Some games carry a sense of curiosity and adventure from the outset. Everspace is a perfect example of this, turning the genre of immersive space exploration on its head and backing it up with high quality graphics.
Currently in its beta phase on PC, after soaring onto the Xbox One’s Game Preview program last month, Everspace combines the thrill of intense outer-space dogfights with a roguelike structure to create a game that’s as unique as it is gorgeous. It’s currently a single player-only game, which works just fine, as there’s a lot to get your head around without the added stress of engaging with hostile players.
With a new angle on space exploration, Everspace puts you in control of a pilot who must find a way to his final destination; your ultimate goal is merely a series of system jumps away. But along the way you’ll be taking care of space pirates, upgrading your puny, basic weapons and repairing damaged modules on the fly.
Everspace is tough – really tough – and its early stages may see you getting pulverised more often than not. Your starting ship is outfitted with standard weapons, consisting of a pulse laser and a gatling gun, as well as a handful of missiles and scanner probes. The latter are particularly important in the beginning and must be used sparingly, as they highlight all objects that you can interact with in one level. These objects range from asteroids that can be mined for resources, rogue containers holding credits, to special materials for crafting and floating fuel canisters. Fuel quickly becomes one of the most important commodities in Everspace as you need to keep topping up your jump drive in order to progress through to other systems.
There’s a lot to think about in Everspace and the on-the-fly upgrades system adds just another dimension to that. You may find a hidden blueprint or rack up enough items to craft something new. It is therefore difficult to decide which is best. Will a more powerful beam laser serve you better in combat, or is a shield with higher damage resistance the way to go?
The Everspace combat is thrilling and can get out of hand before you know it. Hostile starships stream into a system every couple of minutes, which throws into play the risk/reward factor of salvaging items, versus an immediate departure from a level. Certain weapons have increased efficiency, like using the laser for shields and guns for hull damage, but engaging one fighter may turn ugly as their buddies can arrive in groups of three or four.
But, in spite of your incoming demise, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. In a surprising twist, Everspace is one of the few games I’ve played that actually rewards you for dying. As a trade-off for your previous ship’s upgrades, all collected materials and credits are retained and tallied for use into a Perks tree. These increase the effectiveness of your next standard ship, such as maximizing your base hit points, weapon damage or even the amount of scanner probes you can carry. You may be trying to complete the same objective again and again, but you’ll last longer in battle. The game is encouraging you to progress further into your main mission and Everspace’s situational flexibility lends itself to further exploration.
Even in its current state, Everspace is a really solid game. However, starting out was undoubtedly the most difficult part. After a helpful tutorial section, I shamefully died upon first contact with an enemy ship. Then, suddenly, my AI co-pilot let go of my hand without warning. It was intimidating to learn most of the basics without further assistance, and this needs to be addressed for Everspace to be a bit more accessible. Also, in spite of a subtle but immersive soundtrack and great sound design, the chosen sound effect for the gatling gun has to be fixed because its sounds as though it’s trying to steal your soul; Rockfish Games could at least add a sci-fi twist to make it more bearable.
The added flexibility of the roguelike genre has made Everspace an impressive game even in its early access build. Two lives are rarely the same and the gorgeous lighting can change from bright blue, to gold, to purple with each passing system. The realistic cosmetic damage is superbly done, too, where contact with other ships or asteroids is greeted with a huge thud and a chunk of missing shield power or hit points. Right now, Everspace is a fantastic gaming experience and I have no doubt it’ll evolve into a superb title come full release.
Have you had the chance to play Everspace yet? What space exploration titles are you looking forward to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.