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Up close with Starlink, where toy spaceships snap to life

Coming fall 2018, Ubisoft's Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

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Josh Miller

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1 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Who doesn't love spaceships? How about toy spaceships with snap-on weaponry? And what if you could play with those creations in a huge space exploration video game?

It's called Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and we got our first look at E3 2017.

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2 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Here's one of the first fully functional prototype ships, the Neptune. See those black plastic fins on either wing? (continued)

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3 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Those are proprietary electrical connector ports that allow you to snap on additional pieces, including weapons and wings.

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4 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

The instant you snap on a new part, it materializes in the game.

5 of 19 GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

Here's the basic idea in GIF form. The PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch each have their own unique controller adapters to keep the ships at your fingertips.

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6 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

You can insert a pilot into the ships, too, to unlock special skills like the ability to slow down time. Again, you're looking at one of the functional prototypes here.

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7 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Here's a ship and pilot that looks a little bit closer to final.

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8 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Once you've got your ship in the game, you'll explore every nook and cranny of a seven-planet solar system. There are no load times or transitions as you fly from space down to the surface of a planet.

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9 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET

Another one of the ship designs. Reminds us of a Star Wars podracer.

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And another.

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Really digging this wedge-like starship.

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Another look at the Neptune.

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And another. You can mix and match pieces from each of the different sets, even add multiple sets of wings to make your virtual ship beefier.

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You don't actually need to buy the physical toys: parts will be available digitally, and you can share them in co-op with a friend.

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The whole game is unlocked even for people who only buy the starter set, says Ubisoft.

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The game is set in Atlas, a real-life solar system in the Pleiades, 442 light years away. Ubisoft says it picked Atlas in part because kids can look up and see the Pleiades at night.

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The story is about fighting an ancient evil that's sucking life out of Atlas planets with giant chainsaw-like buildings called Extractors.

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Different pilots add different special abilities.

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Here's the whole working prototype collection of ships, pilots and weapons as of today. There's time to add more: the game arrives in late 2018.

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