Starlink: Battle for Atlas can’t decide whether to take its toys-to-life concept seriously

Starlink: Battle for Atlas can’t decide whether to take its toys-to-life concept seriously, or drop it completely. It has a good, if somewhat repetitive, open world experience to offer, but it’s held back by mistakes that aren’t entirely its own fault.

Starlink is one of those "toys to life" games. If you buy a physical copy, it comes with a special controller onto which you can snap collectable models of the in-game ships and physically switch them on the controller, and they'll change in the game. I couldn't be bothered with this, but luckily it's optional. You can choose to play entirely digitally with a normal controller, using in-game menus to switch ships and weapons. Phew.

Starlink's spacecraft-focused foundation makes the gameplay all the more interesting. On the planet's surface, ships hover a short distance above the ground, and players can circle, strafe, or even jump if desired. At any time, players can press and hold a button to fly out into space, where the action becomes more free-roaming. A total of seven different planets are available to explore, each as gorgeous as it is vast, and after being discovered, players can travel between any them at will.

For as much time and effort has gone into making replicas of each and every ship and weapon, the game itself doesn’t lean into them anywhere near enough. You’ve got this fabulous looking ship planted on top of your DualShock 4, and it feels like you hardly every interact with it. You’ll replace weapons when you need to, but it’s not enough to justify the price tag nor the requirement to have them all on hand. The game would have been far better either ditching the concept entirely, or leaning into it in a much heavier fashion whereby

Customization only gets deeper thanks to the availability of Mods. Found hidden all over planets, dropped by enemies, or even given as quest rewards, Mods allow the player to fine-tune their weapons, their ships, and even their mothership, offering upgrades that trickle all the way down to planetary outposts. Armor Mods, Weapon Mods, Booster Mods, Core Mods, the list goes on and on, and only a few short hours into the game, players even can start using their weaker Mods to craft more powerful ones.

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