Available On: PC, Xbox One
Developer: Rockfish Games
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Genre: Space Shooter, Roguelike
Official Site: https://everspace-game.com/
Release Date: May 25, 2017
Where to Buy: Steam
After spending what seemed like an eternity in Early Access cryo-sleep, Everspace has blasted into warp drive with its full release. It’s a beautiful game, with a bizarre combination of influences tacked on to a fairly common space shooter. The roguelike elements of Everspace are what help it stand apart, and fans of space dog fighting will find a lot to like with this game from developer Rockfish.
The most striking aspect of Everspace is just how pretty it is. The ships, the lasers, and explosions, and space itself are all fantastic to look at. Early on, when enemies and loot are relatively sparse, there is plenty of room for admiring your surroundings. Although I did not get a chance to play it in VR, this is a game clearly designed with an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive in mind.
In Everspace, you take on the role of a cloned fighter pilot with amnesia. You progress through a small expanse of space, picking up loot and fighting enemies before a warning lets you know that some big baddies (a reptilian race called the Okkar) are moving into the system. Find the exit, and the game presents you with an almost exact replica of the FTL map. Reach the end of a sector (usually about five or six jumps), and you will learn a bit more of the story and move to an entirely new area with better loot and stronger enemies. Repeat until you finish the game or die trying.
And die you will. The roguelike elements of the game remind me of Rogue Legacy; since your character is a clone, you’re just brought back to fly again. However, each time you die, any credits you’ve collected in the previous run can be spent on upgrades like stronger shields or better critical hits. These upgrades are permanent, so your pilot and ship will gradually improve until you are essentially Top Gun‘s Maverick in outer space.
Overall, these elements work very well. The dog fighting elements are solid as well; they are rarely spectacular, as the controls are a bit touchy and you never feel like you’re moving too quickly through the fray. That said, the feeling of elation when you navigate through a group of asteroids while trading laser blasts and missiles with a squad of enemy ships is definitely there, so Everspace is certainly doing something right. Ship systems can be damaged, causing new headaches like slower speeds or weaker weapons, which can force you to make difficult adjustments on the fly.
In addition to blasting enemies into dust, there are some collection and trading elements to Everspace as well. You can pick up loot from destroyed enemies, as well as mining or outright buying resources to help make things easier. Granted, this does not replace fighting – it merely makes it easier for you. You can’t choose to be a trader or smuggler on a specific run; you are always a fighter pilot, trying to gather enough resources to make a gun that can better blow up your enemies.
It is in this design choice that Everspace loses its momentum. It is a beautiful space shooter with serviceable aerial battles and some very interesting roguelike mechanics, but it often feels like too much of the same. Every area, even as you start getting to later sectors, has a few enemy squads, some resources to collect, maybe a trader or refuel station, and an exit point. You spend as long as you can to outfit your ship in the area, then make your escape before the Okkar attack. It can start to feel repetitive, especially when upgrades start to cost more and progress can grind to a halt.
One other minor quibble is the world’s most generic story. Most action games, especially from indie developers, tend to forsake story for other areas. That said, the “clone with amnesia” being pursued by “reptilian aliens who were once at war with humanity, and now just don’t like them” is extremely tired, and Everspace does little to make you care about your character or the other characters you encounter. However, I do like the scolding, know-it-all AI that guides you and points out areas of interest: it is just proper enough that it is always funny when it offers a snide critique of your flying skills or questions the choices you make.
Verdict: There are a lot of good indie roguelikes to choose from out there, and Everspace stands tall as one of the best in the realm of space shooters. It is beautiful, and the elements all come together to make for a fun, albeit somewhat repetitive experience. The story and characters are not much more than placeholders, but if you’re looking for a good space shooter, there aren’t many better options.
- Really pretty
- Satisfying combat
- Interesting progression systems
- Good difficulty ramp
- Can get repetitive
- Story and characters are boring