Having gotten the opportunity to play the demo for Starlink: Battle for Atlas at Fan Expo 2018, I thought I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into. I was expecting to play a game that featured a series of dogfights in orbit and land-based battles on the surfaces of different planets. Those elements are in there, and are still the best part of the game. What I wasn’t expecting was the fact that those are only smaller parts of a much grander framework.
Starlink is not a straight-up action game. It’s an open-world action game, not unlike Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed, or Far Cry 5. But instead of controlling a human being, you control a space ship.
It took me a bit to wrap my head around what that actually meant. Between battles, you’re talking to quest-givers, unlocking visibility in a fogged-up map, collecting items (some of which require you to yank them through a mini-game), and in certain cases, platforming. Yes, platforming. When your ship is in hover mode, your boost essentially acts as a jump button, which the game forces you to use to dodge certain ground-based attacks. Furthermore, there are actual platforming sections where you must climb towers as a space ship! The lengths in which the game goes to explain this are silly, but it’s not hard to get over.
Putting the game in this sort of framework works in its favour in a lot of ways. I have a great deal of nostalgia for the original Star Fox and Star Fox 64, but both of those games have short runtimes and burn out pretty quickly due to their linearity. In an open-world format, Starlink has the ability to provide so much more opportunities for compelling gameplay beyond shooting; some of which I’ve gotten to see early on.
But does it do enough to fill in its framework? During my stream, a number of people asked if the criticisms about the game’s repetitiveness were true. So far…it kind of seems that way? It was really easy to see the how much of the game boiled down to talking to a quest-giver, doing the thing, and collecting the rewards. Even specific tasks, such as warding off space pirates or shutting down outposts seemed to crop up more often than I’d like.
Not quite ready to pass a final judgment on Starlink: Battle for Atlas, but I wanted to document this aspect of the experience in advance. Maybe I simply wasn’t paying enough attention, but I’m surprised that it’s not what I thought it would be.
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