To celebrate the upcoming launch of of Starlink Battle for Atlas, Ubisoft Toronto held a media event at their studio. It was an amazing opportunity to go hands on with the first new IP created from the ground up by the team at Ubisoft Toronto. And, to learn some intriguing insights into what makes Starlink a unique game.
Interview with Matthew Rose – Producer on Starlink Battle for Atlas
Best Buy Canada: Can you give our readers a brief overview of what Starlink is all about? What makes it unique?
Matthew Rose: Starlink Battle for Atlas is an open world action adventure game. It’s takes players 400 light years away from Earth, to the Atlas star system over in the Pleiades star cluster. And, it focuses around this tiny team, the Starlink Initiative, who is facing off against this overwhelming threat called the Forgotten Legion.
Their secret weapon, their super power is this Starlink technology, which allows them to dynamically reconfigure their starships on the fly. And, we put that technology directly in players’ hands through the form of these modular starships. You can rebuild on the fly, instantly change out your pilot, your ship, your wings, your weapons, and you have all sorts of freedom for how you do that.
So you can stack parts, you can reverse parts, you can be super creative with how you play. Every choice you make, not only changes the way your ship looks, it allows you to express yourself. It also change tshe way that your ship plays in the game. And it’s really about encountering these challenges, and then finding the best way to adapt, to overcome those challenges.
The history behind Starfox in Starlink Battle for Atlas
BBYC: One of the biggest announcements at Ubisoft’s E3 2018 press conference was the crossover between Starlink and Star Fox. How did the Star Fox franchise make its way into the Starlink Battle for Atlas universe?
MR: It actually came about from E3 2017, one year earlier. I had the opportunity to unveil the game, and it was kind of just a sneak peek. We were only showing a little bit, and we had this demo behind closed doors, it wasn’t out on the show floor.
A small group of people from Nintendo of America came by to see the demo, asked if they could see it. We had announced that the game was coming out for the Switch, so we weren’t too surprised when they came by.
At the end of the demo we could see they had a little smile on their face, and they said, “Oh, do you mind if we come back with a couple more people?” We said, “Yeah, of course, that’d be great.” They came back with another group of developers, and a group of translators, and they had come by with the director of Mario Odyssey, the director of Mario Kart and Arms—games that we absolutely love.
We showed it, and they had some good questions. They were excited, and they said, “Do you mind if we come back with another group of people?” And this kind of carried on up through these incredible legends and heroes of ours from Nintendo. You know, the father of Metroid and the Creator of Animal Crossing—all these amazing developers. Ultimately, Reggie Fils-Aime came by and saw the game—everyone was very, very excited.
Visit to Nintendo of Japan’s headquarters
MR: That ultimately lead to Nintendo inviting us out to their Kyoto office in Japan. Where I was able to travel with a couple people from our team to pitch a potential collaboration to Mr. Miyamoto, and the entire Japanese side of the Star Fox development team.
It was an amazing experience, and went well, they were very excited. I think we both agreed that it was just such a perfect fit on both sides. We can really respect each brand, and the core of each brand, and really make sure that we treated it with the utmost attention to detail, and the utmost respect. To really, really make it something that could be special for fans.
What Starlink means for families
BBYC: What are you hoping Starlink will be for families who game together?
MR: This is actually a very personal question for me. I have two young kids, and this is the first game that I’ve worked on in my career that my kids are just getting to be the right age—they’re both big gamers. They’ve seen very little of Starlink and they’ve played very little.
I’m waiting, and saving, to play it together with my kids—you know, split screen co-op, together. But in many ways I think it’s the perfect experience for parents who play games, to share with their children. It really has an appeal that bridges generations.
One of the big realizations for us was that there’s a lot of kids out there that are incredibly talented at playing games, and are super sophisticated. They’re looking for this deeper, richer, open experience. Ultimately, they’re looking for a game that has that depth, but that doesn’t have content that they’re not comfortable with, and that their parents are uncomfortable with.
So that’s exactly what we’ve tried to provide. But what that means is that there’s also that depth that Mom or Dad are looking for in the games that they play. This huge, open world and this rich storyline that they can explore together. So I think that’s the perfect way to play a game, something we’re super excited about.
Starlink’s modular starships
BBYC: What can you tell us about the modular starships? How do they factor into the gameplay?
MR: This is really the core spark, the core innovation, that the game was built around. So they attach on this custom controller mount, it’s a little bit different platform by platform. Whether you’re playing on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, or the Switch, you attach this controller mount, and that’s really where the magic happens.
But then what you’re looking at is kind of this building experience, like you’d see with another building toy, where you are making choices of which pilot you want to use. Each pilot has their own personality, and their own voice, and dialog.
They also have a unique special ability. So you chose your pilot, you choose the ship. And each ship, again, has kind of different classes. Some are really fast and light, some are really heavy and maybe a bit slower, but they have tons of armour. So each of your choices has an impact. Each of your choices matters, so you can put wings and weapons.
You might build your perfect ship and you think, “Okay this is working great.” But then you might come to a challenging in the game that throws you a curve ball and you don’t know how to deal with it. You’re going to have to experiment, and rebuild, and adapt.
Because, it’s right there at your fingertips, you’re able to do that on the fly, right in the middle of an encounter, you can just swap out. You can pull that part off, try something else, change out your pilot right in the middle of an epic mission. Then just keep going, and ultimately find yourself, your own solution to get through that challenging.
What you get with Starlink on each platform
BBYC: When I purchase the game, what will come with each platform?
MR: The starter packs are a little bit different on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, to the Switch. On Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the game comes with the Zenith starship, it’s two wings, it has two armoured wings, which help give you more defense. It comes with Mason Rana, whose one of the pilots in the story.
He’s kind of the newest member of the Starlink initiative. So you’re really seeing the world through his eyes as well. Then it comes with three different weapons. The Frost Barrage, which are kind of homing missiles, which chill enemies down and slow them down by covering them in ice. The Flamethrower, which is a great short range area of affect weapon. And the Shredder, which is a mid range Gatling weapon, you can mix and match and combine all of those.
On Nintendo Switch, it’s a little bit different. Nintendo Switch of course, we have this very special collaboration with Nintendo. So, the game actually comes with the Arwing starship, Star Fox’s legendary ship. It also comes with Fox McCloud, the leader of the Star Fox team and Mason Rana, the pilot that I spoke of earlier.
It comes with two different weapons, the Flamethrower and the Frost Barrage. But one of the unique features of the Arwing is that if you don’t put any weapons on the wings, each wing operates just like it does in the Star Fox games.
It has the classic laser, and the charge shot—so you have all of that familiar weaponry from the Star Fox games. That version also comes with a digital version of the Zenith Starship that you would get with the other starter packs. So if you’re playing on the go, on Nintendo Switch, you also have the Zenith ship as well.
Expanding your Starlink collection
BBYC: If I wish to expand my Starlink collection, how does that work in the future? I have my starter kit, what happens next?
MR: We have a variety of different packs for people to collect. There are pilot packs, which each come with a unique pilot you can only get in those packs. Again, each pilot gives you that special ability, and dialog, and story.
They also have a unique skill tree; you can level them up. Then there are weapon packs that come with two different weapons that combo together really well. So you might have one weapon that can freeze an enemy and then another that can put super high heat and do a thermal shock combo.
Then you have starship packs, and starship packs give you a bit of everything. You get one pilot, you get one weapon, and you also get a full new starship. New, full class, with the ship and two wings that you can mix and match. And, every single toy is compatible with every other toy.
Last words about Starlink Battle for Atlas
BBYC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MR: I just can’t wait for people to get their hands on Starlink, and experience the depth of the world. Everyone we show the game to, that gets to try it out, are always surprised by the depth of the RPG and the open world, and this living world that we’ve built. I’m just so excited to have gamers discover the worlds of Atlas.
Hands-on with Starlink Battle for Atlas
While at the launch event, I had my much anticipated first hands-on with the final retail version of the game. Game stations were split up with all versions of the game, but I headed directly for the Nintendo Switch version of Starlink.
Playing with the starships attached to the controller is very comfortable. I spent some time playing multiplayer split-screen and had a blast. The transition between worlds and even cut-scenes is seamless. Furthermore, I was impressed by the sheer amount of voiced dialogue the game contains.
While I only had a brief time with Starlink Battle for Atlas, I was super impressed with everything I played. Starlink Battle for Atlas launches on October 16th, which cannot come soon enough. Are you looking forward to Starlink? Let me know in the comments section, which system you are going to buy it for.