This is a game I have been hyped about ever since I saw Shigeru Miyamoto make a surprise appearance at E3 2018 and Ubisoft showed the return of FoxMcloud and Crew from Starfox. – A game that I played on the SNES when it was the first game to use the systems new Super FX Chip. I spent hours upon hours within this game. The visuals at the time were jaw-dropping and seeing 3D visuals on a 16bit console were just astounding back then. The game was an enjoyable, simple concept and offered hours of fun. Over the years there have been a number of attempts to bring the franchise back to life but even Nintendo sort of failed.
So thanks to Ubisoft in collaboration with Nintendo, Nintendo Switch owners finally get something they have been longing for, for years now, a true successor to the Starfox franchise.
Starlink – when I first heard the name and Nintendo’s collaboration I looked deeper at the name and came up with this. Star from Starwing/Starfox and Link from the Zelda franchise. Thus we have an open world space adventure game, why this? Well, Zelda is primarily an adventure game and Starfox is set on other planets and in space. OK, I might have been thinking too much into this at the time, but it did make sense to me. Well at least in my head it did.
Can you save the Atlas Star System from the evil Grax and the Forgotten Legion, and as an added bonus for Nintendo Switch owners, you can hunt down Wolf in an exclusive quest-line.
So first off the atlas system currently contains 7 planets,
- Kirite – Is a harsh desert type planet
- Ashar – A rather dangerous planet, not suitable for much habitation, flowing with Magma and covered in ash
- Haven – Is a stunning world with a mild temperature, but be warned it’s full of dangers
- Tundria – Even though ice is dangerous is does look amazing and beautiful
- Sunatus – Interesting Alien life aplenty – A planet created to have been a musical making extravaganza now dying and unloved.
- Vylus – This is a disgusting, but beautiful looking planet ravaged and controlled by the ur-spore a mold that is able to infest and control prey.
- Necrom – A planet not as cold as Tundria but just as deadly a cold unforgiving planet.
I think Ubisoft will release more ships, pilots, weapons and in-game content over time as it makes sense for this to happen. It’ll keep gamers coming back to the game, and this is only the start of what will probably be a much larger universe.
To traverse the Atlus System you’ll have pilots with their ships. Let’s take a look at them:
Fox Mcloud exclusive to the Nintendo Switch pilots the Arwing
Mason who pilots the Zenith
Shaid who pilots the Nadir
Levi Mccray pilots the Scramble
Judge pilots the Neptune
Chase da Silva who pilots the Pulse
Razer Lemay pilots the Cerberus
Kharl Zeon – No designated ship
Eli Arborwood – No designated ship
and Hunter Hakka pilots the Lance
Then we have all the weapons at your disposal;
- Shredder – Shoots kinetic Projectiles through its rotary design.
- Shredder MK2 – Upgraded version of the shredder.
- Nullifier – Guided Missions that will crush your enemy.
- Volcano – Hold down that trigger and blast away with heat activated molecules.
- Imploder – Creates a black hole and it’s amazing! Especially if you had elements in the field, like fire.
- Hailstorm – Another cold damage weapon when used with the shredder, it’s just chilling.
- Crusher – Creates gravity wells around your enemies. Enemies caught in them will be drawn inwards and will take damage over time.
- Flamethrower – The name says it all.
- Frost Barrage – Guided frost missiles that slow down the enemy.
- Levitator – Self-guided missiles that not only suspend your enemy but also removed their ability to fight back.
- Meteor MK2 – Creates a burning shield around you. Version 1 is not available.
- Gauss Gun MK2 – Even though this is an upgraded version of the Gauss Gun, there is no version 1 – It is a kinetic weapon.
Now comes to the fun part, Starlink is primarily a toys to life game, what do I mean by that, well you buy toys and they come to life in the game. Simple as that. Take for example the Nintendo Switch version seen below. You get the Arwing, two pilots, 2 weapons and the controller mount for the Joy-cons and of course the game. This is called the starter pack and they are available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Not PC.
It is a simple premise really choose a ship, then a pilot, attach them to the joy-con mount, then choose the weapons and off you go. But there is a lot more to it, when actually in the game. Ships equal extra lives, so when you die you can swap over to a different ship and carry on where you left off, otherwise you will spawn elsewhere. Weapons can be a useful tool as different enemies can take more damage from different element-based guns, so having an array of weapons available is an additional advantage on the battlefield. However, you can still complete the whole game with just the starter pack, it is just a little harder. Something I found rather interesting was every pilot has their own backstory, intro and was fully voiced acted. For me this is what makes a game and can really help draw the gamer into its universe. However, I felt the Starfox crew was more or less an added addition included into the game at a later stage as they always seem to be in the background not really doing much with other characters in the game, like an afterthought or a nod from Nintendo to just push the game on Nintendo Switch.
But let us get back to the toys to life aspect and pricing because for you it’s either going to be a yes, no or a rip-off. For me, it was hell yes as I love collecting things and when the game is done and dusted I can show them all off within a display unit.
- Starter Pack £64.99
- Extra Ships £24.99 ea
- Weapons Packs £9.99 ea
I worked it out to be around £250.00 for everything, which is ‘ouch’ for your wallet, but sometimes it has to be done if you are a collector. So what are the advantages of having the toys? Well, they look cool, they are designed well and you can lend them to your mates so they can test drive them. Not only that but after your friends connect up a ship, pilot or weapon they get to keep the digital variant for 7 days. This also goes the same way for you so everything you connect up will provide a digital variant for 7 days. While this is great, I think this should be increased to 20 days for those 2-week holiday breaks away. Since you don’t really want to carry around toys if you’re going somewhere.
So what if you do not have that much money, yet you can still afford the starter pack, but now you know that the game will be a bit harder for you. Does that put you off? I would hope not, because you can still buy each item over time at a later stage.
Now the clinker, when I was at EGX I was told that Ubisoft wanted to push the game as a toys to life genre so there would be no point in releasing a digital variant with everything or even some of the products available as toys, but just before release I saw two different versions on the Nintendo eShop. The Standard edition for £69.99 and the deluxe edition for £89.99. Thinking to myself, this makes sense as you do have a handheld mode, but you do still have the 7-day digital variants when you attach the toys to the mount. Then I checked out what you get from each of them and my mouth dropped to the ground.
For the £69.99 version you get 4 ships, 6 pilots and 12 weapons, that is a lot more than what you get with a starter pack. Then in the £89.99 deluxe edition, you get 5 ships, 9 pilots and 15 weapons which is literally everything. There is no need to attach toys for digital variants which only last 7 days. They are there all the time and you no longer have to worry about taking toys on holiday or having all your toys taking over the living room coffee table. So I have to question why did they do this? I guess this suits all gamers, the gamers that 100% prefer digital only, the gamers that want to play the game and enjoy everything the game has to offer without the hefty price behind it and the collectors that love to collect toys.
So with all the above explained, what is the actual game like?
You have been recruited by the Starlink Initiative, as your mothership arrives in the Atlas Star System seeking answers for an alien called Judge and his origins. Unless you play Starfox, then well, you join the crew to help out along with all your plucky friends. The game is complex and even though you might think this is a kid’s game it is not. There are space battles which are intense and fun, however, you do feel totally outnumbered, it’s a bit like Kylo Ren sending everything he has against Luke Skywalker, overkill, but ultimately fails. Traveling through space from one planet to another is fun to do, however, during the whole traveling experience; you will need to navigate around legion traps. If you don’t your high-speed travel will come to an abrupt halt and a space battle will pursue. I have to admit, sometimes I did work my way around the traps, but I also enjoy bringing the pain to the useless legion.
Then we have the planetary combat, which will see you for the majority of the time, feeling as if you are on an advanced hovercraft, being able to DO A BARREL ROLL, dodge, and shoot. The flying aspect had been removed to a degree, but I doubt being able to fly would make the combat any easier or fun.
During your time on each planet, you will be doing storyline quests, pick up quests, turn in quests, build quests, taking on enemies and massive bosses such as the Primes etc. There are more, but hey like you want me to spoil everything for you in this review. You need to play the game to enjoy every aspect.
During your time on the planets, you will be making use of 4 structures,
- Observatories – These will open more of your map
- Refineries – Will collect a currency called Electrum
- Workshops – Will allow you to purchase mods
- Armories – Will allow you to purchase vigilantes to protect the planet.
There are two types of currency in the game NOVA and Electrum, NOVA is the hardest one to grind for, as you only gain NOVA when defeating Primes. I mentioned them earlier so what exactly are Primes? Well, they are the big bosses, and I mean BIG. Bringing down extractors helps to find Primes, story mission quest lines, as well with handing in cores. I found the best way to score NOVA was just to chill in space and pick up NOVA from enemy debris.
Electrum is scored by doing quests, killing enemies, and turning in items and of course by Refineries. You will always find you have more Electrum then NOVA. But what can you spend this on? Equinox Upgrades, which allow you to upgrade special abilities to better enhance your performance in-game. Some upgrades will require both NOVA and Electrum so spend wisely. Also, let’s not forget that each pilot has their own special abilities and the game will play differently dependant on who you decide to play with. However, any upgrades you have chosen for said ship/pilot are for that ship and that pilot only and they will not move over to other ships as well.
Ships are fun to play with, as you can choose to have three wings attached to one ship. Take note more wings add weight, and weight will have a detrimental effect on your ship’s performance. Then you have your weapons and weapons mods that improve your damage output even more. It’s so fun to use a black hole weapon and chuck in a fire attack or ice attack and watch the enemies just die as they cannot do anything. There is a hell of a lot of mods to collect and choose from and honestly, I was overwhelmed by the choices.
Fighting big Primes and the Dreadnaughts brought back memories of my times playing Starfox when you would shoot at a certain section to kill the enemy. If I recall right, you would shoot at spots that would flash red and orange and it would be that spot that would take the most damage. Playing Starlink and taking on these types of enemies felt exactly the same, reminiscent of old times. I am sure if Ubisoft really wanted to create a fully dedicated Starfox game exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, but Nintendo just did not want it. So I am on the fence, was it a Starfox idea at the start and Nintendo said no, or did Ubisoft approach Nintendo later in the game and asked them to bring Starfox in, I have no idea, but the game takes so much from the Starfox franchise I have to question it.
Let’s now discuss some more of the gameplay. It is repetitive, but so is the original Mario Bros, or the Dynasty Warriors Franchise, or even Battle Royale games. They all have a form of repetitiveness to them, but they are all good games to some gamers. Even my Favourite game Diablo 3, its just rift, rift, greater rift, bounties and look more rifts, just to grind for better gear to push through the higher difficulty levels. Starlink sees you killing the same enemies over and over, doing fetch quests, grinding grind and grinding some more. You will most likely see yourself going back to a planet you originally thought was cleared only to find that the legion is back. Now some gamers will hate repetition after repetition. A certain other publication’s reviewer classed the game as ‘fundamentally unfun’ because of this. For me though, this game was fun, and I enjoyed what I was doing, I enjoyed the exploration, I enjoyed taking on the legion, I enjoyed grinding to level up my ship and character and collecting all the mods. It is fundamentally a Ubisoft Games and I am still going to hold my head up high as there are not many Ubisoft games I have not enjoyed despite the repetitiveness.
My experience in the game is varied from cruising around the planets while flying to user hover mode. Retro-boosters is possibly the best name to call this action as this allows you to use your engines to boost around the planet at high-speed. Taking off and leaving a planet feels awesome, just as good as it did when you first left a planet in No Man’s Sky. Yet in my opinion, No Man Sky, when that got released was quite literally laborious, bland and boring after the first few hours of playing the game. There are some elements in the game that did remind me of No Man’s Sky, the colour palettes being one of them, but that was about it. Everything else is so much better in Starlink. I would have loved to have been able to leave my ship and explore the surface as one of the captains though since exploring some of the internal structures in the ship just felt odd. I also believe having this option would have made exploring the game world much more enjoyable overall. They even could have included cover-based shooting.
When in space, there will be objects to find and pickup. You can take on the legion, pirates and even pirate motherships from the get-go. I decided to attack one at level 1 which was a dumb move and I quite simply died. Moving from planet to planet with the hyperdrive and even just getting close to an enemy ship feels great. The way Ubisoft implemented the legion traps is great as you can either set the trap off and have a dogfight or move your ship around them. I never really got bored of the game right to the end, and I kept on coming back for more. Having the toys made it even more fun for me.
So when it comes to my final thoughts, would I recommend this game, YES, would I recommend buying the starter pack and all the toys, Hell YES. I am a collector after all and Ubisoft does want you to experience this game as a toys to life game. Can you still play the game on a budget, yes you can. You can just purchase the starter pack only and enjoy the whole game. It will be harder, but the game can still be completed. If you detest toys then the digital variants offer everything at a much cheaper price. Gamers with not that much money, you are safe here since there is something for you as well with just the standard digital version.
The game’s story is lacking in places, is repetitive and lacks more variations of enemies so bear this in mind but remember it’s still fun. Starfox does seem like an afterthought and I would have loved to have seen this game as a pure Starfox game but Ubisoft and Nintendo clearly opted for something else. The planets are gorgeous and well-designed but sometimes do feel barren and unloved by wildlife. There is plenty to do, as the game should give you around 20 to 25hrs worth of playtime. Everything is voiced acted so there is no need to read anything, and there is so much depth to this game just like many other Ubisoft games, so there is plenty to dig into.