6 Reasons Starlink: Battle for Atlas Could Be Space-Based Fun for Everyone | Gaming News
Ubisoft’s intergalactic adventure could well bring toys-to-life back from the dead.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas raised more than a few eyebrows when it was announced at E3 2017, at a time when the toys-to-life genre was winding down and the conceptually similar No Man’s Sky still hadn’t completely course corrected after its underwhelming launch the year before. Yet after spending some recent hands on time with the game and its fantastic suite of plastic accessories, and chatting to key members of the Ubisoft Toronto team, I feel optimistic that Starlink: Battle for Atlas could be a spectacular space saga. Here are six reasons why it could be a success.
1. The Planets Aren’t Procedural
Starlink is much smaller in scale than No Man’s Sky. Whereas Hello Games’ interstellar survival game features more planets than any one player could possibly explore in a lifetime, Starlink features just seven planets for players to touch down on. Yet while Starlink might not have nearly as many places to visit, it seems to do a better job of giving each world a sense of place and unique characteristics, making exploration of them a more interesting and dynamic affair.
“Everything that you see in the game has been built by hand,” says Laurent Malville, Starlink’s creative director. “These are really huge planets with a lot of surface area to cover, so we do use some procedural tools to scatter the different biomes and so on. But every plant you see, every creature, every outpost, all of these have been created by our team to reflect the story of those worlds.”
“The flora and fauna on every planet is completely different, so you’re going to find new animals that behave in different ways on different planets,” continues Joshua Mohan, lead narrative designer. “Also, each planet is distinct in terms of the landscape. For example, you might have one planet that has a lot more old settlements, and another one that’s more industrial.”
2. The Space Between Them is Full of Life
While most of Starlink’s story will unfold down the on the surface of its seven planets, there’s still a lot to discover in the space between. I found this out during my hands-on with the game, when I left the orbit of one planet and started to fly towards the next, only to be tripped up by the intergalactic equivalent of tyre spikes and drawn into a dogfight with a fleet of space pirates.
“Yeah, really the space between planets is outlaw territory,” says Mohan. “The big thing you’re going to encounter in space are outlaws that are trying to catch you between planets but you can also find their strongholds and bases and attack them head on if you want and there’s actually outlaw leader characters who we’ve created and voiced for the different sectors of space.”
In addition, the developers have stated that there are traces of an ancient civilization out in space to discover, as well as derelict spaceships to plunder resources from. Mohan says that “as the game goes on, more things will appear in space,” but would prefer players find out exactly what for themselves.
3. The Spaceship Models are Stunning
Vehicles make sense both in the hand and inside the game.
The detailing on both the ships and the pilot figures is of the highest quality, with solid wing and weapon components that snap together in a very satisfying way and eye catching flourishes such as the thrust engines at the ships’ rear that glow blue when bolted on to the controller mount. But the ships haven’t just been built to look great and feel solid, a lot of thought has gone into building vehicles that make sense both in the hand and inside the game.
“We hired an expert from the toy industry to work with us directly in Toronto,” explains Malville. “So in the early phases of development we’d take concept art and build a 3D printed version in the studio so that we could instantly play with it, reverse the wings, just generally see if it was interesting.”
According to Malville, there was also an ongoing back and forth between the art team and the design team at the studio, to ensure that the style of each ship was consistent with each vehicles unique strengths.
“If the wings are about defense, they have to have some kind of protective shape,” says Malville. “Similarly if another wing is built for speed, then it was important that we built them with big reactors on them to make it obvious at a glance for players. Ultimately we wanted ships and parts that looked sophisticated but were still intuitive to use for younger players; models that looked like collectibles but were still interactive and robust. It was very important to us.”
On top of that, Ubisoft Toronto has successfully managed to craft a fleet of ships each with their own individual look that somehow remain stylistically consistent once you start mixing and matching wings or even bolting wings upon wings as you craft your own personal intergalactic hot rod.