– Starlink: Battle for Atlas feels like it’s trying to crash a party that’s already packed up and moved on. Toys-to-life games like Disney Infinity, Skylanders, and LEGO Dimensions all dominated the toy sections three years ago, but that time has come and gone. That’s not to say that Starlink isn’t good because it’s a surprisingly rich and ambitious exploration and combat-focused, story-driven experience. But the toys part comes off as a little unnecessary, especially when Starlink rewards digital players more than physical ones. (triumphant music) (lasers blasting) Starlink is a story of space exploration with a ragtag crew of characters who all bring unique personalities and skills to the table. The core driving mission is the cliche story of bad guy wants to take over the galaxy and it’s up to you to stop him, but it’s the well-written middle portion that’s the most interesting as you learn about the Starlink crew and history of the star system you’re exploring. The bulk of Starlink’s adventure has you skimming the surface of planets, claiming abandoned starbases and wrecked observation towers, or wiping out the aliens threats.This ship-and-weapons play is the rewarding meat of Starlink’s design. Each ship and each of the game’s snap-on weapons has its own attributes, enhanced by collectible mods. Leveling up your pilot, your ship, and your weapons is integral to success in Starlink. Starlink’s physical toys recognize the pilot, the type of ship, which weapons are connected to the left and right wing, the direction these weapons are facing, and any extra wing extensions you’ve added. Need to pause the fight because your heat weapons aren’t doing the job? Just pop off the blaster and drop another in its place. But you can also just buy the ships, pilots, and weapons digitally, and while you may not have the tactile satisfaction of snapping pieces on and off, you also loose the physical clutter and speed up the weapon swapping mechanic.The Digital Edition of Starlink even comes with significantly more in-game items at a cheaper price than its physical counterparts. (lasers blasting) (triumphant music) Comparisons to No Man’s Sky are inevitable, but not unfounded. It really feels like Ubisoft used that game as the core foundation for Starlink’s overall experience. But here, instead of a vast universe of galaxies and planets, you’re exploring just one focused star system. Each planet has its own habitat and personality, and they all look fantastic across all three platforms, with only slight improvements on PS4 and Xbox One. Transitions between planet and space and back again are seamless, fluid, and a delight to experience. The feeling of a vast system to explore is well produced in Starlink, and where No Man’s Sky dropped the ball with its narrative, Starlink makes it a core focus.- See, even the egg-head’s got street smarts. – But many of the downsides of that inspiration are also in Starlink, like its repetitive planetary mission layouts. You’ll experience the same fetch quest, scanning tasks, and base-clearing combat again and again. There are no real surprises after the first planet since most of the tasks are recycled. Dogfighting combat doesn’t hold much long term appeal either, as it favors homing missiles over pinpoint accurate blasters. Once you learn you can just spam your projectiles at an enemy, you’ll never do anything else. The addition of Star Fox exclusively for Nintendo Switch players is pretty genius. You can easily see where Fox McCloud and crew have been shoehorned into the storyline, but their inclusion was still handled with a lot of respect. These characters have never looked or sounded better. – Yeah, but it’s not Wolf, so who cares? – It looks like they’re out-numbered. – You know what I’m thinking? – Absolutely, positively not! – Though the core experience could be completed in little more than a weekend, the campaign is roughly 20 hours long, completionists have a whole Pokedex-like encyclopedia to fill up and hidden locations to discover.If you don’t have an issue plowing through the same missions and tasks, Starlink can be a pretty rewarding experience well after the credits roll. (upbeat electronic music) With or without the unnecessary toys, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a commendable space adventure. Even with the repetitive grind and randomly scattershot space combat, this is a great-looking, gratifying game of strategic action and environmental exploration. Switch owners are undoubtedly the winners, but there’s something here to enjoy on any console. For more, be sure to check out our unboxing of the Star Fox starter kit, and for everything else Starlink, you’re already in the right place, IGN. (lasers blasting) (triumphant music) – Yeah! .