For the second year in a row, Ubisoft brought Nintendo onstage at E3 2018 to show off a fun partnership. This year, it was for Starlink: Battle for Atlas. We've heard whispers of Starlink for awhile, but Ubisoft's presentation gave us our first clear look at how the game would work. We also met a familiar friend who will appear in the game as a guest character on the Nintendo Switch: Fox McCloud.

I went hands-on with Starlink at E3 2018, happily bolstered by a pile of ships, pilots, weapons, and other augmentations for my ship. The toys look great and are fun to play with on their own, but the real enjoyment is hooking them up via the controller attachment and taking them for a ride through space.

Everyone's sky

Starlink: Battle for Atlas instantly reminded me of No Man's Sky, but with stuff I actually wanted to do instantly available. As Mason Rana aboard the Digital Zenith starship, I was able to explore a small sector of space near the planet Sonatus. Beyond the planet, I could see the rest of the solar system ripe for adventuresome folks like myself to zip over and check out, but I had a mission on Sonatus. Ship controls were simple but comfortable, so I picked up speed, practiced a few barrel rolls, and headed to the surface.

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The entirety of Sonatus can be explored, and there appears to be plenty in the way of enemies, ruins, research stations, and other interesting discoveries to make. I headed for my objective, an area wrapped in fog that forced my ship close to the surface until the enemies causing the trouble were dispatched with and the tower at the center of the fog destroyed. Though not able to take off, I was still able to dodge, roll, and fire on both enemies and tower weak points with either of my distinct gun attachments. Movement and aiming were a bit tricky, but with the addition of a shield in case I moved poorly, I was able to take care of the trouble and be on my way.

Bigger and badder

A bit further across the planet's surface, a bigger monster awaited me. I engaged a massive, bug-like creature with weak points on its legs but the ability to fire at a distance and summon waves of smaller enemies to distract me. Now, with the ability to take off, I needed to work just a bit harder on my dodging skills. Staying in the air helped me mostly stay out of his way, but I still had to barrel roll away from ranged shots and dispatch ground enemies to continue the fight while hitting him in the legs. Halfway through, he took off across the desert to find a power source and I engaged in a fast-paced chase before he bulked up and came at me with even stronger abilities.

It was a long fight, and I was destroyed multiple times. Fortunately, if you have multiple ships at your disposal, you can simply attach a new ship and get back on your way for a second wind. If you're not so lucky, then you'll have to start over. The ability to both save myself or readjust my ship's attachments on the fly was by far one of my favorite powers in Starlink, especially once I took command of the iconic Arwing. The Arwing is the only one of the game's ships that doesn't require gun attachments to fire--it has the familiar laser shots (both short and charged) at the ready if you leave the gun slots open.

Mix and match...if you must

When I first saw Starlink, I instantly balked at another toys-to-life franchise that would require a ton of plastic to function. And there is definitely an up-front price to all this. The physical edition of Starlink costs $15 more than your typical Nintendo Switch game, which may immediately make it a pass for some. But it also comes with two pilots, two ships, and three guns, which is more than enough to enjoy the game with (especially if you, like me, are a fan of Fox McCloud). You can purchase more pilots, weapons, ships, or augmentations physically or digitally (I have not seen details on whether or not there's a price difference for buying them online). You can also partner with your friends to collect more. Connecting a Starlink modular toy will unlock it in the game for some time after you use it, and though it will expire eventually, you'll at least get to try it out. And if you're worried about losing parts, don't worry on that front either. Anything in the starter pack that comes with the game is automatically unlocked in your game forever.

All that said, you won't be able to play this without some level of price increase related to ships, pilots, and weapons. And that's a huge bummer. I'm not sure how much customization is available in-game without buying a bunch of figurines (though you can access the interface and customize from the menu rather than swapping out physical parts)

Okay, how expensive is all this?

Starlink: Battle for Atlas will launch for Nintendo Switch on October 16, 2018. The starter pack will cost $74.99 and includes:

  • Starlink: Battle for Atlas
  • Arwing starship
  • Fox McCloud pilot
  • Flamethrower weapon
  • Frost Barrage weapon
  • Digital Shredder weapon
  • Mason Rana pilot
  • Digital Zenith starship
  • Controller mount
  • Starlink poster

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