Starting Starlink

I finally started Starlink: Battle for Atlas. I mostly just wanted to make that announcement. It was back in October that I claimed that Starlink would be my next game purchase, and that did not end up being true. But I’m really excited to finally get to the game, and I’m enjoying it so far! It’s like an all-ages Mass Effect 3 limited in scope to a single star system, with a very light version of the exploration and scanning of life forms on colorful planets demonstrated in No Man’s Sky (no, I never played it, but I did enjoy watching game footage for a while), and inhabited by a rich cast of humans, aliens, and anthropomorphic animals such that it feels a little like a teasing glimpse of Beyond Good and Evil 2 (which is, after all, another Ubisoft title).

I started it on normal, then restarted it on easy, I’m embarrassed to admit. Two factors impact the difficulty: (1) it’s actually important to explore and do a little bit of “grinding,” though it doesn’t really feel a grind, on each world to level your pilot and craft; and (2) the weight of the docked toy ship and the tiny analog sticks of the Joy-Cons have combined to finally yield a situation where the Switch’s default docked control scheme doesn’t feel very comfortable for me. Well, okay, there’s a third reason: I’m getting older and suckier at games. Still, if I’d realized the first factor before restarting, I imagine I would have found normal fairly manageable most of the time, and I’m coasting through easy. Which is nice, in a way! I could always start another save slot later to inch up the difficulty, and I can focus for now on exploration, story, and characters. And I enjoy all that!

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It’s also fun to play as Fox McCloud on easy because he just seems that much more of an ace pilot even in my incompetent hands, ever the true hero. Playing as Fox from the beginning, I’m experiencing Starlink more as a Star Fox game than an original property. While having the toy model of an Arwing is fun, and I actually enjoy the swapping out of weaponry, I doubt I’ll ever really buy into the purchase of other pilots, ships, and firepower. So far, besides encountering the occasional gravity-based power-up that I can’t unlock with my current set of weaponry, I haven’t really been prevented from doing anything in the game. The toys-to-life concept remains a gimmick, but at least there’s nothing here requiring it to become an expensive gimmick.

Where the game really shines for me is in its rewarding exploration, distinctive characters and setting, and great use of the Star Fox property. The Star Fox team feels fully integrated into the game, even though playing primarily as Star Fox leads to the sort of funny result that this mercenary band has become involved in actively fixing the core team’s problems even more so than the original protagonists. And while I like the new characters, I really love the Star Fox team’s depiction in the game; Ubisoft nailed the right tone and team dynamic here. It’s hard not to see the game as proof-of-concept for a pure Star Fox open-world game. The free-range starfighter combat works great, a natural extension from the arcade-style flight of the Star Fox series, and I could easily see a lot of the same design applied to exploring the Lylat system.

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Having had the gradually worsening experience of Little Dragons Café in recent memory, I don’t want to get overly excited too early on. I can see some things that could get boring. The local missions you can request are of a limited variety. There are only a few types of megafauna on each planet, and the body types seem moulded around only a half dozen builds. But on easy mode, I’ve yet to have to spend so much time on a planet preparing for the next world to get bored. On a higher difficulty, the game would offer more rewarding combat challenges, which might mean the recycled mission structures wouldn’t grow tired so quickly. It’s hard to say at this point.

I think, unless something really sours me on the game later on, that this probably deserves at least two play-throughs. Yes, my first time is devoted to Fox, but a second experience that gives the core cast time to shine is probably needed. Even scooting everywhere in an Arwing as part of Star Fox, I’m still enjoying the camaraderie shared by the Starlink Initiative team.

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I’m sure I’ll have more to say before long!

BG&E 2 is finally coming for real this time, probably

Pretty cool to see the new trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2 yesterday. Timing’s a little bit funny for me, since I was considering a replay of the game (in Spanish) as recently as last week. Sometimes you pick up on something subconsciously, see enough rumors and start regaining interest just in time for a big new announcement. Sometimes it works that way. Pretty sure it was just coincidence in this case.

Also funny: I saw that designer Michel Ancel told fans not to expect a reveal of the game at E3, but that we could expect something later this year. Okay, so that was rather misleading. Then again, I won’t complain about seeing more about this game sooner!

The trailer’s cool and all, but it’s just a mood-setting cinematic and says little about plot or setting and definitely nothing about gameplay or appearance of the actual project. A cinematic Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailer is certainly not a guarantee of a near-future final project. (Speaking of, what was the deal with this? It took me long enough to find that old trailer, to the point that I almost believed I’d made it all up. Was that ever a real trailer? Was it a hoax? An abandoned version of the game? A PR announcement made way too soon and with too little developer input?)

The one thing that does seem to be explained by the new reveal is that this game is a prequel that will probably not have any recurring characters. I’ll trust the developers to create more memorable characters for me to fall in love with, but I do have to admit that I’m disappointed that we won’t apparently see more of Pey’j and Jade, unless they already have a Part Three in mind.

Anyway. I’m still putting off actually undertaking a Spanish-language game play-through, and in the meantime recommendations are still greatly appreciated (actually, recommendations are always appreciated). Before I tackle a game, I’m going to start reading Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal; a translation of a children’s book I’m already familiar with should be a good enough starting point.