battle For Atlas is a brand new IP developed and created by Ubisoft, hoping to capitalize on the comatose (some would say dead) Toys-To-Life genre that was started by Skylanders a few years back.
As you’d expect from a pitch like that one, many people held little hope for a toys to life game in 2018 after the likes of LEGO and Disney had to throw in the towel with their own attempts at the genre proving to be somewhat unsuccessful.
Ubisoft being completely undeterred, decided to take a new and interesting approach when designing Starlink by giving players the option to go completely digital with their purchase and avoid having to buy any toys whatsoever.
An interesting move that ex-competitor Disney had very little success with when it came to their IOS ports of Disney Infinity.
This shakes things up somewhat, because whilst the digital options being cheaper could be looked at as a good thing, isn’t that now just DLC? The exact kind of DLC that critics, gamers and many developers have been criticising for years?
One of the very few praises given to Toys To Life was the almost physical version of DLC that the toys represented. Some people liked the idea that they had something physical to show for their purchase, something that would still exist once servers had inevitably been shut down in years to come.
As someone who has dabbled into many of the different toys to life games, I have to say I’m impressed with Starlink despite the obvious stigma and criticisms I’ve already gone over in this article so far.
The physical side of the game is quite impressive with the ships, weapons and pilot figurines all being really well designed and on the ship side of things, completely eclipsing the size of many previous Skylanders, Lego Dimensions and Amiibo.
Whilst other games have previously used docks, portals or play pads to connect the toys to the game, Starlink uses a fairly original idea, with the controller being the hub for your ship. You get a “Controller Mount” that will clip onto your Dualshock, securely holding the ship just above your hands.
I found having the ship connected to the controller to be a fun experience, with it weighing just enough to be noticeable, but not enough to be cumbersome. There are also gameplay benefits to having the ship connected, as it allows quick access to swapping out the weapons on the side of the ship.
If you do find the idea of having a huge chunk of plastic attached to your controller to be concerning, you can actually unplug the mount after an initial scan of your collection, and play the game without using any of the physical toys at all, allowing for even more options when it comes to your playstyle.
Surprisingly, the actual game is a lot of fun too. It’s a space combat/exploration game that blends elements of StarFox and No Man’s Sky together into a much friendlier, albeit simpler experience suitable for all ages.
I particularly liked how instead of tying elements or power restrictions to the ship/characters like other games in the genre have done, instead, the weapons are given the elemental treatment. Resulting not only in some cool designs with flamethrowers and ice missiles but also in making the “optional add-ons” as cheap as possible.
You see, the weapon packs available at retail are priced at £9.99 RRP. These come with 2 distinct weapons of varying elemental properties, that can be used to better combat specific types of enemies or to open certain doors and solve some optional puzzles.
Whilst in the 5 or so hours I spent with the game, I never ran into an elemental requirement outside of those provided in the starter set (Fire & Ice) I can only assume that later down the line players will find these optional routes as they explore further.
Besides weapon packs, you can also buy Ship packs for £24.99 RRP and Pilot packs for £6.99 RRP. The ships were the most substantial physical toy, are more for show than anything else. But it should be noted, each ship pack does also include a new weapon and pilot, whereas the Pilot pack only contains a small figure.
The Starter Pack that I’ve been using costs £69.99 at retail, and includes 3 weapons, 1 pilot, 1 ship, the controller mount and the game itself. (Although for full transparency, I was given the game by a friend and did not spend any money on the title myself).
Overall, I’d say that the value of Starlink is extremely subjective. Whilst £69.99 for a game isn’t unheard of in today’s day and age, it’s worth remembering that Starlink isn’t a complete experience in and of itself. It’s designed to be expanded with more toys and to encourage you to spend more money.
That being said, it’s one of the more complete toys to life experiences out there, with the game’s levels all being present in-game, regardless of what toys or version you buy. The only optional extras are weapons, ships and pilots.
It is worth noting, that the Nintendo Switch version does include exclusive Star Fox-themed content, with an exclusive Arwing Ship figure, Fox McCloud pilot and Star Fox campaign which can only be bought with the Nintendo Switch starter pack. (The Switch version also includes the ship seen in the PS4/Xbox One starter kits, albeit digitally). This makes the Switch version the best value for money, when it comes to the physical copies, as you have access to two ships out of the box, meaning you don’t have to pay for anything extra if you want to try out the otherwise inaccessible split-screen mode.
If I do decide to pick up any extras, I may elaborate more on my thoughts of Starlink/Toys-To-Life in another article sometime.
Until then though, I encourage you to watch the trailers and try out the game for yourself. You might be surprised at what you find.
*We used our own copy for review of this title*