Piecing together Ubisoft’s debut toys-to-life game, ‘Starlink: Battle for Atlas’

The toys-to-life genre may very well be past its glory days, with Disney Infinity gone and Skylanders taking a year off for the first time, but that doesn’t mean that developers will stop trying to make the next big hit in potential-filled genre. At E3 2017, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a different kind of toys-to-life game than recent attempts, became Ubisoft’s most interesting surprise reveal.

Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Starlink is quite a delineation from the studio’s previous work, which includes the Far Cry Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs franchises, among others. Nevertheless, the premise of Starlink is novel, and based on the little bit we’ve seen so far, Starlink could reinvigorate a genre on the decline. Here’s everything we know about Starlink: Battle for Atlas so far.

A grand space adventure

From the reveal trailer we know that “Nova” brought Starlink to the Atlas Star System, a wondrous area of space with seven large planets. What Starlink didn’t know was that a foreboding evil called “Legion” threatens Atlas, and it’s Starlink’s job to take Legion out once and for all. The trailer shows enemies deployed by Legion called “extractors” which wield hulking weapons and giant shields. Other creatures, who may or may not be friendly, inhabit the planets. There’s even animals that appear to be dinosaurs roaming the land (weird, right?).

Players have the opportunity to explore each of the seven unique planets, as well as open space when rocketing from planet to planet. According to Ubisoft, the star system will “evolve” in response to your actions. All combat and exploration, as shown so far, will be done inside your ships. From the trailer, though, the ships can basically scrape planet surfaces, so expect to spend as much time close to ground as you do up in the stars.

Attachable ships

As a toys-to-life game, Starlink lets players attach toy ships to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch controllers. As of now, there’s four primary ships, each with their own unique abilities. What’s most interesting about the ships, though (besides the fact that they are toys that attach to your controller), is that the parts and pilot can be swapped around to your liking. That includes setting your guns to shoot backwards, flipping the wings around, or basically making a ship that theoretically shouldn’t be able to fly.

As Starlink producer Matt Rose told CNET, “We never want to tell kids they’re being creative wrong.” When you make a change to your ship, however absurd the alteration, your modifications are instantly reflected on screen.

starlink battle for atlas roundup

While it’s unclear how many additional ships will be sold beyond the four shown above, Rose claimed that unlike other toys-to-life games, nothing in the game will be restricted for those who just buy the starter pack. He also told CNET that he thinks players will “achieve” the entire collection, and that Ubisoft doesn’t want to release additional ships that don’t offer something not found in existing ships.

The toy ships aren’t required

While many will certainly enjoy the feeling of mixing and matching ship parts in real life to change the ship’s appearance on screen, you won’t have to play with the ships attached to your controller if you don’t want to. All ships will be available digitally as well, meaning that players can simply alter their ship’s structure in the game.

Better on Switch

At this point, it’s hard to say how the game will play on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, but based on the premise, Starlink appears to be in development with the Nintendo Switch in mind. Thanks to the Switch’s unique hardware, the ship dock peripheral slides right into the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers.

starlink battle for atlas roundup switch controller

There’s also the fact that the Switch version can be played on the go. And unless the game somehow gets a major overhaul graphically before launch, there’s no reason to believe that Starlink will look any better on the more powerful Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

Two ships are better than one

When Starlink launches, you can link up with a friend in split-screen multiplayer to take out Legion forces together. Ubisoft hasn’t revealed if Starlink will have online modes, or competitive multiplayer. Still, given that you don’t need to have the peripheral attached to play Starlink, at least you can easily play some couch co-op without paying for a second dock.

When can you start tinkering with your ships?

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is slated for fall 2018 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Ubisoft has yet to announce pricing for the starter pack or for additional ships.