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Starlink is a great toy to play with, but its toys may hold it back



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CNET / Sean Buckley

The first time I played Ubisoft's StarLink: Battle for Atlas, I was impressed. It seemed to be something I had never played before: a toy game that did not suffer.

This was a development I did not expect. The use of NFC-enabled toys to change characters in games like Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions has always been new, but the games themselves were mostly flat, simple experiences aimed at younger players. As an adult, I liked the toys, but the games bored me.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas could have the opposite problem. It is a action-packed space adventure with open planets to explore and modular toy ships that control everything. Do you want to change weapons? Blow up a cannon literally from the side of the ship attached to your gamepad and hit a new weapon. Bam. Wickle this into a universe of thrilling battles and you have the easiest game I've ever played. But it leaves me with the agonizing feeling that it would be even better without the toys.

Do not get me wrong: Starlinks Toys are actually pretty awesome. The modular spaceships are incredibly versatile. Do you want a faster ship? Tighten a pair of high performance wings ̵

1; or remove them for a light but less manoeuvrable construction. Try setting a cannon backwards to shoot at enemies behind you, or stack a rocket launcher on top of a tower of wings to fire over a rock. It's a satisfying, creative gaming experience that feels deeply integrated with the gameplay.

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Screenshot of CNET / Sean Buckley

If you do not like the toy-to-life gimmick, you can do without Starlink: Every modular part, every ship, every weapon and every pilot can be bought digitally and accessed via the game menu (digitaler goes even better) Value). Giving players this option is one of the best features of the game. It also makes clear how much the game frame was designed with toys.

Every weapon change, wing modification and ship change stops the action. In the middle of a fight, you may find that you need to switch from your ice cannon to a flamethrower to knock out a fire-resistant enemy, and you may have to switch back when an iceclop is leading the next wave of enemies.

When you actually use the toys, that makes sense. You have to pause the game to disturb the model spaceship that sits on your gamepad. Reconfiguring your ship without the toys, however, is more laborious than fun – equipping a new weapon means pausing the game, opening the Unload submenu, moving the cursor, and selecting the weapon slot. Then you have to find and select the weapon you need before leaving the menu.

If you only need an ice-based weapon to solve a puzzle, that's no big deal. But it can feel boring in the heat of the moment. This not only stopped the action, but made me remind players to buy more toys or DLC ship parts.

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Screenshot by CNET / Sean Buckley

Every time I died in the game, that feeling got stronger. Your number of extra lives will be dictated by how many replacement toys or digital ships you have. In other words, the toy system not only decides the type of spaceship, but also how many lives your character has. It directly affects the difficulty of the game: Buy more ships for more trials in each fight.

It made me grateful to play the digital Deluxe version of $ 79 (£ 90, AU $ 120) that came with all the ships, parts and pilots. Players collecting the physical ships must pay $ 25 per ship (that's some expensive extra lives) plus $ 10 for each weapon pack and $ 8 for additional pilots not included in ships.

The longer I play Starlink, the more effects his physical DLC has on me with the core gameplay Nag. Every time I have to change my guns, I wish I had a button that would let me pick one of four favorites right away. Every time my ship exploded and I was asked to choose a new one, I cursed the design that encouraged the purchase of toys about the fight flow.

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I grab through every parsec of the Atlas system – but I will not stop. Think aside, I really like Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and my first impressions still sound true. It could be the best game I have ever played.

It is true that Starlink's digital-only package is easily hampered by the game's commitment to its physical component. But other than that, it's a great open-space shooter. It has a huge solar system to explore from different planets, a set of fun and interesting characters, and lots of side effects. And if you play on Nintendo Switch (like me), it can quickly turn into a Star Fox game.

Best of all, it's a complex game to keep my attention. I always liked Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions, but I never forgot that they were "toy games" for kids. When I play Starlink, this realization only comes to my mind when I play as Levi McCray, the annoying YouTuber character.

If you love toys, Starlink's toys will exceed your expectations. If you're hungry for a Star Fox game that Nintendo just does not do it'll flood you. If you just want to have fun with an interesting solar system that lets you blow up aliens, fly through asteroid belts, and explore lush planets, you'll probably be happy as well. Just be ready to meander through some menus.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is the best game I've ever played. It will just not let me forget.

Starlink wants to be the first really great toys-to-life experience : We talk to developer Matthew Rose.

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