June 21, 2018

E3 2018: Hands on with Starlink: Battle for Atlas

When it was announced last year, Starlink: Battle for Atlas grabbed my attention, I love space games where I can fly a ship, but also games where I can explore a world, combine the two and you have a recipe for success in my book. E3 2018 gave attendees the chance to play the game for real and having played through the demo twice, once with the figures and once digitally, I came away hopeful of the future of the new series.

The demo at E3, had players blasting down to a planets surface, to discover what was causing a spike in enemy activity and one thing the developer who was with me the second time, wanted to highlight, was that the objective marker that was guiding me, would not always be there in the main game. Players would only get a general bit of information that would direct them towards a specific area, but then it was up to them, to try and locate the correct space, that to me, sounds pretty cool, but for the demo, I pushed forward to the floating marker.

Now if you have seen any of the demos that Ubisoft had shown of the game, at E3, then you would be happy to know that what I played was the same, the only difference was how I approached things and given I played twice, each time I played differently. The games biggest draw is that you can swap anything out, whenever you want, from pilots to ships and the types of weapons you are using, there is no combination restriction, so when the enemy started to summon ice-based creatures, I had to swap from my ice rockets, as they were doing almost no damage. Playing with the ship on the controller, meant that all I had to do, was pull the weapon module off the ship and then snap a new one in its place, and within moments of completing the action, the new weapon was ready for use.

Digitally, it required a little more effort, pausing the game and then jumping to the right screen, once there, you would select the piece of the ship you wanted to modify, as you can select a number of items, it took a bit to get the right one, then once selected you were presented with a list of options available to you. Selecting the item would equip in and then you were right to un-pause and continue the action, while pausing the game is not an issue, if you select the wrong item and need to change again, you have to go back through the whole process again and I think, that this way might annoy quite a few people.

Once I was back to flying around the enemies, my new fire-based weapon, was able to dish out some massive damage to the ice guys, something that made things easy, but as always, when things are going your way, the game changes and you need to adapt. While I was forced into a hover mode for a while, the ship still controls quite well, you can jump, given you an advantage over the ground-based lasers one of the things shot out, but you can also dodge. If you dodge while on the ground, you will just boost to a side, or even forward, if you were pushing forward at the time, but if you combine it with a jump, you can do a barrel roll, but leave the dodge too late in the jump and your ship will not complete the roll in time and you will end up exposed to more shots, while you correct the ships orientation.

Taking out the pylons, allowed me to once again take to the skies, in order to chase down the enemy that was causing all the problems, flying around the planet though, was a blast. While I was heading towards the marker on the screen, I spotted some old abandoned research outposts, a cave system and saw a plethora of local wildlife, the planet was just begging to be explored some more. But I needed to push forward, eventually I came across the creature I needed to fight, and boy was it a challenge. Sticking to the air, made me faster and more manoeuvrable, but it made it hard to line up shots on the ground-based creature, as it was weakest from underneath, hovering about the ground though, had me dealing with both the giant creature, as well as the many minions it had summoned.

Halfway through the battle, when the creature realised it was losing, it took off and it made great speed, so swapping back into flight mode, I began the chase and again spotted some interesting locations, that beg to be explored, but after a while, the creature stopped and the battle was back on. The demo ended after I blasted it to pieces, but the resulting battle, needed me to change weapons again, as the fire weapon I had equipped, did not have a great range and I needed to stay back in order to shoot up. I could not swap back to the ice rockets, because the minions it was still summoning, had ice elements still, so I swapped to a giant plasma type weapon and while it was slow to fire, it did deal significant damage.

By the end of my second playthrough, I knew I wanted more of the game, even just getting a chance to explore some of those locations I discovered would have been enough, but nope, I need to wait until the game is released. It will be interesting to see how split ends up falling, will people go for physical, or will digital be the route they go? I think I will get the game on Switch and go digital myself and while the ships are cool, I don’t have any sort of connection to them, something I had with Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions, excluding the Arwing of course, so going physical would be a stretch, even more so, given their size and how much space they will consume.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a game that I want to be good, for the toys to life stuff, I could take it or leave it, but open space combat and planet exploration, sign me up.

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