It is E3 2017, I am watching the highlight’s on YouTube as I could not watch the presentations live. Games don’t seem to be that impressive, until, a toy to life game appears. A ship appears on the screen and starts to change before my eyes as I watch space dog fights and planet exploration. I was intrigued, but not entirely on board. The internet though, was a different story, instantly comparing it to No Man’s Sky and declaring it to be the game they wished NMS was. So, is this the space game we have all been waiting for and were disapointed by NMS? Or is this just another space game that fails to live up to the majesty and wonders of our imagination?
The first thing to go over is the game itself, the developers stated that, while you can enrich the experience of the game by buying all of the different toys, it is possible to beat the game without buying any of them. Or, for 10 dollars less then the physical copy, you can get the digital game with all of the ships and pilots. However, and this was a bit of a disappointment, there are still about 3 weapons that are locked behind a paywall. While you still have options and the ability to beat the game without needing them, it would have been nice to actually have the full game, even if it was for the same cost as the physical version. But why would you buy the physical version over the digital if the digital is cheaper and has more options? Easy, convenience. I have the digital copy and it gets a little tedious having to pause the game and then navigate the UI to swap out that one gun for another, in order to get the elemental damage on the enemy (more on that in a moment). While I can’t speak from personal experience on the physical copy with the toys, I have seen demonstrations and the thing I have heard the most was how easy it is to swap the different parts out, and you can even swap out without pausing the game. I can’t tell you how much richer the experience would be with that. Don’t get me wrong, digital is still fun, but if you want convenience, physical is the way to go.
As for gameplay, starlink has a lot of roleplay elements, where weapons have elemental damage and combining it with different weapon types and elemental damage will have different effects and can bring down enemies much faster. You can level up your pilots and increase their skills and adjust the stats of your ship and weapons with different mods. There is certainly a lot of freedom, but is this the space game we all wanted? For me, unfortunately, no. The space combat is great, and if that is what you are looking for, go for it. But you spend a lot of your time on the planet, and the combat there is more like you are in an extremely nimble tank, which is fine, but nothing exciting. With No Man’s Sky, for all its flaws at launch, I felt got planet exploration right, there was so much to do and there was this sense of discovery when you actually find something. In Starlink however, the planets feel too small, and they reveal everything in the area, similar to the earlier Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry, which is a Ubisoft tradition. In addition, the side missions and discoveries are very repetitive. It is very clearly filler or padding for the game.
One of the shining lights of this game, at least for the Switch version, is the inclusion of Starfox. They wrote the characters very well, it actually feels like the Starfox team, and it fits within the universe of Starlink very well. I was talking to my brother about how Equinox looks like a Starfox type ship. The game is also perfect for the Switch on the go, if you only have a few minutes, play some of the quick side missions or make some discoveries on the planet you currently are on. If you have a few hours on the TV? Play the main campaign story. While I would not recommend this game for one of the consoles unless you really enjoyed the gameplay of earlier Far Cry games, I would recommend it to Switch owners as this game is well designed for the Switch.
In conclusion, this was not the No Man’s Sky of my dreams, but it is still decent fun and a well designed space game. 6/10