Ubisoft's upcoming Starlink: Battle for Atlas is so much more than the latest attempt at a toys-to-life game. Starlink is, if our recent hands-on preview is anything to go by, a family-friendly space opera with compelling characters, interesting worlds to explore and - for Nintendo Switch users - the best Star Fox game since Star Fox 64. Yes, we said it.
The latest unique partnership between Ubisoft and Nintendo sees Fox McCloud and friends entering the Atlas star system in search of Star Wolf. While their entrance into the game could have felt like tacked-on DLC, Ubisoft has instead woven the characters and subplot into the main game on Switch to make it feel like this was always supposed to be a Star Fox game.
In our demo, we played as Fox from the beginning. First, we helped the Atlas team as they were attacked by the Forgotten Legion, then crash-landed on a mysterious planet. After getting the Arwing to hover on the planet's surface, we searched for survivors and eventually found the rest of the crew taking shelter in Starlink's downed ship. We took off to look for some materials to repair the ship, and were treated to banter from both the Star Fox team and the Starlink crew. Peppy, Slippy and Falco chimed in with their signature commentary (by the original Star Fox voice actors, too - a nice touch).
After shooting down enemies with the Arwing, we were sent on a mission to recover rare resources to get the ship back up and running. The controls worked nicely for the most part, though we did have a bit of trouble getting the camera to do exactly what we wanted (obviously, as this is still an in-progress version of the game and kinks like these may be ironed out). It was during combat that we started to see the fun appeal of the toys-to-life aspect of Starlink. We physically attached different weapons to the Arwing (which was connected to the controller mount) and found that as we mixed and matched, we created weapon combinations that complemented each other and created stronger attacks.
After getting the hang of the game's systems, we jumped into a mission in which Fox and the crew follow Wolf's trail. We won't spoil story details, but our adventure took us from one planet all the way up into space for an intense battle against a hulking rogue ship with turrets. It was here that we got shot out of the sky, and had to switch ships. Switching ships was quick and easy; simply remove the Arwing and choose a different ship to attach to the control mount. In the final game, you'll be able to mix and match pilots, weapons, and ships. Each pilot has a special power; Fox's power allows him to call the rest of the Star Fox crew in for assistance. Needless to say, this proved very helpful in taking down the rogue ship.
From the large open world with seven bespoke planets to explore to the more fleshed-out story, Starlink: Battle for Atlas feels like the Star Fox game fans have been waiting for. Of course, it's also got its own unique characters and feel, too. Each of the original characters created for Starlink has their own backstory and personality, and the world of Atlas has a ton of lore and history that's waiting to be discovered. Ubisoft has put plenty of love into Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and the game is looking to be a strong addition to the Switch's library this October.