A con­fus­ing toys-to-life propo­si­tion

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Saman­tha Loveridge

Pitch­ing Star­link as a brand new toys-to­life ad­ven­ture feels like an odd choice. It has ar­rived in a time where the en­tire genre has pretty much been killed off, rel­e­gated to not much more than a bar­gain aisle pur­chase in the pre-Christ­mas rush. LEGO Di­men­sions,

Sky­lan­ders and Dis­ney In­fin­ity have all come and gone, and yet here comes Star­link: Bat­tle For At­las.

But, although it might seem al­most blas­phe­mous to sug­gest that a toysto-life game would be bet­ter with­out the toys, in Star­link’s case that’s ab­so­lutely true. It’s a bit of an odd propo­si­tion. You can buy Star­link ei­ther as part of a Starter Pack, com­plete with your first ship, pi­lot, and a cou­ple of weapons, or just as a stand­alone game. If you choose to go toy-free, you’ll have ac­cess to all the game’s ships, weapons, pi­lots and be able to up­grade them all, while if you want to play with toys, you’re lim­ited to what you’ve paid for. How­ever, frus­trat­ingly, you’ll be able to see ev­ery­thing you could have won in the menus, you just won’t be able to ac­cess them. That’s par­tic­u­larly in­fu­ri­at­ing when you die, be­cause you’ll be in­formed you have five ships re­main­ing, but you won’t be able to use any of them. Cue howls from chil­dren (both young and old) con­fused by the prom­ise of more ships and thus more lives; all you need to do is fork out an­other 25 quid or so to get an­other phys­i­cal ve­hi­cle.

Un­safe space

So although the toys are ut­terly bril­liant, it’s bet­ter to treat Star­link:

Bat­tle For At­las as the straight­for­ward space opera it re­ally is un­der­neath the sug­gested toys-to-life genre. That is an ut­ter shame though, be­cause the toys are bril­liant, mod­u­lar things that’ll have you swap­ping out wings, weapons and pi­lots in real life, only to see all your changes re­flected in-game, even if you fancy stick­ing the wings on up­side down. It all works won­der­fully. But we fear once peo­ple re­alise that ev­ery­thing in Star­link’s arse­nal is ac­ces­si­ble if you don’t use the toys, they’re all go­ing to be found years down the line cov­ered in dust, and for­got­ten.

What won’t be for­got­ten is the ac­tual game­play on of­fer with Star­link. You play as a va­ri­ety of mem­bers of the Star­link Al­liance, who have all been sent to At­las to re­cover an arte­fact. But, of course, as these things tend to go, it turns out that Nova, the stuff that’s pow­er­ing their ship, is a much more pre­cious com­mod­ity in this new gal­axy. Your cap­tain gets kid­napped by an alien be­ing, and the rest of the game is all about tak­ing him, and his cronies, down. That might all sound fairly straight­for­ward, but when the space com­bat, both in the cos­mos and on the plan­ets’ sur­face is so good, it’s easy to get caught up in the space opera of it all. Whether you’re work­ing your way through a Prime’s huge health­bar, en­gag­ing in dog­fights among the stars with out­laws, or just pro­tect­ing a re­searcher at one of your out­posts,

there’s plenty of ac­tion to be found, play­ing out like a light­weight Des­tiny that ev­ery­one in the fam­ily can get in­volved with.

Peace it to­gether

In be­tween all the fight­ing though, there are mo­ments of glo­ri­ous tran­quil­lity that you’ll find as you ex­plore the sur­face of At­las’ seven plan­ets. Pinch­ing colour pal­ettes and crea­ture in­flu­ences right out of No Man’s Sky, there’s an en­tire en­cy­clo­pe­dia of things to scan, dis­cover and marvel at. There are, among other things to do, min­er­als to trade, plants to pick, Le­gion blights to pluck from the na­tive fauna. Strange tem­ples will rise from the hori­zon of­fer­ing puz­zles for you to solve, while a won­der­ful back­story in­volv­ing find­ing arte­facts will let you dis­cover more about each char­ac­ter in a way that plays out like a comic book. All of this helps to al­most eter­nally per­pet­u­ate that game­play loop that keeps you ques­tion­ing “I won­der what’s over that hori­zon”.

It does feel a lit­tle strange at first that you can’t get out of your ship – un­like in No Man’s Sky – but the way the ships han­dle does make it an in­cred­i­bly en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly when you can feel the pull and tug of a plant’s roots as you pluck it from the ground. It also makes sense be­cause you’re con­stantly work­ing to up­grade your ship, its weapons and the pi­lots within, en­abling you to take on higher-level foes. You’ll also have to work out which weapons work against what en­e­mies. Ice Gi­ants for ex­am­ple, are only pow­ered up by us­ing an ice-based weapon, while that flamethrower you’ve got in your arse­nal is a much bet­ter fit. That’s very much just the ba­sis of the com­bat though, with ki­netic weapons com­ing in, along with other types, as you progress through the story.

It’s such a shame then, that some may miss out on Star­link be­cause of a fear of its toys-to-life prom­ise. But ac­tu­ally, this is a bril­liant game in its own right – par­tic­u­larly if you skip the toy part. Star­link:

Bat­tle For At­las is a beau­ti­ful space ex­plo­ration game with fast, re­ac­tive com­bat that’s won­der­fully fam­ily friendly.

“A beau­ti­ful space ex­plo­ration game with fast, re­ac­tive com­bat”

Left Each planet is unique, and ut­terly stun­ning, although there are times you’ll feel like you’re se­cretly play­ing No Man’s Sky.

Fa r Left When you’re fac­ing en­e­mies like these, it ben­e­fits to have lev­elled up dif­fer­ent weapon types and classes.

right Each pi­lot has a unique abil­ity that you can whip out.

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