E3 2018: Hands-on – Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Until yesterday, no one really had Starlink: Battle for Atlus on their radar. Ubisoft had announced it in 2017, but then they announced that Fox McCloud and his ship will feature in the game and suddenly the whole world took note. Ubisoft is doing a grand job at partnering up with Nintendo wherever they can, but what came as a surprise to me is that Starlink could be one of the sleeper hits to come out of the show.

Unfortunately, I never got to play as Fox or his iconic Arwing, but I did spend about 20 minutes with the one ship on offer, Zenith. The demo kicks off high up in the Atlas star system. Your mission is to eradicate several extractors that are causing an immense amount of damage and thus you swoop in on the target that’s marked in yellow. As I close in on my target I’m introduced to Fern, she guides me through the basics introduction. The Zenith has some tricks up its sleeve and has a feature that reminded me very much of Arms.

Mounted to the left and right tip of each wing is a set of powerful weapons used to gun down foes. The difference is that you can customise the weapons. In other words, the weapon mounted on the right could be different to the one of the left. I played with the various combinations on offer and ended up with an assault rifle, combined with a missile launcher. While gunning away at the extractor and other foes it spawns, I also had to keep my eye on a heat gauge. Overheat your weapons and you’ll have to wait for it to cool down. The Shredder (assault rifle) would gradually build up the heat meter, while the missiles would eat away a big chunk at a time. Things can get frantic and had to often deal with overheated weapons. Thankfully your ship is no slouch.

The extractor had two beams rotating around it, which required me to jump my ship over it by pressing the B button, but it also tasked me to dodge other threats by swerving out of harm’s way using a quick boost. Should you run out of time, you can deploy a shield around your ship, though it requires you to press and hold the X button until the threat has vanished. Once downed, I plucked the extractor core from it and it’s at this particular point that it was time for Starlink to stretch its legs. My next enemy was a huge behemoth with four legs and the ability to swipe down at me using its legs, followed by a precise laser beam. Everything I had learned up to that point came into play, and it’s here where I realised that we’re dealing with ‘Platinum Games level of frantic fun action’.

At no point in this fight could I hover in one place for a moment as there was always something out to kill me. As is commonplace with all Nintendo titles, enemies will display an obvious bright red area that requires your attention. With this thing, named Prime, it only shows up as it’s about to swipe down at you and I had to deal with other summoned foes too. I felt exceptionally cool as I danced around the laser beams, bullets and various other attacks. The Shredder and missile combination worked exceptionally well and to end it off I dropped a bomb-like weapon on it. The demo, unfortunately, came to an end and I wanted more.

Starlink: Battle for Atlus feels very much like the No Man’s Sky we were originally promised and more. From what I’ve played it is obvious that this toys-to-life game from Ubisoft could be a much bigger deal than we all might think. If there is a solid singleplayer campaign packed underneath it all it could be the space adventure to own.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas launches on 16 October for PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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