Freedom and exploration are possible thanks to the seamless world (or should that be system), which is inspired by the open worlds from other universes under the Ubisoft banner, such as those from Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs. StarLink's lead game designer Jesse Knapp explained the value the game offers compared to its predecessor in the genre, saying that the first substantial difference lies in this massive open world, in which the player has a maximum degree of freedom in terms of exploration. Although there's a story connecting the whole experience, it's in the player's hands to choose how to move within the Atlas system, choosing to explore the different planets when and how they like. The other interesting thing is that players can be accompanied in their adventure by a second user via a jump-in jump-out co-op system. Thanks to a shared screen mode, which can be activated at any time as soon as a second player enters the game, you can share the experience with a friend at any time.
During our hands-on session we were able to test Nintendo Switch version of the game; the only edition that features Fox McCloud and the model of his spacecraft. As told by creative director Laurent Malville, this exclusive partnership between Nintendo and Ubisoft stems from a desire from Ubi Toronto to help younger players get to know the iconic character, and Fox McCloud is a perfect fit for Starlink. The controls for the Switch version appear rather simple and intuitive, allowing even a younger player to get involved immediately, and the model and character are literally embedded in the Switch controller (as you can see in the picture below). We must admit that we were really surprised by how light it was, even if it was a bit cumbersome.
The real star of the show is the ability to change the various components of the spacecraft at will, allowing the player to make changes to their setup to suit the situation. In the short time we had to try the game we found it fun to be able to tinker with the build - a design feature that should be enhanced by the inventiveness and creativity of younger players - and as for the visuals, Starlink: Battle for Atlas shines with its diverse landscapes, although there were some frame-rate drops during certain battle sequences. The combat system is rather simple, but at the same time it's also well-paced, something which will no doubt boost its appeal. Having experienced only a short portion of the game, however, we don't know how much this part of the game might get repetitive in the long term, even if we found it rather interesting during our limited time with the game.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas puts the player in the middle of it all and does everything to make them feel like they're not only the one and only protagonist but also an indispensable creator of their unique adventure. The concept behind Ubisoft Toronto's new game seems quite promising and is also a way to allow a new generation to approach the world of interactive entertainment, here through a decidedly deep, intriguing, and creative experience. It's not the classic game for children, but a multi-layered experience that will allow little explorers the chance to enjoy an adventure authored by themselves. How much time they'll want to spend in Atlas remains to be seen, but for the moment it has us tentatively convinced. Now all that's left to do is to wait for October 16 for the final verdict, when the game will land on PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.