As we all know from classic pop culture media influences, whether the be cinema, books, or games, space is a vast place that is not without conflict. With so much scientific wonder and advancements waiting to be discovered, some type of intellectual creature (humans are not exempt) tend to start some sort of quarrel and damn it all to hell. This leaves less time for explorative notions and means more time spent surviving and looking for a way out. That is in essence the premise of Everspace, Rockfish Studios roguelike space shooter. Taking crafting elements and a non-linear story line into play, Everspace aims to be a unique experience each time you pick up your controller. While it mostly is, I think it is almost better in way to play it as if it were an arcade experience, playing in short bursts with sights set on besting your last distance.
Though showcasing a campaign, the structure of the game makes it sometimes hard to follow. You are Adam Roslin, a now defunct member of a colonial space military party. He has seen some things and knows some stuff, so naturally he is on the run. At face value, it seems like a pretty generic premise, but as you go throughout your journey you will be faced with a lot a revelations that make it a much more intricate narrative. It is a choppy story to follow, but that is because of the games initial structure. With it containing roguelike elements, the main way to unlock additional story counter comes by way of either randomness or surviving your way to a certain area in the map. There is no one set story piece that you will arrive to. Nothing seems to be pre-determined other than which section of space you happen to make it to. Everything before that is newly generated with each run you make. There is a lot of lore behind the wars and events that have happened in your corner of space, which make for some interesting reads but they tend to get lost in the experience. I much prefer the dialog provided by your ships AI system, HIVE, who tends to answer many of Adams curiosities with ease. Some of the coolest bits of lore are about a species of some sort known as The Ancients. This are a massive, non-humanoid species that haunt the darkest corners of space. Ominous as they are, they can be defeated, which results in some awesome long term advantages. These and many more beings will be found across your travels.
Let’s take a look at the meat and bones of the game. SPACE SHIPS. I want to point out that I played the game mostly in easy mode. Across the board it makes it more accessible and enjoyable in my opinion, but my experiences may not reflect what you can expect in the harder difficulites. Everspace lets you man your very own space ship, fit for fighting and maneuvering in battles with ease. Your ship is ready for the long haul and is equipped with life support, multiple weapons, shields, and a jump drive system that allows you to travel at hyper speeds from sector to sector. There is a lot of area to explore, with there being multiple stops in each of the games six sectors. Your map, when upgraded, will reveal different details like threats, mining options, and more so that you can make influenced decisions about where you head next. With all that space in mind, you will obviously not be alone. From raiders and traders, to mining operations and military personal, there are plenty of factions for you to run into. Most of the time you will run into outlaws, who are in the area to collect scrap or raid the often friendly mining operations. I say often friendly because if you decide to attack or steal from any friendly parties, they will quickly turn on you and it will not go down nicely. Most of the traversed area is a now demilitarized zone, so if you stick around too long, the Okkar will come around. These are a reptilian race that the Colonial Fleet fought a brutal war in. In this new era of “peace”, Adam floating about in their zones is a big red flag, and they will oust you with much more advanced fire power than a simple outlaw has. You are not defenseless though.
That is where the combat comes in. The ships are fun to handle. Flying is usually a breeze once you get used to it. You can boost and strafe in addition to the common motions like moving forward and backwards. Unless I am missing it, there is a hugely missed feature that I would have loved to have, with that being something similar to a “barrel roll”. This would have made evasion feel more practical, as it feels hard to accomplish in its current state. The shooting itself is a mixed bag, as it depends on what kind of weapon you are using. I much preferred the energized weapons over the traditional artillery guns. I typically used weapons that locked on to an enemy easier, or exploded in their vicinity. During firefights, shooting and chasing can not only be tiresome but jarring as well. I still enjoyed many of the fights I had, but I wish there some different flight patterns for some of the enemies to take. I found myself constantly doing loops with them or rapidly rotating around the screen with very few of my hits landing. It may be an issue on my end with how I approach the fights, but who wants to come to a standstill in a fight for accuracy when you are in a spaceship? There are a lot of components to take into mind though on your path to dominance, and finding your right set up will take some time given all the options.
There are a few ways to go about finding the right set up. Early on you are limited and resources, with the best method of upgrading being to steal from enemies that you defeated. This gives you a great way to test out certain weapons you may find along the way. What you will also find is blueprints, from which you can craft items and weapons from. I did not pay attention much to the necessary components needed for crafting much, as it often got lost in the action. I usually only crafted in dire situations, in which it became really helpful to add a couple missiles or shield boosts into the mix. There is a lot to learn in this game if you so choose, but as I mentioned I approached it as an arcade like experience and really enjoyed doing so. What I mean by this is that I chose to play in short spurts and rely on my abilities to get me to the next area. Sure I crafted and made smart decisions, but I did not want to spend to much time getting caught up in the logistics of certain features. I wanted to kick ass and explore, and I had a great time doing that. Going into this review I would have guessed I played 30 hours, but in reality a played a little over half of that, but approaching it the way I did made it feel like I accomplished a lot more which was rewarding in itself.
From a visual standpoint, Everspace has some high marks. Playing on the Xbox One S and a 4k display, I can tell you it is one of the prettier games I have got to experience in this set up. The lighting is killer and explosions look fantastic. The colors of different gases, planets, and some Ancients are just spectacular. There are some visual issues occasionally, with oddly textured shadows being present from time to time as well as some slowdowns on the frame rate. The comic book styled cut scenes I could have done without, as they just seemed like filler from my perspective. The audio direction could use some work too, as it is often too quiet, and with it being single player that can often make it feel lonely and slow moving.
Everspace is a sometimes lonely game, but if you go about it in short bursts I think it is really worth the experience. I had a fun time exploring and just taking in the awe of some of the areas designs. That relaxation does not usually last long though, as enemies are usually right around every corner. Those looking for a tightly reigned story may not find what they are looking for, but there is enough narrative and lore to keep those with an eye for it around. The combat and flight are not perfect when paired, but a the job is still well done, resulting in some intense firefights that feel rewarding when you come out victorious. Those with a taste for adventure and exploration will find a winner in Everspace, but I highly recommend you play it in short bursts, taking the chance to age your adventure at a solid pace.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 7/10
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